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U.S. World Cup roster examination – Who is going to Brazil?: MIDFIELDERS

Oct 16, 2013, 5:39 PM EDT

Sometimes the choices can be confusing … and sometimes they can get downright dizzying.

When it comes to the U.S. midfield, there are so man moving parts at work here, easily more than any other position in the U.S player pool, so many ways Jurgen Klinsmann can configure his midfield personnel.

For starters, does he want to go back to something that looks more like a modified 4-3-3, which seems to be the U.S. manager’s preferred structure? That might mean trying to “force” a winger or two onto the roster, even if they haven’t exactly shined consistently.

Then he has a handful of midfield figures with talent, but also with flaws affixed to their games; so which flaws are less flawed than others? And how does that choic tie back into the formation discussion?

Similarly, he has several versatile men, Mix Diskerud and Sacha Kljestan as the best examples. Does he arrange a system more friendly to interchangeable parts or rely more on the specialists? How do these other choices affect whether Klinsmann takes an extra defensive midfield specialist (Kyle Beckerman?) or perhaps an extra attacking midfield type (Jose Torres or Joe Corona?).

Speaking of specialists, what about Brek Shea, a real wild card here, one of the few men in the U.S. pool who can motor past someone on the flanks. But wouldn’t Shea, still languishing on Mark Hughes’ bench at Stoke, come with his own issues?

And then there are the ‘tweeners, Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey. At some point, this is just an academic exercise; what does it really matter whether Donovan or Dempsey are listed as “midfielders” or “forwards?”

Then again, how these guys are ultimately used (more than their technical roster designation) does begin impacting the fates of others.

It’s all quite interesting, not to mention a big overwhelming, no?


(Estimated number of spot available: 8-9)

Start making plans, guys … you’re going to Brazil!: Graham Zusi, Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, Landon Donovan

Truly, those are the only figures who can tell their friends and families to start looking for good flight deals. Everyone else (and there’s a lot of “everyone else” here) is wading around in the mire of Klinsmann’s ample wiggle room.

Bradley (pictured) is this team’s most irreplaceable part. Period.


Jones is on the charter – whether you like it or not. His turnovers are maddening. He’s a bad foul waiting to happen. He cannot be trusted to faithfully, consistently keep that screening position, sometimes bursting forward imprudently and forcing Bradley to make the fierce recovery run. We all know that. So does Klinsmann.

But the manager has long adjudged Jones’ leadership and contagious fearlessness as highly worthwhile, so he tolerates the man’s flaws.

Zusi? The only debate is whether he’s a starter; the creativity and speed of thoughts at international level can sometimes suffer, but his technical work is so usefully smooth. Some of that choice (starter or backup?) depends on how Klinsmann uses Donovan.

Speaking of “using Donovan:” His best spot is second forward, running off the target striker. But who can provide a little speed on the flank? Because Zusi just doesn’t have that one-on-one burner pace. Not that Donovan has much of it, not anymore, but he does have that signature burst.

Klinsmann has perhaps10-plus options for four or five spots, based on the men called into matches this year. (Remember, he has said there “aren’t many surprises coming around the corner.” Translation: If someone is healthy but wasn’t called for any of the recent qualifiers, his World Cup hopes would be better aimed toward 2014.)

Bedoya’s usage over the last five days is pretty interesting. If you look at the guy’s body of work, his best days were against that jayvee level Gold Cup opposition. He doesn’t really scream “international caliber,” does he? And yet, Klinsmann’s decision to give Bedoya two starts seems to underscore the manager’s desperation to find some flank play.

Same probably goes for Brad Davis, one of the few professional who seem to be finding their place internationally as he drifts past 30. Again, it’s about the lack of options – and trying hard to find them.

Torres or Corona? Klinsmann will probably take one of them.

Kljestan or Diskerud? Same thing – one goes, and Diskerud is slightly ahead, although Kljestan kept himself in the argument with a decent night in Panama.

Danny Williams, now a lineup fixture at Reading? He was a U.S. starter just one year ago, remember. Injuries and a bad spell allowed Beckerman to lap him in the pool. But what now?

On the bubble: Alejandro Bedoya, Kyle Beckerman, Joe Corona, Brad Davis, Mix Diskerud, Joshua Gatt, Sacha Kljestan, Brek Shea, Jose Torres, Danny Williams

Still in the conversation … but just barely: Maurice Edu

(MORE: Where the goalkeepers of the U.S. player pool stand) 

(MORE: Where the defenders in the U.S. player pool stand)

  1. hildezero - Oct 16, 2013 at 6:02 PM

    Still in the conversation … but just barely: Stuart Holden

    If he gets healthy quick. Hopefully.

    • braxtonrob - Oct 16, 2013 at 7:17 PM

      Holden is very average; I’m GLAD he’s not healthy nor fit, now I don’t have to worry about his selection.

      • braxtonrob - Oct 17, 2013 at 3:33 AM

        Wow, the sympathy vote for Holden is strong.
        Perhaps you all would like to put someone with crutches out there.

        Actually, I was holden (<-nice pun) back. I think he SUCKS. Lol

    • nappy25 - Oct 16, 2013 at 7:17 PM

      Holden is definitely not going to the WC this year. He’ll have to have a really great half a season to even be given a plane ticket. Plus, the dude seems to have glass knees now. Kinda sucks, but it’s true.

    • bear06 - Oct 17, 2013 at 1:56 AM

      Holden isn’t returning until early next year at the earliest so it might be too late for him.

  2. danielofthedale - Oct 16, 2013 at 6:07 PM

    The guys I would take from the bubble list are: Diskerud, Bedoya, Corona, Beckerman, and Kljestan.

    Beasley, Fabian, and Castillo(if he makes it) can all provide some addional wide attackers if called upon and Cameron and Evans(if he makes it) can add to defensive cover/intelligent play to close out a game.

  3. imagreatguy76 - Oct 16, 2013 at 6:11 PM

    I’d have to say Beckerman is a lock…only way he isn’t in Brazil is due to injury.

    • bear06 - Oct 17, 2013 at 1:58 AM

      Are you a RSL fan? He’s far from a lock.

  4. bobinkc - Oct 16, 2013 at 6:37 PM

    I would still like to see him play Donovan down the left and Zu down the right. Both sides of the field plugged up solid and good striking power up both sides. Then it will be a matter of who can actually get something up the middle against the back line, especially if Besler and Gonzales are both healthy.

    • nappy25 - Oct 16, 2013 at 7:19 PM

      Fabian Johnson has already locked up the left. Plus, Donovan seems to be ineffective as a winger in recent matches.

      • bear06 - Oct 17, 2013 at 1:59 AM

        Fabian Johnson is a beast at LM. I kinda want him at LB but he helps the offense so much when he’s at LM.

    • danielofthedale - Oct 16, 2013 at 7:31 PM

      Yeah I think Fabian is the best fit for the left side of midfield. The main reason I say that is that I think with the exception of the goal Jozy scored Friday, every one of them has been when Fabian was playing on the left and a number of them were set up by Fabian earlier in the run of play. They seem to have a solid chemistry.

  5. rphillish - Oct 16, 2013 at 6:59 PM

    I’m still not sure Zusi is a lock. I would put Beckerman in the same basket as Zusi; they’re in if they don’t have something go seriously wrong in their form or health. Of course, that’s true of all the players, but I think even a drop in form for Bradley or Donavan isn’t keeping of the roster. I know Beckerman gets a lot of hate, but I think he’s that type of player you bring on when you need to protect a 1 goal lead for the last 10-15 minutes. I’d also be pretty surprised if Mix didn’t make it.

    • nappy25 - Oct 16, 2013 at 7:21 PM

      Zusi is definitely going to the WC. Starting on the other hand is another debate, but he has shown some very consistent displays for club and country.

  6. braxtonrob - Oct 16, 2013 at 7:20 PM

    I think Benny Feilhaber … is one of my all-time favorite players, but I don’t keep up with a player’s ‘decline’ like others do.
    Can someone tell me why he had no chance of making this team?

    • danielofthedale - Oct 16, 2013 at 7:29 PM

      Benny is pretty much just an average MLS guy now. He also seems to be a not so good locker room guy and on a World Cup you can’t have anyone that is all ME and no TEAM.

    • bear06 - Oct 17, 2013 at 2:01 AM

      Feilhaber isn’t even in the discussion. He got called up in the January camp cupcake and he didn’t impress.

  7. bishopofblunder - Oct 16, 2013 at 7:35 PM

    I think Brek Shea belongs in the “Still in the conversation…but just barely” category. It’s unfortunate because he’s a Klinsmann type of player and a true winger (something this squad needs). But, he’s not playing and that’s a problem. I like Shea. I would love to see him make a miraculous comeback. I just don’t think there’s enough time.

    • bear06 - Oct 17, 2013 at 2:03 AM

      He’s not making the world cup roster.

    • konmtu - Oct 17, 2013 at 7:20 AM

      I think Brek’s in the right spot right now. Come January when the next article happens will definitely solidify where he’s at. If he starts getting minutes at Stoke, he’s capable of earning a ticket, but if he’s still not playing, he’s done. Truth be told, I’m surprised that Edu’s name was even brought up. Is he even playing reserve games?

      • bear06 - Oct 18, 2013 at 2:30 AM

        Supposedly he’s going on loan to a Championship club so that’s not going to really help his chances.

  8. talgrath - Oct 16, 2013 at 7:54 PM

    I’d love to see Corona on that plane, I think he’s a firestarter that could come in as a super sub. Diskerud and Bedoya are almost certainly on that plane to Brazil, beyond that it is very up in the air, though I’d like to see Kljestand on that plane. Shea, much like Holden, has injury problems, I don’t see him going.

  9. hildezero - Oct 17, 2013 at 1:17 PM


    Hmm… I wonder why? Maybe because Holden is one if the best midfielders that US has? Just because someone wants Holden to be in the conversation doesn’t mean that, that person wants him on the field with crutches. When healthy, he can compete for a starting lineup. Hopefully he recovers from his injury quickly, that’s all.

    • braxtonrob - Oct 17, 2013 at 4:25 PM

      Yeah, … I still think he sucks (and that’s when he’s healthy!)

      • bear06 - Oct 19, 2013 at 2:39 AM

        I highly doubt you know what a great player is since you think Bornstein was an above average player.

    • bear06 - Oct 18, 2013 at 2:32 AM

      When he was healthy a few years ago he was one of the best midfielders the U.S. had, but he has had so many injuries in the last 3 years that I will just be glad that he can return to play club football at a decent to good level.

      • braxtonrob - Oct 18, 2013 at 3:36 AM

        You and I (obviously) have very differing opinions on what a great player looks like.

  10. hildezero - Oct 17, 2013 at 6:16 PM

    So this coming from a guy who likes Bornstein and wants him to play for US…

    • braxtonrob - Oct 18, 2013 at 3:39 AM

      I never said I wanted Bornstein in 2014. I simply said I liked him (from past performances), and asked what everyone else thought.

      Don’t start putting words in my mouth.

      I thought he was better than average in the past, and at least 3 of you thought he sucked.
      Fair enough. It’s not like any of us are on the U.S. coaching staff.

      • bear06 - Oct 19, 2013 at 2:35 AM

        Better than average? You mean when he allowed 4 goals against Mexico in the 2011 GC Final?

  11. interesting29 - Oct 23, 2013 at 10:10 AM

    I think from the list of “On the Bubble”, we can take out Jose Torres, Danny Williams, Brek Shea, and Joshua Gatt. I don’t think they will be even remotely in the conversation, since Danny Williams and Gatt had really almost no opportunity left to show what they have. Shea is not playing for his club, and Torres is not producing for his club either.

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