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. Jurgen Klinsmann on Jozy Altidore’s situation, USMNT squad and more

    Apr 18, 2014, 12:25 PM EDT

    Italy US Soccer AP

    U.S. national team head coach speaks out on Altidore, USMNT squad, American Outlaws and more:

  2. Premier League Preview: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Fulham

    Apr 18, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT

    Tottenham Hotspur v Sunderland - Premier League Getty Images

    Spurs and Fulham set for derby scrap, with both team desperate for three points:

  3. Wayne Rooney hands Manchester United boost, will return vs. old club Everton

    Apr 18, 2014, 10:27 AM EDT

    Two goals from Wayne Rooney in the first half helped United to a 4-1 win over Aston Villa. AP

    Rooney and Fellaini fit to face their old team, as United aim to scupper Everton’s top four:

  4. MLS Insider: Michael Bradley and Kyle Beckerman – Pair of Aces

    Apr 18, 2014, 7:51 AM EDT

    Art by J McQuade Art by J McQuade

    Beckerman and Bradley; the perfect midfield combination for the USMNT?

  5. Week 7 Preview: Fire look for first win vs. Revs; Dallas gets its crack at Toronto

    Apr 17, 2014, 11:33 PM EDT

    jhon_kennedy_hurtado_felipe AP

    MLS’s nine-match Saturday kicks off Saturday at 4:00 p.m. ET, with Chicago hosting New England on NBCSN.

  6. How stacked can the West get? In three years, MLS’s conferences will be much more uneven

    Apr 17, 2014, 9:03 PM EDT

    Houston Dynamo v Sporting Kansas City - Eastern Conference Semifinals Getty Images

    Think MLS’s conferences are unbalanced now? Let me offer you a glimpse at 2017.

  7. Report: Aston Villa ownership will change hands if club stays up

    Apr 17, 2014, 7:44 PM EDT

    Aston_Villa_Logo_851684732

    An American consortium has a deal to buy the club from Randy Lerner, if it can avoid relegation.

  8. ‘Large-scale back tattoo’ has sidelined John Brooks

    Apr 17, 2014, 6:38 PM EDT

    JABrooks-Getty Getty Images

    The 21-year-old U.S. international appears to have underestimated the impact of an in-season tattoo.

  9. Tim Howard inks Everton extension, signs through 2017-18 season

    Apr 17, 2014, 6:02 PM EDT

    everton_tim_howard

    U.S. number one signs extension that will take him through the next World Cup cycle.

  10. Arsenal welcome back Mesut Özil, predict German will be “Player of the Season” next year

    Apr 17, 2014, 5:54 PM EDT

    Arsenal's Ozil reacts during their Champions League soccer match against Napoli at the Emirates stadium in London

    Gunners playmaker back fit, as Arsene Wenger expects big things from the German next season:

  11. Looking at the run-in for La Liga’s title contenders

    Apr 17, 2014, 5:24 PM EDT

    Diego Costa AP

    Real Madrid has the easiest path, with the next two weekends potentially knocking the holders out of contention.

  12. Daniel Sturridge out injured for Liverpool, as Reds hold their breath

    Apr 17, 2014, 5:14 PM EDT

    Danny Sturridge is the Premier League Player of the Month for February for his performances for Liverpool. Getty Images

    England international a doubt after hamstring injury, why would Liverpool risk him?

  13. Winless Watch: Which MLS team’s most likely to break through this weekend?

    Apr 17, 2014, 4:53 PM EDT

    Sporting Kansas City v Chicago Fire Getty Images

    Which MLS teams can join New York in leaving the ranks of the winless?

  14. Premier League Power Rankings: Liverpool or Chelsea for the title? – Week 34

    Apr 17, 2014, 4:24 PM EDT

    Philippe Coutinho, Steven Gerrard AP

    Unstoppable Reds continue to roll, but where did the contenders shake out in our latest rankings?

  15. Neymar, Jordi Alba to miss the rest of Barcelona’s season

    Apr 17, 2014, 3:28 PM EDT

    neymar AP

    Both players should be back by the time their national teams start preparations for this summer’s World Cup.

  16. Wild Greek Cup match delayed for flares, sees three red cards

    Apr 17, 2014, 2:46 PM EDT

    BenchFlare AP

    Thousands of flares engulfed Greece’s Toumba Stadium as a bench was lit on fire and covered in anchovies. And that was all before the match…

Featured video

PST Extra: Race for the PL title