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. 2014 MLS Cup rematch: For the New England Revolution, it’s a new season, different game against LA Galaxy

    May 29, 2015, 4:10 PM EDT

    2014 MLS Cup - New England Revolution v Los Angeles Galaxy Getty Images

    On Fox Sports 1 this Sunday, the New England Revolution face LA Galaxy in a 2014 MLS Cup rematch.

  2. 2014-15 Premier League season review: PST’s Best XI of the Season

    May 29, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT

    Chelsea v Southampton - Premier League Getty Images

    Chelsea’s title-winning team dominates our picks. But there are still plenty of surprise inclusions.

  3. Leaves jail in ambulance, gives speech hours later: Jack Warner knows no FIFA scandal

    May 29, 2015, 3:20 PM EDT

    Trinidad and Tobago's National Security Minister Jack Warner talks with journalists after a meeting with residents in Port of Spain

    As the soccer world continues to react to Sepp Blatter’s fifth-term as FIFA president, his 72-year-old former VP is basically telling the law to take a long walk off a short pier.

  4. Blatter’s “Wolf of Wall Street” moment could play out the exact same way

    May 29, 2015, 2:05 PM EDT

    Nominee for Best Actor in "The Wolf of Wall Street" Leonardo DiCaprio arrives on the red carpet for the 86th Academy Awards on March 2nd, 2014 in Hollywood, California. AFP PHOTO / Robyn BECK        (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    We’re in the shadow of just one rushed afternoon, and the FBI and others are watching the money float off the yacht, hoping to strike.

  5. 2014-15 Premier League season review: PST’s Manager of the Season

    May 29, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    Southampton v Aston Villa - Premier League Getty Images

    This award went down to the final vote. Do you agree with our pick?

  6. Sepp Blatter wins first vote 133-73, but not by enough to avoid second vote

    May 29, 2015, 1:02 PM EDT

    ZURICH, SWITZERLAND - MAY 29:  FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter talks during the 65th FIFA Congress at the Hallenstadion on May 29, 2015 in Zurich, Switzerland.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images) Getty Images

    There were 209 votes, and nations could abstain from voting as well.

  7. FA Cup final preview: Aston Villa underdogs in Arsenal’s pursuit of back-to-back cups

    May 29, 2015, 12:47 PM EDT

    Can the Gunners win a second-straight FA Cup? Sherwood’s Villa stand in the way.

  8. Report: Benteke has $50 million release clause, Liverpool ready to trigger

    May 29, 2015, 12:17 PM EDT

    It's two in two for Christian Benteke, who scored Villa's second against Liverpool Getty Images

    Aston Villa is hoping to keep the 24-year-old Belgian, who has scored 49 goals in 99 matches since coming to the England from Genk in 2012.

  9. 2014-15 Premier League season review: PST’s Player of the Season

    May 29, 2015, 11:15 AM EDT

    Eden Hazard, Chelsea FC Getty Images

    One man dominates our votes. He probably dominates your picks too…

  10. Al-Hussein, Blatter address voters ahead of presidential election; First vote coming

    May 29, 2015, 11:06 AM EDT

    FIFA President Sepp Blatter walks past challenger for the FIFA presidency, FIFA vice president Prince Ali bin al Hussein (below,L) and UEFA President Michel Platini (below,R) during the opening of the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich on May 29, 2015. FIFA president Sepp Blatter heads into a re-election vote amid FIFA's corruption scandal on May 29, 2015. "We need to fix FIFA right now"  Sepp Blatter told members of world football's governing body on May 29. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI        (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein and Sepp Blatter have addressed voters ahead of Friday’s presidential election, and we’re onto the vote.

  11. Taking a look at the United States’ U-20 World Cup roster

    May 29, 2015, 10:23 AM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptu2n2vkmzzjntc5nzcymgzjmzblntg0ztk1zwnkzjq3 AP

    The United States kicks off its U-20 World Cup run with a match against Myanmar at Midnight, and will look to emerge from a relatively winnable group with Ukraine and hosts New Zealand.

  12. Spurs add established 22-year-old Austrian defender from Bundesliga

    May 29, 2015, 9:09 AM EDT

    WOLFSBURG, GERMANY - DECEMBER 20: Kevin De Bruyne (L) of Wolfsburg and Kevin Wimmer of Koeln vie during the Bundesliga match between VfL Wolfsburg and 1. FC Koeln at Volkswagen Arena on December 20, 2014 in Wolfsburg, Germany.  (Photo by Ronny Hartmann/Bongarts/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The once-capped Austrian played club ball with LASK Linz in his home country until 2012.

  13. FIFA convention, presidential election resume after bomb threat delay

    May 29, 2015, 8:10 AM EDT

    ZURICH, SWITZERLAND - MAY 29:  A general view as FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter talks during the 65th FIFA Congress at the Hallenstadion on May 29, 2015 in Zurich, Switzerland.  (Photo by Matthias Hangst - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images) Getty Images

    Thankfully, the anonymous threat led to nothing, though it’s worth noting the media wasn’t immediately told there was danger.

  14. Reports: Southampton reject $15m bid for Clyne, Liverpool to raise offer

    May 29, 2015, 7:53 AM EDT

    Nathaniel Clyne, Southampton FC Nathaniel Clyne, Southampton FC

    Manchester United is among the other clubs said to be targeting Clyne, but the back is said to prefer Liverpool.

  15. MLS preview: Sporting KC vs. FC Dallas, Revolution vs. Galaxy headline Week 13

    May 29, 2015, 7:30 AM EDT

    Robbie Keane, LA Galaxy Robbie Keane, LA Galaxy

    Week 13 of the 2015 MLS season is here! What games are must-watch this weekend?

  16. U-20 World Cup preview: The groups, the favorites, USA outlook and the game’s future stars

    May 28, 2015, 11:13 PM EDT

    Previews - FIFA U-20 World Cup New Zealand 2015 Previews - FIFA U-20 World Cup New Zealand 2015

    The U-20 World Cup kicks off late Thursday night (US time). Get yourself caught up on what — and who — to watch.

  17. Carlo Ancelotti weighing offer to return to AC Milan

    May 28, 2015, 8:52 PM EDT

    Carlo Ancelotti, AC Milan Getty Images

    Landing Ancelotti would be the best thing AC Milan have done in years.

  18. Gulati: U.S. Soccer will vote for Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein in FIFA election, not Sepp Blatter

    May 28, 2015, 7:15 PM EDT

    Sunil Gulati, U.S. Soccer & FIFA ExCo Sunil Gulati, U.S. Soccer & FIFA ExCo

    Sunil Gulati is putting his not only talking the talk, but walking the walk, with regard to much-needed reform in world soccer.

Featured video

PST Extra reviews the 2014-15 season