Skip to content

United States national team depth chart: It’s Michael Bradley and then everyone else at linking midfield

Jun 24, 2013, 4:48 PM EDT

FBL-WC2014-QUALIFIERS-USA-TRAINING

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: LINKING MIDFIEDLERS

Two critical things to know before we even begin a conversation about the U.S. “linking” midfield position. It gets a bit involved, but follow along:

First, Jurgen Klinsmann has consistently maintained that he does not have a preferred formation. Rather, what the U.S. manager carries is a bag full of stylistic tenets that he wants observed: high pressure up the field, playing thoughtfully out of the back rather than hoofing balls blindly, defensive funneling toward trapping spots on the wings, etc.

All that can be accomplished in varying tactical arrangements, a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2 and so on.

So it bears mentioning that the tactical formation into which his U.S. teams have settled recently is largely based on making best use from a couple of his personnel centerpieces. Foremost is Michael Bradley (pictured above).

Bradley’s role has been defined as the “No. 8” in Klinsmann’s vernacular. That means he plays ahead of a primary holding midfielder while simultaneously tasked with sliding in alongside Jermaine Jones (or whoever occupies the holding spot) as opposition possession proceeds closer to U.S. goal. On the attack Bradley becomes the primary link between U.S. defenders and Jones, and into the attacking specialists such as Clint Dempsey or Graham Zusi or whomever.

Bradley is like an Andrea Pirlo starter kit this way. (And Italy’s gifted offensive maestro is so wonderfully influential that “starter kit” status should in no way be seen as an insult to the most important man in U.S. uniform these days, Bradley.)

The other thing to know about Bradley as it relates to this position: The United States is seriously hosed if something happens to the man. Truly, they lose their midfield controlling arm, their tempo setter, their top passer, their calming and assuring voice. More to the point here, the formation might well change dramatically if Roma’s ever-rising midfielder were to fall, injured.

So there may not be much point in going any further down the depth chart at the “No. 8″ spot … but let’s make a little go, anyway.

Sacha Kljestan hardly received swell reviews recently during his turn in the Bradley role; but, truly, what did anyone expect? Kljestan can be a solid, versatile midfield man, but he’s not Bradley. No one in the U.S. player pool is.

Zusi has the technical ability to play inside, where he often patrols for Sporting Kansas City. But he certainly lacks Bradley’s high-level experience, his worldliness. Besides, this would mean finding more answers along the outside, and that means … yes, potentially bringing Landon Donovan into conversation. So, let’s not even go there for now.

Geoff Cameron and Stuart Holden are the intriguing possibilities. Cameron spent time in the attacking midfield role with Houston in MLS, with a mixed bag of results. Holden would look different than Bradley in the role but – assuming he rediscovers his pre-injury self – could potentially provide some attacking muscle, even if his contributions did not resemble Bradley’s.

Check back after the Gold Cup to see how far Holden’s efforts at recovery, steady and diligent, have allowed him to progress up the ordering.

Cameron’s emergence as a holding midfield contingency also means that Jermaine Jones could possibly scoot further ahead in the formation.

Past all that, there’s really no way of ordering a collection of semi-possibilities, the likes of Brad Evans, Jose Torres and even potentially emerging voices in the conversation like Mix Diskerud or Joe Corona. (Or even Donovan … but, again, let’s not go there for now.)

U.S. LINKING MIDFIELD ordering

  • 1. Michael Bradley
  • 2. Sacha Kljestan
  • 3. Graham Zusi
  • 4. Geoff Cameron
  • 5. Jermaine Jones
  • 6. Stuart Holden

In review:

U.S. goalkeepers

U.S. right backs

U.S. left backs

U.S. center backs

U.S. holding midfielders

Coming up tomorrow: right-sided attackers and left-sided attackers

 

Latest Posts
  1. MLS Snapshot: Sporting Kansas City 1-3 Houston Dynamo

    Aug 30, 2014, 12:06 AM EDT

    Graham Zusi, Mike Chabala

    The Houston Dynamo downed Sporting Kansas City, 3-1, at Sporting Park on Friday night.

  2. WATCH: Will Bruin strikes the first goal for Houston Dynamo

    Aug 29, 2014, 10:49 PM EDT

    Will Bruin 3

    Will Bruin’s close-range finish put Houston ahead of Sporting Kansas City, 1-0.

  3. Orlando City SC’s Yordany Alvarez retires due to medical condition

    Aug 29, 2014, 9:55 PM EDT

    Diego Chara, Yordany Alvarez

    Orlando City SC midfielder Yordany Alvarez retired from professional soccer because of a medical condition.

  4. Portugal excludes Cristiano Ronaldo from roster of Euro 2016 qualifier

    Aug 29, 2014, 8:59 PM EDT

    Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo bows his head as he reacts to a play during the group G World Cup soccer match between the United States and Portugal at the Arena da Amazonia in Manaus, Brazil, Sunday, June 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) AP

    Paulo Bento didn’t name Cristiano Ronaldo in his squad for Portugal’s Euro 2016 qualifier vs. Albania in early September.

  5. Watch Live: Sporting Kansas City vs. Houston Dynamo (Lineups)

    Aug 29, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT

    Houston Dynamo v Sporting Kansas City - Eastern Conference Championship - Leg 2 Getty Images

    Watch the MLS match between Sporting Kansas City and the Houston Dynamo live on NBCSN.

  6. UEFA looking to change Champions League seeding

    Aug 29, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT

    uefa Getty Images

    A new system would benefit domestic club winners by separating the teams into different pots.

  7. Van Gaal: Roy Hodgson ‘cannot judge’ Luke Shaw’s fitness

    Aug 29, 2014, 5:43 PM EDT

    louis van gaal Getty Images

    Louis van Gaal thinks Luke Shaw has been coping with his injury problems well.

  8. Arsene Wenger to be ‘as secret as possible’ over transfer deals

    Aug 29, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

    wenger Getty Images

    The Arsenal manager will remain quiet to the media until the transfer window closes as rumors swirl around the Emirates.

  9. Del Piero’s move to Indian Super League raises political dispute

    Aug 29, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT

    Alessandro Del Piero Getty Images

    Alessandro Del Piero is going to the Indian Super League’s Dehli Dynamos, bringing to surface political debate in Italy.

  10. Premier League preview: Manchester City vs. Stoke City

    Aug 29, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT

    city Getty Images

    The defending champions will look to open the season with three straight wins as Stoke City visit the Etihad.

  11. Southampton looking to add Brek Shea on loan

    Aug 29, 2014, 3:59 PM EDT

    Fulham v Stoke City - Premier League Getty Images

    Southampton may acquire Brek Shea via loan.

  12. Transfer needs: Sunderland, Swansea, Tottenham, West Brom, West Ham

    Aug 29, 2014, 3:25 PM EDT

    FC Barcelona Training Session Getty Images

    Wrapping up our journey through the Premier League with the last five alphabetical names out of the 20-flight teams.

  13. Chelsea confirms two-year AC Milan loan for striker Fernando Torres

    Aug 29, 2014, 2:43 PM EDT

    Torres Getty Images

    The one-time largest transfer in Premier League history is moving to Italy on loan, the Stamford Bridge club confirmed today.

  14. US men to face Honduras in October; USWNT name roster for Mexico

    Aug 29, 2014, 2:21 PM EDT

    Honduras' Emilio Izaguirre and Graham Zusi of the U.S. jump as they challenge for the ball during their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match in Salt Lake City, Utah Reuters

    News from the senior teams for the United States men and women comes across the web this Friday afternoon. What’s cooking? Head inside.

  15. Liverpool boss Rodgers: ‘This is not the Mario Balotelli show’

    Aug 29, 2014, 2:15 PM EDT

    balo Getty Images

    Brendan Rodgers liked what he saw in training from the club’s newest signing, but says the troubled Italian must change his ways at Liverpool.

  16. Serie A season preview, predictions: Juve still class of deep league

    Aug 29, 2014, 1:38 PM EDT

    Italy Soccer Serie A AP

    The Old Lady went an absurd 33W-3D-2L last season, busting No. 2 AS Roma in the nose by a meager 27 points.

  17. Premier League preview: Everton vs. Chelsea

    Aug 29, 2014, 1:10 PM EDT

    Diego Costa could be sidelined with a muscle injury Getty Images

    A Diego Costa injury could hurt Chelsea’s chances as the Toffees look to rebound from a tough draw against Arsenal.

  18. Friday’s transfer rumor roundup: Vidal stays at Juve, Cerci wants move

    Aug 29, 2014, 12:49 PM EDT

    Juventus Training Session Getty Images

    Manchester United, Liverpool, Newcastle, PSG and Arsenal all make the transfer churner to end the workweek.

  19. Report: Manchester United accepts $13 million PL bid for Tom Cleverley

    Aug 29, 2014, 12:25 PM EDT

    Sunderland v Manchester United - Premier League Getty Images

    Can Paul Lambert and Roy Keane convince the midfielder to come to Villa Park?

  20. VIDEO: Louis van Gaal talks Angel Di Maria, Man Utd rebuilding process

    Aug 29, 2014, 12:10 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-08-29 at 11.20.53 AM

    LVG says the addition of ADM won’t change his approach to building how United plays soccer.

Featured video

Breaking down Di Maria, Balotelli deals