The United States' 2015 was a disaster, from a failed Gold Cup to a CONCACAF Cup loss. But things start anew this year. Jurgen Klinsmann needs to turn the team around, and he's said he wants to get younger as part of his continued evolution of the team. So with that in mind, as the Americans gear up for more qualifying and Copa America, 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.
Ryan: So we took a four-month break from this, almost entirely because of me. But we have a depth chart to fill out and on the right wing it is Alejandro Bedoya leading the way, who was also the second choice on the left wing. That doesn’t indicate a lot of strength at the position, but what the U.S. lack in top-end talent, they make up for in depth and youth on the right.
Rob: Depth is always good. As is a good mix of experience and youth. Unfortunately with all these names there are very few natural wingers in the player pool. Most are played there out of necessity and offer little going forward on the flank. Bedoya is the default winner for being an overall good player and a responsible defender. His lack of dynamism on the wing is worrisome, but with the midfield already packed, this is the best spot for him.
Ryan: Ya, you’re not going to get a Man of the Match performance from Bedoya, but you know he’s going to be solid. On this team, and especially on the wing, a dependable contributor is nothing to sneeze at. You see Bedoya out there and you don’t worry about things going poorly at all.
Rob: The one thing I love about having Bedoya on the wing is it offers the chance to have a more attacking fullback play on his side because you know he'll do the dirty work and cover. DeAndre Yedlin fits this mold. He's also No. 2 on our winger depth chart. When it's all said and done which position do you see him sticking with in the long term?
Ryan: I think he probably ends up on the wing, but for now, ideally, I’d like to see him stay at fullback. He can learn more and grow more there. It’s easier to move up the pitch then back in the pitch. At the very least, he’s going to be an effective defensive winger who is a threat on the counter.
Rob: Our overall team speed is lacking. Yedlin has to have some role to play for this team just based on his ability to get behind opposing defenses. He showed during the World Cup that he's extremely effective and getting wide and delivering balls into the box. Jurgen just has to put him in the right positions to get back to doing that.
Ryan: There is some speed behind Yedlin on the wing, though. Morris and Zardes both have plenty of speed - they obviously don't have Yedlin speed, but who does? - and are both relatively young. So there's more of the same there. Zardes is a lot like Yedlin in that his speed and tracking back are his best attributes. Morris has potential and can hang at the international level, but we still don't know how good he is. We're about to find out.
Rob: Indeed we are. Morris is a very exciting attacking prospect, but he's still a relative newbie when it comes to playing the wing. Many say Zardes' best position is striker, to which I just don't agree with at the international level. I think we can all agree his first touch is his biggest weakness as a soccer player. Playing out wide allows him time and space to overcome the poor touches he's bound to have. But like you said, his work rate and tracking back is why he's this high on our list.
Ryan: It will be interesting to see what kind of chances Ibarra gets going forward. He was in the team while at Minnesota United, but a move to Liga MX hasn't done him any good in Jurgen Klinsmann's eyes despite playing pretty well in his appearances off the Leon bench. Then again, many Liga MX guys have been pushed aside in recent years. Ibarra does bring some skill and versatility, not to mention he's comfortable coming off the bench. I don't think he's a game-changer by any means, but he could have a role to play.
Rob: Skill and the ability to get past defenders will always be a need for the USMNT. Ibarra is still an unknown commodity at this point, so it's hard to judge him. That brings us to two U-23 players who are both dynamic attacking players but still very inexperienced. I'm a huge Rubio Rubin fan. It's unfortunate that he's missed most of this season with injury. He's got a bright future and could help this team as soon as he returns to full fitness. Kiesewetter is a weird case. He hardly ever plays at his club Stuttgart II, but he's one of the few true wingers we have. His performances for the U-23's and in the January Camp have earned him a spot on this list.
Ryan: That skill is what lands Nagbe on the list, even if out on the right isn't a great place for him and especially so in Klinsmann's team. Still, being able to use him, especially late in matches when you're maybe looking to keep the ball, is an enticing option.
Kiesewetter definitely served notice in January Camp and while playing in the German third division isn't exactly awe inspiring, we're getting pretty deep on this depth chart. He's still playing regular professional soccer, has a chance to move up and, as a young player, has shown great potential. Plus, as you said, a true winger!
Rob: Nagbe fits the Bedoya mold. He's just a really good soccer player who definitely fits better in the midfield. He can play on the wing in a pinch without hurting the team, but it's obvious his future with the team lies in the middle of the field. It's just a good sign that we're talking about quality players this far down the list.
Ryan: Finlay rounds things out. I love him in MLS, but I don't think he has much of an international future. He fits Gregg Berhalter's system extraordinarily well, but that role doesn't exist under Klinsmann and he's pretty limited. That said, if you need a dude to run and hit crosses in (sorry, he's not going to be able to cut in at a higher level like he does for the Crew), you could do a lot worse. I'd take him over Graham Zusi at this point.
Rob: No arguments from me. I'm not that high on him either, but that delightful cross to Jozy in January Camp earned him a little respect in my book. We don't have many players in the pool who can hit that cross. But he's far from important minutes at this point.
Ryan: Right wing isn’t a strength for the U.S., but it’s not a worry either. It’s fine, with depth, and there’s potential with the likes of Yedlin, Morris and Zardes - not to mention a prospect like Kiesewetter - to get that game-breaking, impact player that can turn this into a great spot for the Americans.
Depth chart series