U.S. Men's National Team

Midfield trio key in USMNT win over Scotland


photo by John Todd/ISIphotos.com


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Figuring out how to get Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones and Maurice Edu all on the field at the same time for the U.S. men's national team has proven difficult in the past given their similar playing styles. But head coach Jurgen Klinsmann may have found the solution.

Klinsmann deployed a 4-3-3 formation in the United States' 5-1 win over Scotland at EverBank Field on Saturday night, one in which Edu sat behind Bradley and Jones. And the result was clear to see. The trio of central midfielders dominated a game together for the first time, with Edu helping serving as a blanket in front of the defense while Bradley and Jones got more involved in the attack.

"We worked on that over the last 10 days in training a lot to see how can we kind of get the best out of these guys that are in their club teams really exceptional players but they play really similar positions," said Klinsmann. "And we came up with that in that little scrimmage we had the other day, and it gives us options then playing Landon (Donovan) wide, or giving more freedom actually to go all over the field, as well as a left position player, which was Jose (Torres) tonight.

"If everybody understands his role, and I think Maurice he had more of the job of a No. 6, kind of in front of the two centerbacks to clean things up there and make sure nothing goes through there," Klinsmann added. "Meanwhile, Jermaine and Michael both have the qualities to go forward and they're dangerous going into the box and they love to do that. In the past that was sometimes a bit tricky because when they both only played together and there was no Maurice, then they left some holes behind. Now there was Maurice today and he kept things in order and gave them a bit more freedom. I think it worked out really well."

That it did. Jones and Bradley got involved in the attack constantly and combined with one another often and early, even doing so in the build up to Donovan's third-minute goal. Bradley one-timed a pass to Jones, who quickly fed a streaking Donovan inside the penalty area. 

Then Bradley hit a game-winning goal in the 11th minute on a volleyed effort from distance that some circles are saying is the best by a U.S. men's national team player in some time.

"The guy who makes it for me is Jermaine," said Bradley. "Sometimes that ball goes into guys and they're trying to turn or maybe make a play that is too hard for them. He did well just to see that I was moving off of him and laid a perfect ball back and I caught it well. It was a nice little goal.

It was more of the same in the second half. Jones and Bradley played a quick give-and-go at the hour mark that resulted in Donovan's second goal of the game, and Bradley assisted on another Donovan goal five minutes later before Jones headed home a Donovan cross for his second goal for the U.S. team in the 70th minute.

"I think we forget how good (Bradley and Jones) can be when they do go forward, sometimes they like to be a little more comfortable and stay a little deeper, but tonight they really went out on a limb a little bit and took some chances and it came off great," said Donovan. "I thought they were both fantastic and Mo did a great job behind them of cleaning everything up."

The way the trio of central midfielders played against Scotland was a far cry from how they performed in their first match together in March 2011 in a 1-1 draw with Argentina. In that match it was clear Edu, Jones and Bradley did not have the best understanding of how to play off of each other, though to their credit they were going up against Argentina's talented midfielders.

Still, the understanding between them is much improved now and that was clear to see in the three-man midfield Klinsmann deployed against Scotland.

"The more you play consistently together in a similar role obviously you're going to start to learn each other's tendencies and different things that you guys like to do," said Edu. "How you move off the ball and different things like that, and we're similar players so we can kind of play those three positions interchangeably a little bit. But today I thought we did pretty well."

  • Juan

    Hmmmm … funny how you watch the game and yet see little but the obvious.

    As much a part as the three mentioned was Torres. His ball control and pinpoint passing were as big a part of this win as the three bangers named. Leaving him out just shows me you really have a firm grasp of the obvious and little appreciation for the subtle contributors

    That being said, Scotland was not a particularly great team and we shouldnt get too pumped over beating them. Arent they ranked in the 40s by FIFA? A result against Brazil would mean a lot more. The Canada game is also a less than stiff challenge.


  • JoeW

    Even in big US wins (against, say, Spain in the Confed Cup), you always read/hear “but service to the frontline was weak”. Our forwards aren’t great but we magnify our scoring problems with weak and infrequent service.

    One of the things that stood out to me with this midfield (and how they set the table for Donovan and Torres) is that they were not only a great trio of ball-winning, defending midfielders but how they consistently produced lovely through-balls and laid off passes that either set up a nice chance or set the table for Donovan or Torres to make the killer pass. It’s been a long-time since I’ve seen a US team (even the women) do this against someone who wasn’t a decided minnow….that just isn’t our usually style of play (or at least it hasn’t been in the past).


  • robert daniels

    I think they think a lot of him because he started for an attack minded EPL club and Owen Could loved him. Now theyre relegated. Will people clamor for a championship side mid to start the same they did when they were an EPL side?


  • Byrdman

    The biggest difference to me was the speed of play and movement off the ball. You can’t really have the first without the second. The midfield reminded me of the old Phila. flyers years ago with Lindros & LeClair when they “cycled the puck” in the corners. The mods constantly opened themselves up. And there was rarely more than 2 touches. The second Donovan goal was an example of this. 3 guys 10 yards apart at max, constantly circling until the thru run was made and Jones cut it back to LD.

    To me this is THE huge difference since the BB days.


  • hogatroge

    A year ago, the US struggled to beat Guadeloupe 1-0.

    This was a 5 goal game with a +4 GD. Scotland’s a teensy bit better than Guadeloupe. We sure as hell should be pumped about it.


  • hogatroge

    I’m sure it does. Jones seems genuinely invested in the USMNT and has stated in interviews that he definitely feels like he’s part of the family (unlike when he played for Germany).

    Also, remember in January when JK made Jones the captain for Camp Cupcake? Jones really seemed to take on the responsibility well, shrugged off a lot of challenges that would usually make him blow his lid, and stuck up for his teammates in discussion with the ref.


  • jb

    These three have to be the best all around atheletes on the team. Credit to Klinnsman for continuing to try and figure out how to play them together. The Brazil game will definitely be a test to see just how good we can be.


  • GW

    I hope Stu comes back and plays like he did during his 26 or so game run for Bolton.

    If he does that he will be in demand somewhere. But that won’t be easy.


  • Isaac

    To be fair, if we had finished half the chances we got that night, we would have probably had 10 goals. Just saying.


  • GW

    Not in the least.

    Holden is maybe the single most beloved USMNT player in the last three years or so. I have long made many comments about Holden that are seen by others as negative, a mortal sin in the USMNT Universe. Given his rock star status I accept the likelihood that I am viewed as a Holden hater. I certainly I fit “their” definition. I have often made the same basic comments about Davies as well but he is so 2010, his star has waned and everyone has jumped off his bandwagon by now.

    The thing is, biff, is my comments address directly the illogical comments people make about Holden, about Davies and so on. In the process, I often wind up making what can be seen as negative comments about these guys. Now I think Davies is a selfish, self centered jerk but if he could be what he was I’d be happy to have him back in the USMNT picture. And Holden seems like a really great guy so of course I want him to succeed. I’d love it if Stu came back, helped Bolton to promotion and became a USMNT regular. Unfortunately, I just see all this as being unlikely.

    By comparison, you, by and large, often seem to go looking for ways to put the Bradley boys down. You seem to have an agenda.

    I don’t go looking for ways to go after Stu (and Davies). I just react to what people post. And they keep posting about how Stu will be our best midfielder when he comes back. Before that it was how Davies would be the savior of our attack once he got back.

    I suspect it’s a function of the fact that in US sports culture there is the cliche that goes:


    I’m not sure that was ever true in any sport and it is even less true about Holden.

    He was not a regular starter for the USMNT.

    He did not serve as a regular, impact substitute like, for example, Mo Edu.

    He has missed, I believe, 86 games out of a possible 114 for Bolton in three seasons. That is roughly 75%. Is that injury prone? You tell me.

    His body is an often seriously injured 26 year old one.

    Two, three years ago, when Stu was breaking in the USMNT player pool was a lot weaker than it is now. In midfield for example, MB 90 and JFT, his main competition, right now, on the USMNT, were still sorting out their club situations. Look at both today. And they are both about two years younger than Stu. And there are other players who will undoubtedly get into the mix (such as Mixx) making it even deeper and stronger in two next years.

    At best Stu comes back really strong in the next two seasons and wins a spot in the 2014 WC squad. I would like to see that happen but it won’t be easy (see Gooch). And, while I hope I am wrong, I don’t think it will happen.


  • GW

    Jones seems very passionate about the USMNT. He is always talking about how great it is to be back with “the boys” and, as you pointed out, he seemed to take it very seriously when JK made him captain and asked him to mentor the younger guys.

    He even calls MB90 “Mikey”??

    When he first committed to the US he gave several interviews about how badly he felt he was treated by the German national team, how there were a lot of cliques and he felt he was not accepted “as an individual”.

    Contrast that to what seems to me to be a very close knit bunch of USMNT guys. Obviously, we are all outsiders, but it seems like there is great chemistry in that locker room.

    In the past I have often thought the US was a bit “soft”. With Jones around to help Boca don’t worry about that anymore.


  • GW

    I think the reason for Mo’s unpopularity in some corners is because he has so much unrealized talent and potential.

    He can pretty much play anywhere and has the talent to be an Essien like player.

    But he is inconsistent and the generally accepted theory is that he is not challenged enough at Rangers.

    I still see him as the best of the USMNT Terps ( for the uninformed that is Goodson, AJ de la Garza, Gonzo, Robbie Rogers and Mo from the University of MD. I hope I did not forget anyone) so I am hoping he gets a transfer and realizes his potential.


  • GW

    Lets hope you are right. Cuba were awful, but I just saw a replay and it seems to me Scotland were on their back foot the entire night perhaps in large part because we scored so quickly and kept it up.

    I’ll be curious to see if JK decides to approach Brazil the same way.


  • GW

    Imagine Donovan with a handle bar mustache and I think you are exactly right.


  • GW

    And this is exactly what JK has been preaching about since he got the job.

    Now that he has a concrete example to point to, I think it makes what he is trying to accomplish a lot easier to understand.


  • GW

    The USMNT is still being assembled and tested. The team you saw against Scotland had some new players and had some old players in new roles. And they were trying out a new scheme.

    Essentially, a brand new team.

    Scotland suck but, don’t kid yourself, it is hard to beat any international team 5-1 and look good in the process. Germany just lost 5-2 to Switzerland of all teams.

    A result against Brazil would only mean more if it taught the US something it did not know before. If the US put ten men behind the ball and defended for its life and got a tie that would be a result but it would be a waste. I doubt it would teach the US much,if anything, new.

    Canada will be hard to beat as well. These are tune up games so to the extent that they help the USMNT learn more about itself, these games will be a success.


  • PD

    I think it’s more realistic to plan for a replacement for Jones. As the oldest of the three, he’s the one who will most likely need to be replaced. (Although is Edu keeps playing in Scotland he may be dead in the next two seasons)


  • PD

    Riiiiiight, always blame the keeper.

    Cameron made a first cap mistake or more accurately was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Get over it and focus on his next cap.


  • Todd Jones

    Eric canyons wasn’t exactly a bust for France, the French coaches just refused to select him because of his ridiculous attitude, behavior and statements. He was like ballotelli x2


  • Dennis

    I just gotta say that only 14 months ago, people were screaming that Bradley was an idiot for using those 3 players together, they are too similar, non is a decent play-maker, etc. Funny how now after they have been given some more to understand each other that even the old guy has improved.

    What stood out for me was that the 3 dominated the middle so well that the Scots had to collapse on them and that left both wings and sometimes a simple through ball up the middle to Donavon, Torres, Johnson or Dolo where they had tons of space that had been left as the Scots tried to collaps on the ball.


  • Brett

    It should at least be noted that Scotland basically gave us the midfield for most of the match. The real surprise was Jones willingness and effectiveness at getting forward.


  • PD

    To me the # 6 role is the least “sexy” position on the field. I find it interesting that players seem to consistent flak when they are assigned that role (i.e. Beckerman and Edu, Bradley Jones and Torres going back a bit further).

    I recall may coaches and players and fans I’ve come across saying that the defensive mid and keeper know that they’ve had a great game when no one pays attention to the job they did. The best keepers organize defense so that the shot never happens and the save never needs to be made, the best defensive midfielders stop the attack before it even emerges as a recognizable threat and begin the transition to offense, again, way before the scoring opportunity is visible.

    Perhaps the frustration with these player performances is more a failure to appreciate the nature of what makes that role so effective. Edu was nearly perfect against Scotland, but the seemingly limited aspects of the position seems to leave some wanting more from that player performance.


  • PD

    I don’t know if it’s a rag on the team so much as the fact that it will be a VERY different style of play. It’s like poker. there are things you can do at a table with advanced players that you can’t do at a table with beginners, because they play on a different level of awareness and skill.

    CONCACAF will put 11 behind the ball. I think that Brazil and Scotland will not. I think the NATS coaching staff realizes this though and it’s great foresight that the Canada friendly is in there as it will be a great transition into that style.


  • PD

    oh God, the whole team should do it…

    the worst part of the worst jersey ever? white numbers on a white background. I never knew who had the ball other than Howard. Cannot wait for next year.


  • Shawn

    No, his initial injury was 3-3-10. That was the De Jong tackle. He had just started to play again when he received the second horror tackle, which was quite possibly exacerbated by the fact he wasn’t all the way back to match-fit from the initial injury.

    He was not a regular with Bolton again when he was injured the second time. Which is why I said most of 2 years.


  • Shawn

    I don’t always, or even often blame the keeper. But on a ball where the defender’s back is to the play, and the keeper *can* see the play, then yes, if there’s a miscommunication, it falls on the keeper.

    Also, the ball was a looping cross, he had time to get out and claim it. It wasn’t Howard’s best play, and Cameron made it worse by not staying goal side of his man.


  • Shawn

    For me it’s Mo has a lot of talent, but a propensity to make bone-headed plays. Now perhaps a new coach and some maturity are helping him take the next step up.

    But I’ve always said that while I’m not convinced Edu is a 1st choice XI, his versatility makes him a necessity in the USMNT set-up, because he can cover so many positions effectively.


  • Warren

    Thanks for the anti-Holden rant. It makes clear what this is all about, still feeling a need to defend the B’s, when one is being praised for his coaching and leadership in Egypt and the other is playing great in italy and scored a fantastic goal in Italy.

    Neither of which change history; wherein it took Owen Coyle to discover how good Holden was, and opinion soon widely shared through the notoriously nasty British press. Because, as you note, he rarely got a chance to do anything with the USMNT prior to then. In spite of some of us saying Holden was a diamond in the MLS who would shine when – injury-free and given a chance.

    Ok, we get it, BB didn;t rate him, then Stu suffered 2 bad injuries.

    And yeah, it’s crap shoot if Stu will ever return to his previous top form. Odds of Stu making an impact on USMNT in next year are close to zero you and I agree, and appearing in WC 2014…well right now I would say odds are in the 30-40% range for Stu, and 5-10% for Davies.

    Fine, we get it, now as other posters said, no need to rag on the guy becuase folks did what I just did, complaied about BB’s rigid formations not haveing a place for a Holden, or a Torres, to shine. As the latter is now doing and the former, may or may not ever do.


  • Warren

    Watch the replay again, it’s on Cameron. Other than that though he looked solid.


  • Warren

    Funny how a change of coaches and formation, with a Torres inserted, to keep the ball moving, changes everything. 3 players that couldn’t play together, can.


  • sam

    You’re not responding to anything I said. Which, to recap, was:

    1) Holden reached a new, higher level with Bolton.
    2) He hadn’t yet had a real chance to show that new form with the Nats when he got injured
    3) That was unfortunate, and one can understand the what-if thoughts of fans.
    4) It’s impossible to say what form he’ll be able to recover post injury.


  • Isaac

    To be fair, one of those games was against Argentina, and the other was an experimental match in which we featured Brek Shea when he was even more raw than he is now, and a Jozy Altidore that was also still unpolished. Still, Klinsmann must have something to do with the success of the three.


  • Jozy Wales

    Allan Wells the 1980 Olympic Gold Medalist in the 100 meters is Scottish.


  • paul lorinczi

    Agree – we have to see how long it will take for him to return to match fitness. It may take a year efore he has the same impact he had before he got injured.


  • GW


    Here is a fun fact for you.

    Leo Messi has played 214 games for Barca and scored 169 goals for them. He scores in 79% of the games he appears in which is insane.

    Messi has also played 68 games for Argentina and has scored 22 goals for them. This amounts to scoring a goal in 32% of the games he appears in for them.

    Pretty dramatic drop off.

    And please don’t tell me Argentina’s talent is less than half of what is at Barca, because it ain’t.

    Just because you play well in one scheme doesn’t me you will get similar results in another scheme.

    Messi is allegedly the best player in the world maybe ever. If anyone should be able translate his skill and productivity from one team situation to another team situation it should be him.


  • GW


    Here’s another cliche. Form (or level) is temporary.


    Whatever level Stu got to, with the injury and the long lay off, Stu is not at that level any more.

    Top flight athletes rarely take two years off and then step right back in with no drop off in performance.

    Can he run as fast? Can he tackle as well? Will his knee hold up?

    You can only know if and when he finally gets back into competition.

    And more to the point to get back to that same level he would have to be one of the best defensive midfielders or whatever he was being called, in the EPL.

    Stu is pledged to Bolton, at least to start, so it will be a while before he can get back to the EPL. The soonest would be if another EPL team picks him up in January of 2013.

    Another reason he did so well was he had a great role in Coyle’s set up which was basically built around Stu.

    Will that EPL buyer give Stu the reins like he had at Bolton? Would you? If Coyle moved to an EPL team and brought him along or if Moyes buys him I could see that but otherwise, no, I don’t see it.

    So Stu is going to have a pretty serious battle proving he even deserves an opportunity to get back to that level you said he was at.

    “It’s impossible to say what form he’ll be able to recover post injury”

    Yes it is but it is very safe to say that getting it all back will be very hard. Soccer, at the EPL level, is not as easy a game as you seem to think it is.


  • GW

    Leaving everything else aside, can you honestly tell me that Edu, Jones and Bradley were in as good form in those days as they are now?

    Edu’s situation at Rangers remains basically unchanged but Jones and Bradley are both now coming off their best seasons in years. In Bradley’s case maybe the best season of his career.

    In the games you mentioned, the Colombia game at the end of 2010 featured four defensive midfielders Edu, Bradley, Jones (his first cap), Holden, along with Shea. Throw in the post World Cup hangover and it was quite a spectacle. Jones was coming off a long period of injury inactivity.

    And in the Argentina game, Bradley was right in the middle of his Villa “vacation”.

    There is no comparing the form both were in then with the form they were in going into the game on Saturday.


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