Most of the veteran cohort of U.S. midfielders plays in MLS, meaning we’ve seen them with their club teams for the better part of a season at this point. We know what we’re getting there. Many of the young, exciting midfield prospects play overseas, and as such haven’t had as much time to surprise the USMNT coaching staff. As such, I’m expecting the midfield to be mainly a group of vets, with a couple of possibilities among the younger guys playing abroad to see a call-up.
Michael Bradley - B
El Capitan is fresh back from injury and not looking too shabby, either. He even delivered an assist via free kick as Philadelphia Union fans chanted “overrated” at him. You might think those fans are right, but hard to argue with results.
Jermaine Jones - C
Jones had an incredible run at the beginning of his Colorado tenure. That’s the good news.
The bad news is he’s once again struggling for fitness. Klinsmann might bring him along, but if he does he’ll see limited time at most for the U.S.
Alejandro Bedoya - B
Bedoya has only got a couple games in with the Union, but he’s hopped into their starting lineup, nominally as a holding midfielder but in practice as a do-it-all box-to-box type, running his head off while Warren Creavalle sits deeper. It’s not a bad look, either: the Union are 2-1 with him in the lineup.
Christian Pulisic - B+
Despite appearing to be dropped in the pecking order at Dortmund, he’s still managed several goals this preseason (including one against Manchester City) and is commanding rumors at the price of 20 million Euros. Not bad for 17.
Graham Zusi - C+
Just came back from injury and has been generally ok for Sporting KC. He did just play right back for some reason. There’s a possibility Peter Vermes is caught between a rock and a hard place personnel-wise: Zusi is the franchise player, but Jacob Peterson has been the one bringing the goods at the right wing over the past few months.
Lynden Gooch - A-
The biggest mover in this group has to be Lynden Gooch, who went from completely off the senior team radar to a Premier League starter in a matter of weeks. Comfortable across the midfield, Gooch is an intriguing option (and a tri-national one as well. While Gooch is from California and has played for U.S. youth teams, his father is British and his mother is Irish. If Klinsmann wants to cap-tie him, now might be the time).
Paul Arriola - B
Arriola is getting time with high-flying Tijuana both in league and Cup action, which is a very good sign, considering Mexico is cracking down on the states of foreign-born dual nationals as of late. After grabbing a goal and an assist in his senior debut against Puerto Rico, Arriola might be eyeing these dates to build on his previous contributions as well.
Darlington Nagbe - C+
It’s been a rough few weeks for the Timbers. Nagbe has been forced wide more often due to a rash of injuries, and he hasn’t been nearly as effective coming in from the wing. Accordingly, the Timbers have dropped four of their last five. On the other hand, Nagbe is still the only midfielder in the pool that can do this:
Perry Kitchen - B
Kitchen has fast-become a fan favorite in Scotland. Jam Tarts supporters rave about his play and the balance he brings to the team, and his return from a hamstring niggle coincided with Hearts’ first win of the new season: a 5-1 thrashing of Inverness.
Alfredo Morales & Danny Williams - C+ or B-, depending on how you feel
Neither have had the chance to do much. Both are still with the same club. Compared to Kitchen’s upward trajectory, even if both of these two are playing in technically better leagues than Scotland (which they definitely are), they both need to do some breaking out to shoulder their way back into the holding midfield discussion at this point.
Lee Nguyen - D
Nguyen is a finesse guy who thrived off of having forwards who would combine with him and give him a shot at goal. You know who’s not that guy? Kei Kamara. Nguyen and New England have looked fairly miserable.
Sacha Kljestan - B+
He’s MLS assists leader. Too bad that seems to mean absolutely nothing to Klinsmann.
Emerson Hyndman - C+
A good, hard move up to the Premier League with feel-good wonders Bournemouth, but picked up a preseason injury and is just now getting fit. Will need to really fight for his minutes.