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: The U.S. doesn’t have a great, dependable striker. So basically it’s just as its been since 2006 when the Brian McBride era ended. But there is some depth. Jurgen Klinsmann could turn to any one of a number of players and get decent enough play. It’s not ideal, but it works well enough to keep the position from being a black hole. Creating chances is way more problematic than finishing them.
Rob: It seems like we've been depending on Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore to score goals since Landon retired. We've tried every imaginable formation and alignment to get the most of that pairing with mixed results. The stats cannot be ignored. Dempsey has a chance to catch Donovan on the all-time scoring list and Jozy is rapidly climbing it as well. They are two proven goal scorers even if they aren't always what we hope or envision them to be.
Ryan: Dempsey has been more than we could have ever imagined and has been the team's best attacker for about six years now. He's still the team's best attacker and the only knock on him, besides his age, is that he doesn't have a totally natural position. But there's not a better goalscorer on the team and he keeps the ball well too
Meanwhile, Jozy is who he is. He's not the star we hoped he would be, but as you said, he scores goals. Streaky or not, frustrating or not, he scores. Once you accept that he's not what you hoped he would be nearly a decade ago and merely a good, if limited U.S. striker. That's fine!
Rob: The amazing thing is that he's only 26. I agree that Dempsey's consistency makes him the team's best attacker, but when Jozy is in-form and at his best he can put the team on his back. It's just a shame that form only comes around once every few years.
Ryan: Somehow, Bobby Wood is third on our list. That’s a real thing and not a typo. It’s also not blasphemous! Imagine telling yourself that two years ago.
Rob: It's quite astonishing considering we have him over Aron Johannsson who everyone believed would be the next big thing at striker for the USMNT. Wood's form over the last year has been undeniable. He's scored goals at an amazing rate for the USMNT and despite where he plays his club soccer, we just want to see if he can keep it up.
Ryan: One thing Wood has in his favor is he's proven he can make an impact off the bench. That's not easy for every player and even if he never pans out as a complete striker who can start - not saying he can't, we just don't know yet - being a reliable sub will keep him in the team.
Johannsson has never impressed for the national team. He's also rarely been fit for the national team. Those two things might be related.
Rob: They could be. We just don't know. For as long as he's been around the scene he's still a bit of an unknown quantity. This is why he's fallen down to fourth.
Jordan Morris comes in a No. 5 and that's probably fair. His potential is through the roof and perhaps we look back at this list a year from now and laugh that he was this low, but until he proves something at the professional level this is probably the right place for him.
Ryan: I highly doubt that Morris is in this same spot by July. He might be higher, he might be lower, but I'd guess being a pro is going to change things.
Rob: That brings us to the enigma that is Gyasi Zardes. I feel bad for him. He seems like a great guy and he has all the physical tools one would want in a striker. He's just lacking the technique required to succeed at this level and people are starting to realize this. He's still relatively young and could still develop into a decent striker, but for right now I see his future on the wing if anywhere for the USMNT.
Ryan: He's a better finisher than people give him credit for and if the team could create chances, I think he'd be well-served up front. Unfortunately, creating chances isn't exactly this team's forte so his touch is a problem. At least on the wing, he has a little more time and his defensive work plays in more.
Rob: He's spoiled with the Galaxy, being able to play with so many good attacking players. The amount of chances he gets is almost unfair to judge him. I believe he would've benefitted from going to Europe this winter when the rumors about him leaving popped up.
Ryan: Yeah, of course it would have depended where he landed, but if he could have found the right situation in Europe then that would have been amazing.
Rubio Rubin rounds things out, mainly because we both adore him, even if we're not exactly sure where on the pitch he is best yet. But he can definitely play up front in some capacity.
Rob: He's a talented young player with composure, skill, confidence and technique. If he can come back from his current injury unaffected, don't be surprised to see him get back to receiving senior team caps soon.
Depth chart series