USMNT Depth Chart Series, Part 3: Central Midfielders

Michael Bradley headlines the US depth chart in the center.

Michael Bradley headlines the US depth chart in the center.

Jon Levy

Clint Dempsey, the best American soccer player in the world, has made his shocking move back to MLS, and he’ll soon be lighting the lamp in “America’s soccer city.” Okay, so that sentence is supposed to make our readership spike. Right? Maybe so, but Dempsey doesn’t make an appearance on the depth charts at the two positions we’re breaking down today. The Yanks Are Coming heads for the center of the pitch in part three of our USMNT Depth Chart Series.

Here at The Yanks Are Coming we write a lot about the harsh realities of small sample size inherent in the game at national team level. So few matches, so much riding on each one, and hardly any opportunities to evaluate without consequences.

That’s why we’re including notes made prior to this most triumphant summer for the USMNT as we embark on our latest series. It’s our TYAC USMNT Depth Chart Series, and it’s a little like time travel, minus the DeLorean and the historically cool destinations (May 2013 wasn’t all that interesting was it?). Hopefully the contrast in our depth charts between May and present day will speak to how big a difference relatively few matches can make in the world of international soccer.

Please note we made these valuations based on who we would start at each position given the current player pool, not who we think Jurgen Klinsmann would start. Otherwise we’d have Danny Williams ranked number one at each position.

We got defensive in the first two parts of this series, and we encourage you to read those posts.

CB’s & GK’s

RB’s & LB’s

Today we break down the talent at Jurgen’s central midfield positions. Comments welcome and encouraged.

Klinsmann has allowed Jones a bit more free rein of late- and we've seen some of the swashbuckler that plays for Schalke.

Klinsmann has allowed Jones a bit more free rein of late- and we’ve seen some of the swashbuckler that plays for Schalke.

MAY 2013 CDM DEPTH CHART AND NOTES:

CDM: Jermaine Jones, Maurice Edu, Danny Williams, Kyle Beckerman, Jose Francisco Torres, Geoff Cameron

I left Michael Bradley off this list. Klinsmann prefers a “traditional six” for his defensive midfielder, and while Bradley might have fit the bill four years ago at this time, he’s now too important from box-to-box to put that kind of restriction on him. Jermaine Jones doesn’t get that MB90 level of respect from me, but he’s usually the team’s best holding mid. That’s not to say he doesn’t have an off game or half from time to time, because his February performance in Honduras was pretty lackluster until he provided a rare inch-perfect pass that lead to the US goal. It should also be noted that Jones has been given permission, thanks largely to Michael Bradley’s improved discipline, to be the “swashbuckler” we often see at Schalke, and make more adventurous, probing runs forward, leaving Michael behind to cover. In reality, Michael Bradley isn’t the “6″ here, because the US are choosing to push the line of confrontation further forward (see, Honduras, Salt Lake City)- but it is nonetheless worth noting.

AUGUST 2013 CDM DEPTH CHART AND NOTES: 

CDM: Jermaine Jones, Geoff Cameron, Kyle Beckerman, Danny Williams, Maurice Edu, Jose Francisco Torres

Geoff Cameron used a game and a half in World Cup Qualifying to jump four players and bring himself almost even with Jermaine Jones. If we were looking for our “small sample size” poster boy, Geoff is our man. Then Kyle Beckerman seemingly became a whole new player in all three Gold Cup knockout matches. From kickoff at the quarterfinal in Baltimore right up to the final whistle of the final in Chicago, Beckerman was a distribution machine while shielding the hell out of the back line. Meanwhile, Danny Williams and Mo Edu, who’ve both shown brief promising sparks at this position under Klinsmann, have been suffering from injuries and up-and-down form.  Williams has been utilized twice off the bench for Reading early in the year, and has shown well. Meanwhile, Mo Edu continues to rehab a leg injury. One of these two players remains likely to end up on the roster for Brazil- club form may dictate which one it is. It is difficult to envision a universe where both are selected, as that likely means Kyle Beckerman, whose supporters have grown from few to thousands, like the latter half of a “Harlem Shake” video, has been left at home.

Diskerud used the Gold Cup to put himself in great 2014 plane position.

Diskerud used the Gold Cup to put himself in great 2014 plane position.

MAY 2013 CM DEPTH CHART AND NOTES:

CM: Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Sacha Kljestan, Jose Francisco Torres, Mix Diskerud

Depending on the formation this team will sometimes field one true central midfielder, and other times a midfield pair will start in the center of the park. Michael Bradley is obviously the ever-present, but the prospect of providing him a partner is a bit complicated. Jermaine Jones is the most trusted, and rightfully so, but definitely not the most forward-thinking option. Sacha Kljestan has long been a darling of this website, and he should be given a chance to shine by renewing his chemistry with Bradley and helping responsibly link the midfield to forward line. And Jose Francisco Torres is still alive, that’s worthy of note.

AUGUST 2013 CM DEPTH CHART AND NOTES:

CM: Michael Bradley, Mix Diskerud, Sacha Kljestan, Stuart Holden*, Jose Francisco Torres, Jermaine Jones, Dax McCarty

Well, this is Michael Bradley’s spot, plain and simple. And the Gold Cup revelation that Clint Dempsey isn’t the only American who can play “in the hole” behind the striker means we’re probably looking at just one true central midfielder in the starting lineup. While that doesn’t bode well for Jermaine Jones at this spot (because you wouldn’t start a true “number six” and then put only J.J. in front of him), it leaves us with the midfield equivalent of the wild west behind Michael Bradley on this depth chart. How do we weight the Gold Cup performances? Should Sacha and Jermaine get credit for being “too good” for that squad? As you can see above, here at The Yanks Are Coming we value vision and the ability to pick out the ambitious pass in our CM’s. That’s why we ranked Mix second and sent Jermaine to the back of the line, but make no mistake, there’s not much between the second and last guy on this list.

Kljestan and Diskerud would appear to be the biggest roster dogfight. Kljestan plays the second most minutes of any player on a Champions League team. Diskerud does not. How much will that matter to a manager who loves players who take on demanding challenges at high-level clubs? Right now, we think Diskerud’s got a slight edge, and not just because he looks like a Renaissance painting of Jesus with that hair, which probably edges out the Kljestan ‘stache.

McCarty? Well, that’s just wishful thinking from some charter member card holders in the #FreeDax club. Call him in Jurgen. Soon.

That’s it for part three in the TYAC USMNT Depth Chart Series; join us next time when we make Graham Zusi and Landon Donovan fight to the death while we try to sneak Chris Pontius onto the national team.

And don’t forget to argue with us on Twitter, @YanksAreComing, @TYAC_Jon and @nwb_USMNT. Now go annoy your friends about the awesome US Soccer depth chart series you’re reading.

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  • John Eppley

    “We got defensive in the first two parts of this series, and we encourage you to read those posts.”

    I read the fullback one, but I never saw on the RSS feed (and can’t find in the archives) the center-back installment of this series. Would you be so kind as to post a link to it here?

  • Jon

    There’s a link where it says GK’s & CB’s in this post! (that post written before the Gold Cup)

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