The United States men’s national team is preparing for the start of the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. About a year ago SSFC’s Depth Chart series explored the USMNT player pool. Now, a year later, the team has improved tremendously from a horrid 2015, but how has the outlook on the pool changed? So with that in mind, as the Americans gear up for the Hex, we attempt to create a depth chart for the team, position by position. Figuring out what Klinsmann is thinking is a fool's errand, so this is what our depth chart would be and we'll talk about how we landed here.
Rob: One of the biggest strengths of the USMNT over the last decade or so has been the holding midfielder position. Anchored by Michael Bradley since forever it seems, the position is beginning to look a little uncertain. Despite undeniable regression since moving from Serie A to MLS, Bradley is still top dog. Can we at least agree on this or are you one of those anti-Bradley everything wackos (send hate mail to personal inbox please)?
Brendan: I like Michael Bradley and think he needs the right partner in the midfield in order to thrive. He's never going to be a solo defensive midfielder (or an attacking midfielder, ever), but he brings a lot to the table. As for the "He was better in Italy" people, they may get their wish next year if certain rumors are to be believed.
My question is, who partners with him (and what position does this person play)? If Jermaine Jones is healthy, then he should always play. Unfortunately, that might not be an option.
Rob: That seems to be the question we've had for the last three world cup cycles isn't it? Who partners Michael Bradley? We've got our own little Gerrard/Lampard conundrum. Jones is the obvious choice, but when is his career lifespan going to end at the international level? Can we really expect him to last two more years? If not, crowd behind him leaves a lot to be desired.
Brendan: Once upon a time, I would have put all of my money into Danny Williams locking down a spot. It hasn't happened for some reason or another. He seems to be doing well with Reading whenever I check in on the Championship, so maybe this is his time. People have written off Kyle Beckerman, but I could see him sliding in prior to the World Cup.
Of course, with the improvement of the center backs (they've improved, right?), there might not be a need for a formation that has two defensive midfielders.
Rob: Funny that you mention center backs. Many USMNT fans love the thought of Geoff Cameron playing in the midfield alongside Bradley. This seems a better alternative than trusting someone unproven like Danny Williams or Kellyn Acosta. But then the question becomes, is it worth weakening your back line by taking Cameron out of it? I say yes. As we learned yesterday, the center back depth is getting stronger and can afford a sacrifice to the midfield. Whether or not Klinsmann feels the same way is the question.
Brendan: Geoff Cameron recently spoke to the Stoke Sentinel about playing more in the midfield. Not only is he happier there, but he would like to stay in one position consistently. Regardless of what position he plays, he should be in the U.S. lineup provided he is healthy.
As for Acosta, does Klinsmann see him as a midfielder? Despite many experts putting him there, he seems to always be lining up as a fullback for the national team.
I could see the biggest riser being Perry Kitchen. He made his medium-ish/bigg-ish move to Europe, signing for Heart of Midlothian. While I can't pretend to be an expert on Scottish soccer (or anything, really), he has been playing for them consistently.
Rob: Kitchen is a good shout. He's still relatively young and playing at a high level. However, judging from his call-up record, Klinsmann doesn't really value the fringe European leagues like Scotland or the English Championship. I think Kitchen needs to keep moving up the latter if he's going to move into the real debate for playing time.
Acosta is an interesting case. He's naturally a midfielder, but is he physically imposing enough to play that role at the international level? I can see why Jurgen is playing him out of position, so I'll give him a pass. Still, he's young and can mature into a midfield role in the future so he's worth discussing.
Frankly, I'm over the Kyle Beckerman era. He still might can play a role against CONCACAF teams, but at the highest level it was proven he's past it this summer. It's time for Klinsmann to find a new security blanket.
Brendan: I think Beckerman serves a purpose and does a lot of things that people don't notice. His ability to track runners and block passing lanes is unmatched by anyone else in the player pool. He may be getting too old to cover enough ground, though. I understand.
Rob: Alfredo Morales and Wil Trapp round out our list. Both were once highly rated but fell off pretty heard. Do you see either one playing a significant role for the national team in the future?
Brendan: Anything is possible. Ingolstadt is having a bad year, but Morales is playing semi-regularly. Columbus was just all bad, and Wil Trapp either improved or stagnated depending on who you ask. Obviously, you put more faith in the Bundesliga player due to pedigree, but MLS players can always earn a spot in Klinsmann's squad.
Depth Chart Series: