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Stock Falling: Which U.S. players’ statures are slipping …

Jun 19, 2013, 10:21 PM EDT

WCup Honduras US Soccer AP

For as many positives as there were after the U.S.’s recent run of qualifiers, there were a couple of negatives: Microscopic points of concern that may prove inconsequential; may be the fist-sized snowballs that start building once cast down the hill. With Jurgen Klinsmann’s side unbeaten in five in World Cup qualifiers, it’s hard to find major areas of concern in his 4-1-1 side. But if we were looking for falling stoacks in the USMNT portfolio, there’d be two experiencing slight downturns:

Jermaine Jones (pictured) – The conventional dialog around Jones has become so distorted, it’s near impossible to discuss the polarizing midfielder in any kind of fair context. This is a man whose been a regular starter for a Champions League caliber side for years, and although he has helped turn a U.S. midfield previously reliant on resiliency and opportunism into one which can regularly dictate a game’s flow, Jones may be the least popular starter among Klinsmann’s regular XI.

There’s a huge disconnect between fan perception and playing reality when it comes to the German-born American, a dissonance that won’t get any better after the past week. Against Panama, a game for which the Schalke man was injured, the U.S. gave their best performance of CONCACAF’s final round – a controlling affair fueled by a midfield tandem of Michael Bradley and Geoff Cameron. On Tuesday, the team was as controlling but less convincing. And they only improved once Jones came off.

To many’s disappointment, Jones won’t be anywhere close to losing his starting spot, nor does he deserved to be relieved. Lucky for U.S. soccer fans, Klinsmann has a drastically different view of Jones’s value. But Cameron made up some ground this week, with the former Dynamo man who struggled at center and right back proving a candidate in the middle. For Jones, that’s not a big deal, but if the incumbent midfielder were a stock, he’d be down a couple of points on the news.

source: Getty ImagesOmar Gonzalez (right) – MLS’s best defender said it himself after the Panama game: He’d like to make it through one game without a mistake. That didn’t happen on Tuesday, with a bad early giveaway creating a chance for Honduras. No matter the positives he brings to the field (which, when you see the protection he’s giving Brad Evans, are immense), a defender just can’t make those kind of mistakes – errors likely to prove decisive against better teams.

Though they’re entirely different types of defenders, Gonzalez is becoming the U.S.’s Mats Hummels, He’s undoubtedly the most capable defender in the pool, but he’s also a player whose aberrational mistakes are too prominent a part of his game. Still inexperienced at international level, there’s every reason to hope the Galaxy defender will work this out of his system, but with each game that expires without giving Gonzalez those 90 clean minutes, there’s more reason to think the U.S. will have to live with this type of inconsistency.

Two other U.S. players didn’t see their stocks fall, per se, but their circumstances bear mentioning:

Brad Evans – The start against Germany served as a proof of concept. If the U.S. could survive with Brad Evans at right back against that caliber of attack, surely the Sounders midfielder can handle CONCACAF qualifying. After 270 minutes and one goal allowed in three qualifying wins, it bore out. Evans at full back was good enough.

But with the exception of the support out wide that he provides for Bradley and Jones, there was little about Evans’ game that goes beyond good enough. His game-winning goal against Jamaica bears mentioning, but it was also something that’s not part of the core responsibilities for a right back (nor is it an anticipated bonus). As the likes of Jamaica and Panama sought to exploit the out-of-position player, you couldn’t help but think how much more secure things will be when Steve Cheurndolo or Timmy Chandler returns.

No evaluation of Evans would be fair without mentioning he’s answered the call. Does he consider himself a right back? No. Does he think he’s been without fault? Of course not. But if Jurgen Klinsmann thinks he can play the position, is he supposed to argue?

Evans made great strides toward winning a spot for 2014, so his stock is probably up, in the bigger picture. But for all the good he’s done during three qualifiers at right back, it’s pretty scary to imagine him starting there in Brazil.

Landon Donovan – It’s another unfair conversation, with Donovan having done all the right things to make sure he eventually gets another look with the full national team, yet if the argument for fast tracking his integration was his indispensability, that’s since been dispelled. Klinsmann’s U.S. doesn’t need Landon Donovan.

If Donovan works his way back into the team via the Gold Cup, it will be interesting to see what role he assumes. In the wake of South Africa, there’d been growing concern about Donovan’s form at international level, and with the type of all-around performances we’re seeing for Graham Zusi, the question becomes more difficult to answer: If and when he fully returns, is Landon Donovan still a starter?

Increasingly, that answer is no, and although it’s unfair to look down on Donovan merely because Zusi and the team are improving, the former focal point’s stock undoubtedly drops as the team proves they can win without him.

  1. bigdinla - Jun 19, 2013 at 10:50 PM

    ” Lucky for U.S. soccer fans, Klinsmann has a drastically different view of Jones’s value.”

    Wow nice condescending line there. Sorry Jones has not played as well as you and the other Jones lovers think he can. He is very talented athletically, but he plays out of control. Cameron has better vision and adds a calming influence to the midfield. Cameron also allows the offense to run completely through the best player on the team MB90!

  2. twayward - Jun 20, 2013 at 1:33 AM

    Jermaine Jones is an excellent two-way player. Geoff Cameron is limited to a defense-only role.

    In fact, I was having this very discussion with a buddy of mine during the US-Honduras. Literally as we were talking, Jones set off on an attacking run, was tripped outside of Honduras’ 18-yard box and earned a free kick.

    I turned to my friend and emphatically said “THAT is why Jermaine Jones deserves to start over Geoff Cameron. Jermaine can do that and that’s not even in Cameron’s ar5ena1.”

    • CaseyRClark - Jun 20, 2013 at 11:12 AM

      Cameron as defensive only?
      If true, it has allowed Bradley the chance to influence himself more in the offensive third, crashing into the box. I’d prefer Bradley near the 18 rather than Jones.

      But it’s not true. Cameron has shone himself to be adept at playing some nice passes into the attack–remember his classy assist to Eddie Johnson? He’s done that while playing in a position new to him at the international level.

      I’m not saying Cameron is the future, but don’t assume he’s “defense-only” because he’s been a defender first for the USMNT.

    • tarotsujimoto74 - Jun 20, 2013 at 1:03 PM

      The funny thing was, that drive was going nowhere if he didn’t go down easy from bing touched. He had run himself into a corner. There was no way he was putting that ball into the box. It would have resulted in a fruitless foray had he not gone down.

    • lfcrising - Jun 20, 2013 at 2:55 PM

      I’ve left my comment on Jones v. Cameron in a different thread. I’ll repost in more detail to add to the argument. Klinsmann needs to figure out his tactics earlier. I found our offensive play v. Panama much much better when Cameron came on.

      Bradley-Cameron seem to have a better understanding. Plus, Cameron allows Bradley to assert himself more in the game because Cameron doesn’t thunder around imposing himself. Bradley’s offense is superior to Jones’; there really shouldn’t be any discussion about that. In a game that we want to dictate pace, possession, passing and offense, this choice is clear. Additionally, Cameron’s long passes out of the back (EJ v. Panama and can’t remember the recipient v. Honduras), are things of beauty. I think Cameron sees the field better from a deeper position that Bradley does when Bradley plays with Jones.

      The Bradley-Jones combo should be used when setting up defensively. He’s imposing and physical. You want Jones thundering around, hitting players and being a physical menace. It’s the prettiest soccer, but it can be effective. The idea is that layers like Pirlo, Xavi, etc. will think twice before moving forward and leaving themselves of the ball prone.

  3. dfstell - Jun 20, 2013 at 7:13 AM

    I’m not quite getting the concern over Omar. Maybe he isn’t ideal when we’re supposed to dictate play against a 60th ranked team in the world, but when we play the big boys and our midfield is entirely overrun and everyone is defending in the box, we will appreciate his ability more.

    • lfcrising - Jun 20, 2013 at 3:02 PM

      Honestly, I really think Omar needs to play in Europe (preferably high tempo). Key to that statement is PLAY. He can’t ride the pine somewhere. He needs to deal with more talented, more aware and faster strikers regularly to really emerge on the international stage. He losses runners far to often and plain doesn’t seen them sometimes. He makes too many simple mistakes in his distribution, too. That pass against Honduras simply can’t be made, and it should’ve cost more than a Jones yellow and free kick. We were fortunate.

  4. swansuite - Jun 20, 2013 at 10:48 AM

    There are few players who have had the privilege to join the national team and make an immediate impact. It wasn’t so long ago, people were wondering what all the fuss was about around Fabian Johnson, Tim Chandler, or Besler. All of them needed a little time to integrate, find their game inside the bigger picture, and have an impact. Evans, in particular, is undeserving of being picked out. He was thrown into a position he has little experience with, in the middle of an intense round of qualifying. Is it any wonder that the guy played everything close to the vest and just tried to ensure he wouldn’t make a fatal error. He didn’t and that alone is reason for praise. But more than that, he scores a game winner. Let’s not forget that he has had a quality shot in ever single game he’s played for the Nats. You can snidely say that isn’t expected from his position, but it’s one hell of a bonus, no?

    I pick out Evans, simply as an example. There isn’t a player listed here who isn’t of high quality and has a great upside. It’s easy to nitpick, but I’d point out that this three game run has been about as good as the US has ever had in CONCACAF qualifying. It’s not because a few players played well, it’s because the TEAM played well.

    • talgrath - Jun 20, 2013 at 2:47 PM

      Well said, what Klinsmann has done has been downright impressive. Where are Kilnsmann’s doubters now? This may very well turn out to be the best qualifying run the US has made in history.

  5. midtec2005 - Jun 20, 2013 at 2:02 PM

    I think Geoff Cameron is more athletic than Jones, and is a better destroyer. Jones has slightly better technical ability. I’m honestly not sure which one I’d start… but that’s a good problem to have.

  6. talgrath - Jun 20, 2013 at 2:51 PM

    I think the point about Donovan is a very good one. After that Honduras loss (which is nothing to be ashamed of, Honduras is a good team when fully healthy and stocked, in my opinion they are currently #3 in CONCACAF, even if the points don’t show it) people screamed that we need Donovan. When the USMNT “only” had 4 points, people said “Donovan would have gotten us victories”. Now, you don’t hear people saying “we need Donovan”, they are realizing we want him in the line-up, but he isn’t the only necessary cog. Donovan will likely be on that plane to Brazil in 2014, but that won’t be because we need him, that will be because he can still play well at an international level and he can help.

  7. Dan Haug - Jun 20, 2013 at 4:00 PM

    Why do you guys continue to perpetuate the myth that whether or not Donovan is on the field is ONLY about a head-to-head comparison with Zusi? Right now, I would say our best option would be to have both of them on the field. They have very complimentary games, and Demps and Jozy up top with Zusi and Donovan on the wings (switching sides whenever they wanted) is probably our best attacking formation.

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