U.S. Men's National Team

Edu, Jones keep battling for starting spot in crowded USA midfield

Jermaine Jones red (ISIPhotos.com)

Photos by Howard C. Smith/ISIPhotos.com


Maurice Edu and Jermaine Jones will be returning to starting roles with their respective club teams this weekend, but as far as the U.S. men's national team goes, neither has locked down a starting spot.

In the United States' friendlies against Argentina and Paraguay this past week, Edu and Jones both had mixed performances, leaving head coach Bob Bradley to further contemplate on whom he should pair with incumbent central midfielder Michael Bradley.

Two strong performances could have swayed Bob Bradley's opinion, but neither Jones nor Edu was consistent enough. Against Argentina, Edu looked promising once the U.S. team woke up from its slumber party while versus Paraguay he struggled in his first-half cameo. Jones was the opposite, having a subpar showing against the Argentines before putting in a better 45 minutes worth of work when matched up against Paraguay's defensive-minded approach.

The three midfielders did play together in the first half of the 1-1 draw against Argentina, but as was the case versus Colombia last fall, they struggled, especially on the offensive end. That doesn't mean Bob Bradley won't use that approach again (he hinted at such following the game in New Meadowlands Stadium), but a rotation between Michael Bradley, Jones and Edu might be better-suited for the team.

"I think that we three are good players," Jones said. "Now we was switching (from) Mo and Michael and Me and Michael. I think that maybe in the next game, maybe we try how we can play with me and Mo to see what's best for the tournament."

While there's a chance that Bob Bradley opts for that tandem against Spain in June, it doesn't appear likely. Michael Bradley was clearly the most impressive of the three central midfielders in the recent friendlies and he has also played 90 minutes in each game he's been available for dating back to a 3-1 loss to Denmark in November 2009 in which he was subbed off for Edgar Castillo.

That means Edu and Jones are likely to continue to battle for the starting spot next to Bradley over the course of the next two months.

"We look at it just as good competition for the team and it's going to bring out the best in us, and at the end of the day, we all want to win," Edu told SBI following the 1-0 loss to Paraguay. "That's what the ultimate goal is and we're just going to be fine in competing for a spot." 

If Michael Bradley struggles for playing time at Aston Villa and falls out of form, both Jones and Edu could gain ground over the next two months, but the one thing that seems clear is that Bob Bradley will have three quality players to choose from.

"The three of us are going to compete," said Edu. "At the end of the day, I think whatever combination is thrown out there will be quality and solid enough."

EduMessi (ISIPhotos.com)

  • bizzy

    Bradley had a good game against Paraguay. Also he did much better than Edu but lets be real…you are bound to play better if you know beyond a shadow of a doubt your place in CM is secured. No tension…no pressure…no anxiety…No problem.

    There is no player that’ll be benched at his current club, not even coming on as a second half sub and have a guaranteed spot on the team, regardless of what he’s done in the past. When Gladbach need a spark because they were heading for relegation MB started coming on as a second half sub. No one lets their star player sit on the bench or release them on loan……no coach.

    Bradley is a good player but far from the best. In a 4-4-2 system where USA is their strongest, Bradley is not the type of player that you can rely on for the crafty and quality assists (which is “one” of the responsibilities of a quality midfielder) or for the dangerous scoring touch. He’s not gifted with speed, he’s not stronger enough to muscle his way through the midfield, he doesn’t have dribbling skills….so any player that can keep his composure and make good passes, and when pressured pass the ball back to the keeper or a defender can play in Bradley’s spot.

    The problem is not his game, because he hits the pitch and plays his heart out, it’s the fact that his presence disrupts the ability for the USMNT to discover new talent in the midfield because regardless if he has a good day, bad day or doesn’t even play for his club MB will start.

    There is a young and upcoming midfielder that’ll make an impression on the team, like Agudelo did up front, but with BB as coach and MB in the CM that discovery will take a while


  • KB

    “great seasons in the Eredivisie and Bundesliga”

    See this is what I don’t like about Bradley. He has had one great season in Holland. He was good in Holland the rest of the time, but up and down in Germany on a bad team. He finally got benched and now he is riding pine in England.

    His European career has had one great year, some good moments, and a lot of promise with only limited follow-through. It’s been a good career by American standards, but pretty modest by any other.

    He’s played at Heerenveen and Gladbach and his boosters act like that’s the same as starting at PSV and Bayern Munich.


  • KB

    I should say, “this is what I don’t like about Bradley’s fans.”

    Bradley himself is only out doing the best he can.


  • away goals

    You’re kind of begging the question there felix. The whole point is that it’s not clear who the two best are. They’ve each impressed at times and been suspect at others.

    But the comparisons you and most others are making from this friendly series aren’t really apples and apples. True jones had a subpar first half against argentina in a 451 without agudelo or chandler. But so did bradley, edu, and every other usnt player not named tim howard.

    Bradley and edu were given a chance in the second half with a more familiar formation and, to their credit, played very well. But we don’t know how jones would have done in the same circumstances.

    Against paraguay bradley did very well with the 90 minutes he had, including coming within inches of the strike of the year. Edu was unimpressive with his 45. No spectacular howlers, just a forgettable performance. Jones did as well with his 45 as bradley.

    So yeah, what AIOC said, three similar players at roughly the same level.


  • away goals

    Oh and with your sarcastic hypotheticals, you’re in danger of showing how little you understand the game.

    It’s very possible that two slightly less talented players could form a better PARTNERSHIP than either could with a more talented player.

    See lampard-gerrard circa the last 9 years.


  • Eric

    I think the crux of the problem is that people accept that is is MB and someone. Maybe another combination would work better? Are we ever going to see that? Not unless MB gets hurt

    This group is NOT producing goals or chances in numbers. Part of it is making formations that have no chance and part of it is that we have no creative midfielder in BB’s mix. We cannot win but counter attacking and BB has to get a creative guy int there. Also, to be fair, he needs to try other things that do not include MB to see if there’s a better combination. MB is no Claudio Reyna and should not be an automatic starter. We certainly could play just as well without him


  • mwc

    I’ve read all 99 comments and yours is the only one that even mentions the real issue, in my opinion. (Unfortunately, there is no prize.) Our midfield needs a maestro and until we have one, we will always have a midfield issue regardless of formation. I’d rather we spent the time giving Feilhaber, Torres and even Spector a real shot at seeing if they are up to the task. I don’t think Diskerud is ready, but I’m not opposed to him being on the list of candidates. It may sound weird, but I think having an average #10 out there would be better for this team than putting out another good defensive mid.– mwc


  • Jase

    — Donovan — Dempsey —
    — Holden — Edu —
    — Bradley — Jones —
    Boca – Ream – Onyewu – Chandler
    ——– Howard


  • JD

    The only way to put this argument to bed is to have access to reasonable statistics. We all seem to see a different game. I will admit that he does turn to the negative pass too frequently when not under pressure. However, I thought Bradley made a reasonable effort in the Paraguay game to make positive passes.

    Other than major tournaments finding detailed passing and tackling stats for the USMNT is difficult. I wish we had access to something like the Guardian chalkboards for the US game. I’ve seen them publish stats that not only cover passing percentage, but pass direction as well.


  • Whitehartlane

    Bradley earned his way into the team with some great seasons in the Eredivisie and Bundesliga..


    NO, NO, NO, this is NOT true, must we go over this again. Mikey made his debut, much to my immediate horror as Dad acted like he was unleashing a child prodigy unto the world, at the Gold Cup (Copa Oro) in the summer of 2007.

    Mikey was still a bench warmer at Herenveen and didn’t start to play regularly there until the season following the Gold Cup. Mikey played every match at the Gold Cup and this was the last time that Mandon played a competitive match as a CM, his 2nd half against Guatemala in the group stage being a master class in the art of holding central midfield play (amazing to this day, was that performance).

    It wasn’t good enough for Dad, however, as Mandon has been exiled to the wings to make room for Mikey.

    The best CM for the US in Landon Donovan, fact, not even close, he’s just been playing out of position during the 4 years of Dad’s mismanagement of the Nats.


  • Whitehartlane

    Here, Here! Agreed. Apparently, leading your club (West Ham) at CM to a cup victory over ManU in the snow in the most scintillating perfomance that I have seen this year by a central mid was not enough to impress Dad.

    Oh, he was impressed by Mikey “leading” AV out of the FA Cup, 70 piss-poor minutes and then hauled-off, yeah, that was it.


  • Whitehartlane

    That was Spector who did that for West Ham in the League Cupthis winter, goals, assists, the whole bit. Forgot to put his name in that post.


  • RB

    I don’t understand why so many people on each side of this debate trash the other and polarize things and refuse to allow for any thoughtful middle ground. I’m not at all an MB hater. It seems obvious to me from his performances that he’s a very key part of our midfield and of the team’s ultimate chance at success. Clearly he’s not playing just be wise the coach is his father.

    But at the same time, I also have to wonder not why he always starts but why he _always_ goes the full 90, even in friendlies leading up to big tournaments when we’re trying to figure out a complicated midfield mess.

    Unfortunately the mere introduction of that kind of notion is often enough in these debates to be accused of just being an MB hater and to be bringing the old nepotism charge again, yada yada yada. Such ideas are sacrilege and cannot even be considered or discussed, it seems…


  • MemphisRogues

    I absolutely agree regarding an average #10 would be better than another DM: I’d love to see BF more involved in the Nats. He is our greatest unrecognized/underexplored resource. I like Torres too, but he’s having a hard time finding playing time and something tells me he’s the kind of player who must stay working to play at a good standard.


  • mwc

    Seeing that you may be of like mind, I commend to you the article “Pixy Stix and Water” which you can find by clicking on the “Yanks Abroad Soccer Highlights” link under the “SBI Soccer Blog Roll” above and searching by title.


  • abc

    Jones is 32. He may be acceptable for the Gold Cup but after that it’s time to move on (same goes for Hahnemann, Bocanegra, etc.).

    Our central midfield needs to be Bradley – Holden – Edu because they will be around for the 2014 World Cup.


  • GW

    “Also, if Bradley is so good why can’t he beat out the other CM at Villa. ”

    Your basic reasoning is flawed.

    Aston Villa did not play Argentina and Paraguay. MB doesn’t have to be better than all the other AV midfielders. He just has to be a better option than his US teammates.

    BB has made it very clear that club time is important but he never said it was the only thing.

    MB has proven his worth to the USMNT under fire and has earned the slack his dad is giving him. Will he continue to deserve his time should he not get time at AV? I don’t know and we’ll see.

    As for not experimenting with the lineup that is BS. BB loves to experiment but you experiment with new guys only if they look like they will be a marked upgrade over what you got (Agudelo, Chandler, Ream, Lichaj.

    Why is that? Because,like most National teams the US has little experimental time so you don’t waste it on guys that aren’t going to be much of an upgrade.

    Like this Convey stuff. I saw him play for the USMNT before and first of all, his best was when he was a left sided midfielder and he wasn’t all that great at LB. Maybe he was better than Bornstein but if so not by a whole lot and that was 5-6 years ago when he was at his peak. I haven’t seen SJ this year but unless he is absolutely dominant at LB , I see no reason to bring him in.


  • abc

    Put Spector in the defense replacing anyone but Chandler and that would be 8 midfielders. Let’s try a 2-8-0!


  • Danny

    The fact is we don’t have a maestro and I don’t see one on the horizon. Torres is not that type of player- I don’t know why people on this board seem to think so- is it just because he’s latino? We should also put the Feilhaber talk to rest- is he even playing in Denmark? He is simply not NATS quality player anymore. We need to play to our strengths rather than try to be something we’re not.


  • GW

    “Otherwise let’s try LD in the middle. Chandler on the wing. Lichaj defender. ”

    That’s exactly the formation BB had in the second half of the Paraguay game.

    Holden doesn’t “create”. He is a tireless bulldog who runs all day,fights for every ball and wins a lot of them and in general keeps everyone on their toes. But he is not a “creative” player.


  • GW

    Tell me who are the players who are not starting for the US that would suddenly make the US play like world beaters?

    Name the guys who BB has ignored that are now tearing it up for their clubs making BB look like a fool?


  • GW

    Wow, now there is a conspiracy theory to rival black helicopters.

    You are wrong.

    Bruce Arena gave MB his first two caps.

    From the USSF website:

    May 26, 2006 – Venezuela


    USA: 1-Tim Howard; 2-Chris Albright, 22-Oguchi Onyewu, 13-Jimmy Conrad (Capt.), 3-Carlos Bocanegra; 8-Clint Dempsey, 14-Ben Olsen (24-Michael Bradley, 89), 16-Josh Wolff (21-Landon Donovan, 66), 15-Bobby Convey (17-DaMarcus Beasley, 65); 11-Brian Ching, 9-Eddie Johnson (7-Eddie Lewis, 83)

    Subs not used: 4-Pablo Mastroeni, 5-John O’Brien, 6-Steve Cherundolo, 10-Claudio Reyna, 18-Kasey Keller, 19-Marcus Hahnemann, 20-Brian McBride, 23-Eddie Pope

    Head Coach: Bruce Arena

    MAy 28- LATVIA


    USA: 18-Kasey Keller; 6-Steve Cherundolo, 23-Eddie Pope, 13-Jimmy Conrad, 7-Eddie Lewis; 4-Pablo Mastroeni (24-Michael Bradley, 83), 17-DaMarcus Beasley, 5-John O’Brien (15-Bobby Convey, 66), 21-Landon Donovan (capt.); 20-Brian McBride, 9-Eddie Johnson (11-Brian Ching, 83)

    Subs not used: 1-Tim Howard, 2- Chris Albright, 12-Gregg Berhalter, 14-Ben Olsen, 16-Josh Wolff, 19-Marcus Hahnemann, 22-Oguchi Onyewu

    Head Coach: Bruce Arena


  • Ryan

    I agree that it wouldn’t hurt- there’s always the possibility that MB gets hurt or suspended. Also, I can totally agree with you as far as MB not providing much in the attack aside from the possession and that one pretty nifty shot. That’s not what we need from him though- it’s what we need from Stu Holden or Benny Feilhaber, and if either of those two were healthy, I’d imagine they’d have gotten the look at least once.


  • GW

    “There is a young and upcoming midfielder that’ll make an impression on the team, like Agudelo did up front, but with BB as coach and MB in the CM that discovery will take a while”

    That’s a new if rather lame tack.

    Name this hot prospect.

    Bradley is 23. Twenty three. I’d say he’s your young and upcoming midfielder.


  • ManicMessiah

    I think the amount of space that Michael Bradley wants to cover probably doesn’t help his midfield partner, which I said in another post. I know he’s said Roy Keane is a player he wants to emulate, but even Keane eventually realized that to be more effective as a player he curbed down his going forward and played a more stay at home role.


  • Whitehartlane

    These aren’t competitive matches, just a 2-bit friendly, Mikey getting an odd minute. That’s not what we’re talking about, as we all know that was Mikey’s first camp. As I recall, some of our midfielders were hurt and Mikey was called in to be make-up the numbers, much like he’s currently doing at AV.

    FACT, he wasn’t seen in the team again until the following summer, for the Gold Cup.


  • GW


    This is what you wrote:

    “Mikey made his debut, much to my immediate horror as Dad acted like he was unleashing a child prodigy unto the world, at the Gold Cup (Copa Oro) in the summer of 2007.”

    It’s wrong.

    You didn’t write “Mikey made his competitive debut”. You didn’t write ” I first experienced immediate growing horror at the competitive debut of the child prodigy in the 2007 Gold Cup.

    And Arena unleashed MB not his dad. So you were wrong there as well.

    “These aren’t competitive matches, just a 2-bit friendly,”

    So what? They were still his international debut. MB wasn’t dual citizen eligible for two countries at the time. That rule didn’t even exist then.

    “FACT, he wasn’t seen in the team again until the following summer, for the Gold Cup. ”

    Yes, you know why? Because the Lativa game was the USMNT send off for the World Cup and the US did not play another game that year after the tournament was over.

    If this is not what “we” are talking about you should write what you do want to talk about about in the first place instead of expecting people to read your mind.

    You need to be a lot more on top of your “facts” of you are going to start of your sentences with things like “FACT”.


  • NP Tism

    Ah, a reasonable poster!

    I don’t know why MB goes 90 so much,though I can say it’s never really bothered me, becausse I alwasy was very underwhelmed by what was sitting on the bench.

    He did the two 90’s this last set because it’s clear he needs the work for the upcoming Gold Cup and it’s clear he may not get it at AV, whereas, Jones and Edu will at their clubs.

    I was always taught that when people can’t deal with the bigger picture, they like to micromanage. So people argue over whether Benny, Sacha or Torres, three flawed players who have already had their liabilities exposed shouild be on a roster. If they were any good they’d be starters. They aren’t starters but they can be useful role players. Bradley knows talent and he’s not afraid to use it.

    Look at how he has fast tracked Lichaj (all of 0 club starts in the league before he got his first cap). And Bradley wasn’t shy about throwing Chandler, who may not even know where the locker rooms are, in there.

    Edu, MB and Jones are more or less equivalent and frankly, if two of them are in good form it doesn’t really matter which one of them plays. On current form, none of them are going to be the game changer for the US. In fact, I defy anyone to name me the US players who are not now in the USMNT pool, who would suddenly make this team dramatically better.

    I can only think of maybe two, Subotic( he does have a US passport yes?) and Rossi. And we know why they aren’t here.

    Every other name I’ve heard mentioned is a big maybe. BB does have the record for the most new caps given after all.

    And with all that the only US players who have proven they can effectively put the team on their shoulders and carry them to victory are the dynamic duo, Dempsey and Donovan.

    MB is doing what he can to make the team as competitive as he can but his hands are tied because he will have to wait for the next US difference maker to emerge. National team managers don’t develop these guys, clubs do.

    Messi,Xavi, Iniesta were developed by Barca, C Ronaldo by Man U., Rooney by Everton and Man U., Villa by Valencia etc. etc. And that is the key to me.

    We still do not have one guy regularly playing for a champions league contender, while our opponents have plenty. Until then our guys will be hard pressed to develop the savvy and the wherewithal that can only come from playing at the highest levels on a regular basis. US players are talented enough, they just need to get on these teams and start developing. And I think you will see that in the next 5-10 years.

    Until then the national team will be what it is, a tough hard bitten unit who will difficult to beat and win the occasional big game mostly by outfighting the other team and doing whatever they have to do.


  • Jerome

    Jones passing and intellect with the ball is 10 miles above any other US CM on that field. this site is Bradley biased. Who will partner Bradley? Seriously who will partner the player who is currently playing at the highest level of any CM in our pool, who is not injured, and that is Jermaine Jones. Michael bradley backpasses 80% of the time and gets praised by SBI like he plays for Barcelona. he is better than Edu, but not at jermaines level.


  • mwc

    Danny: Feilhaber was playing a lot and playing well for AGF Aarhus prior to the winter break in Denmark. He’s got seven goals and seven assists in twenty games. While his team is in the 2nd tier, they are the league leaders and in a good spot for promotion. I also thought Benny did a pretty good job at the Confederations Cup and the World Cup. Based on this, I am not ready to brand him as “not NATS quality.”

    As for Torres, it is my personal opinion that he has shown flashes of creativity, composure with the ball, good distribution, a good ability with either foot, and an attacking mindset we don’t often see in the USMNT central midfield.

    Am I saying either of these two are a world class #10? No. Can their past play for club and country be the subject of valid criticism? Yes. Despite this, I think Feilhaber and Torres are two of the very few players in the pool who even look close to being a #10. As a result, I’d like to see them get an extended look at that role to see if they can do it or not. — mwc


  • Polish Wonder

    These nepotism arguments remind me of the Arena-Reyna complaints early on. People used to complain on another site that Arena only played Reyna because of their long connection, not because of quality. Then after finding out the USA couldn’t hold possession without Reyna, they stopped complaining. People expected Reyna to be the pure assist man, and didn’t understand his role as a traffic director.

    Jones and Edu were both really shaky more than they should have been. Bradley did a good job of maintaining possession.


  • RB

    Sorry but do you ever engage in civil conversation and/or attempt to contribute anything of value to the discussion? Because that’s the third or fourth time you’ve just thrown out a “you’re an idiot” line in this discussion alone…


  • RB

    MLS Extra Time podcast also claimed that this week, but multiple online sources show Jermaine Jones as 29, and that he’ll still be 32 through the WC in Brazil and even a few months beyond it.


  • DirtyLeeds

    He’s made about 10 stupid comments all saying that Bradley sucks and then throws out Torres as his replacement… Torres!!

    And cites his performance vs the Czechs, when I guess Bradley had a bad game. Lets not mention Torres being completely out of his depth in his lone WC appearance or how well Bradley played in the WC when the games actually counted.

    Ives poll was 93% in favor of Bradley, the dudes a loon and comments such as his do not deserve a measured response because they are not based in anything rational to begin with.


  • Hush

    I personally thought Bradley was decent in the Paraguay game, and in the Argentinian game he was decent for 35 minutes or so. For those saying that Bradley had the better performances out of the three might be a little misleading. Keep in mind that he was the only one out of the three that had 180 minutes of playing time. Jones exit in the Paraguayan game let Bradley & Edu have more breathing room in the middle, therefor better play. I think if Bradley exits that Argentinian game in the second half and MO & Edu would have taken over, I strongly believe we would have seen better results than the Bradley and MO/Jones. Right now in my opinion EDU is a better player overall than Bradley. Bradley does have a strong heart for the game, but Edu is much more natural as a futbol player overall. Jones by far is the better of the two. Those who can’t see it are probably in denial.:)

    Overall I’m glad we have decent talent in our pool to have these arguments.

    EDU & JONES is what I would like to see.


  • RB

    But this description

    “comments such as his do not deserve a measured response because they are not based in anything rational to begin with”

    fits for most of your comments here (chunks of the above being a welcome exception). Obviously you _can_ disagree with someone and provide a rationale for that disagreement that furthers the discussion, it seems you just choose not to on a number if occasions, preferring to name calling and personal insults.


  • bizzy

    Let him make the starting 11 for Villa or better yet start coming on as a second half sub or start getting some quality assists under his belt as the CM for the USMNT then maybe he’ll be that up and coming midfielder……right now it’s like a gun and magazine package and we’re going to war, MB loads the rounds and Altidore fires the shot….so far they are both “BLANKETS”!!!!! In other words when you get “nothing” you give “nothing”…..


  • MiamiAl

    I agree Spector looked excellent against Man U. Bob Bradley does not know how to coach. We all know this. Just like we all know that Bob Bradley will NEVER win a World Cup.


  • DirtyLeeds

    1) There’s no point to in laying out an argument to someone like him cause clearly hes mental over Bradley. Illustrated by his spamming up the comment section with irrational Bradley hatred. I mean Torres? seriously, c’mon, just go support another country if you’re so upset by Bradley playing that you would put Torres in his place.

    2) its the internet not emily post school of manners, thicken your skin and calm down.


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