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United States national team depth chart: enigmatic Jermaine Jones still tops the holding midfielder spot

Jun 24, 2013, 1:30 PM EDT

Honduras v United States - FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier Getty Images

Five U.S. matches over the last month has generated significant movement on the U.S. depth chart – perhaps more shuffling than in any month-long stretch in Jurgen Klinsmann’s time in charge, which is now approaching two years.

Over A few days we’ll continue to examine the U.S. depth chart, making our best educated guesses at how things stack up on Jurgen Klinsmann’s big board inside the manager’s Southern California offices.

Next up: HOLDING MIDFIEDLERS

So many U.S. supporters have squinted and strained in an effort to recognize Jermaine Jones’ value to the national team he way Jurgen Klinsmann does, but just cannot quite get there.

Jones certainly did earn a few more fans in late March amid the surreal, snowy-white scenes in Denver, when the United States began welding the wheels back on the bus, putting the big rig squarely back on the road to the World Cup. The leadership qualities and fearless, warrior ways the Klinsmann holds dear could be spotted from a distance in that one, at least. Still, the critics are legion.

But none of that matters, does it? Because critics or supporters don’t make the big choices. That’s on Klinsmann, and he likes Jones in the holding midfield spot.

Remember, in Klinsmann’s preferred arrangement there is one primary holding man to screen the defense and one “supporting defensive midfielder,” we’ll call him.

That’s why Michael Bradley is on this list at No. 4. Presumably, if Jones and some others became unavailable, Bradley could fall back in the formation, out of his best spot (linking midfielder) and adopt the more defensive role. But it’s clearly not his best use, and even that would be contingent on another qualified linking man to play in what Klinsmann calls the “No. 8 role.” That’s why all this depth chart business isn’t just a bunch of linear lists, but a system of interlinked, varying ones.

At any rate … Geoff Cameron (pictured) certainly added something lately to this conversation, inserting himself with surprising assertion when Jones was unavailable.  The Stoke City man has probably already earned his roster spot for Brazil if only for all that highly useful versatility. As a holding midfielder, Cameron’s leggy running allows him to cover ample ground. He’s an adept tackler, and positionally he allows Bradley to remain further ahead in the formation. (Jones, slightly more adventurous, likes to journey forward a little more, sometimes at the expense of the team defensive shape.)

Danny Williams is a bit of a wild card. He became Klinsmann’s top choice for a stretch in 2012 but fell from favor and then struggled with injuries during the spring. The TSG Hoffenheim man is just 24, so we cannot rule out a big move up the ordering over next year’s Bundesliga campaign.

Between Maurice Edu, Kyle Beckerman and even Sacha Kljestan, who has played in deeper midfield positions at times for Anderlecht, you could probably arrange them any way you want. Form will dictate where they fall over the coming months.

Stuart Holden? We’ll add him to the list for now and see where it all lands after the Gold Cup, and after he gets some league games in England later this year.

U.S. HOLDING MIDFIELD ordering

  • 1. Jermaine Jones
  • 2. Geoff Cameron
  • 3. Danny Williams
  • 4. Michael Bradley
  • 5. Maurice Edu
  • 6. Kyle Beckerman
  • 7. Sacha Kljestan
  • 8. Stuart Holden

In review:

U.S. goalkeepers

U.S. right backs

U.S. left backs

U.S. center backs

Coming up later today: the linking midfielders

 

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