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U.S. Men's National Team

A look at potential Jones replacements for USMNT match against Honduras

Photo by Jake Roth/USA Today Sports

The U.S. Men’s National Team will be missing several key contributors when they take on Honduras on Friday, and one of the biggest gaps that needs plugging is in the midfield.

Jermaine Jones will miss Friday’s match due to suspension, leaving a gap in the central midfield. The LA Galaxy midfielder will be back in time of next week’s clash with Panama, but first the U.S. must navigate a tricky Honduras team without one of their key midfield pieces.

That gives Bruce Arena a major decision. Michael Bradley is all but certain to start at the No. 6 position, but questions remain over who partners him. Does Arena go with experience or does he ride form? Who can the U.S. trust to play the Jones role in the middle of the park?

With that in mind, here’s a look at several central midfield candidates that could join start for the USMNT on Friday:

SEBASTIAN LLETGET

The LA Galaxy midfielder was one of the big winners of January camp, stepping up in his first taste of USMNT action. Playing centrally, Lletget was dynamic in the attack, creating several chances in his initial appearance.

His inexperience is certainly a factor, but so is his familiarity with Bruce Arena and the style in which the LA Galaxy coach will ask him to play. Lletget featured mainly out wide under Arena due to the Galaxy’s wealth of central options, but his ability to create alongside and ahead of Bradley could make him a vital piece should he get the starting nod.

GEOFF CAMERON

Geoff Cameron has long shown the ability to play in a number of positions, one of which happens to be as a deep-lying midfielder. He’s played there at Stoke numerous times and starting Cameron on Friday would give the U.S. a strong defensive base in the middle of the field.

However, Arena has to be tentative about breaking up the partnership between Cameron and John Brooks and, if he does, he’ll likely do it to place Cameron at fullback. That makes Cameron a longshot to start in the midfield, but he remains an option nonetheless.

ALEJANDRO BEDOYA

For years, Alejandro Bedoya has been the USMNT’s utility man, starting in a number of different positions. He’s more than comfortable a bit deeper in the midfield as he has played there plenty of times throughout his time with the Philadelphia Union.

Still, there is a noticeable lack of wing depth within the squad, and Bedoya is certainly an option to play out wide. Darlington Nagbe is certainly a contender to play either centrally or out wide but, with few other natural left-wingers, his best fit is likely on the outside. If Arena opts to start Nagbe and Christian Pulisic out wide, Bedoya will be free to start centrally, making him an option on Friday night.

DAX MCCARTY

Dax McCarty is an interesting character with this USMNT group. He’s an MLS veteran through and through and has long been one of the league’s best deep-lying midfielders. However, he’s relatively inexperienced with this current USMNT group as he never quite earned the attention of Jurgen Klinsmann.

Therefore, starting McCarty would be an interesting proposition. His fit with the team remains a bit of a mystery, but his MLS history has shown him plenty capable. More than likely, McCarty is a bench option for the time being, but he could certainly prove plenty useful if the U.S. needs a stopper off the bench.

SACHA KLJESTAN

Since making his return from USMNT exile, Sacha Kljestan has been one of the more creative attackers on the roster. He shined at the end of the last round of World Cup qualifying, combining masterfully with Christian Pulisic as a No. 10. He’s not just a playmaker, though, and, if needed, he could drop deeper to play in front of Bradley.

Still, it’s telling that Kljestan wasn’t on the initial 24-man roster. His initial snub was a sign that Arena has another play, one that was likely named to the initial squad against the New York Red Bulls star. He may have a part to play, but it probably won’t be next to Bradley.

KELLYN ACOSTA

If Arena is looking for a man in spectacular form, Kellyn Acosta is it. The FC Dallas midfielder came out of the gate firing, providing goals in both MLS and CONCACAF Champions League play. In the few games since the start of the season, Acosta has looked like a whole new player, one that has grown exponentially since his initial USMNT impressions as a fullback.

Acosta’s youth and inexperience may play against him, though. The upcoming match may mean too much to the U.S. to ride someone that has never played true meaningful USMNT minutes in the midfield, making Acosta a likely bench option to come on in a time of need.

Who do you see joining the USMNT’s central midfield? Who would you start if you were in charge of making the USMNT lineup?

Share your thoughts below.

30 comments
  • TheFrenchOne

    I think it depends if Bruce lines the team up with a single DM, or if he repeats JK’s approach of 2 DM’s. I’m an LAG fan and like Lleget fine, but I haven’t seen him able to occupy that space and how enough bite to control the midfield. My preference would be Cameron, but we probably need him much more at RB or CB. Bedoya at CM, when did that ever work with the Nats? Acosta could work if Bruce is willing to roll the dice on an inexperienced player.

    If we go with a 4-1-3-2, I’d rather see Pulic in the middle of that 3 than any of the names above. Or put Nagbe in the middle and Pulisic on the wing.

    Like

    • UclaBruinGreat

      I’m also a Galaxy fan. What do you think of Lletget really? The more I see him play (with Galaxy of course) the less impressed I become with him. He has his flashes but I no longer see him as the difference maker I thought he could be.

      Like

    • UclaBruinGreat

      I actually think that when everyone is healthy Lletget should probably be on the Galaxy bench. I like Boateng more than him. Lletget needs to battle it out with Joao Pedro for the last spot in mid.

      —–Gio——————Zardes———–
      Boateng–Jones- Pedro or Lletget–Allesandrini

      Like

      • TheFrenchOne

        UCLA- I agree with your assessment of Lleget. I think we were all excited at the steal that we got when LAG acquired him 2 years ago. And for the most part, for his salary, he’s a good acquisition. But I do agree that those 4 guys you listed at midfield are all better. Boatang reminds me of Donovan in his prime with his incisive runs through the midfield. So Lleget is a nice option for LAG and the Nata, but not quite a starter in my book.

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      • Old School

        Lletget is the latest example of fans getting excited about the new car scent. The phenomenon has been applied to countless players throughout multiple tenures and it’s somewhat amusing to see.

        Competition is good, of course, but excitement levels need some reality to help balance out the expectations and fervor to replace players fans are all too excited to see exit.

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      • Gary Page

        Boateng and Zardes are attacking wingers or forwards, Pedro is more of a defensive stopper, ala J Jones and Alessandrini is also more of an attacker. Onalfo seems to want to play the Frenchman in the middle, but he seems to want to shoot more than pass. I think Lletget’s best position is where Arena put him the last part of last season–in the middle as a distributor, but Onalfo wants to play him on the wing. In sum, the Galaxy don’t have a real playmaking mid, it seems to me, right now and Onalfo is making a mistake playing Lletget on the wing. He did well in the middle while Arena was manager. Also, you need to take into account that his experience in the middle consists of maybe 8 to 10 games, so you need to evaluate him on the basis of potential since he is still learning the position. So, you are comparing him to players playing different roles while he isn’t playing his best position .

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      • TheFrenchOne

        Old School: Spot on. We all do that to some extent, as do most fans around the world. We all want to believe we’ll find that special player that elevates the entire program.

        GP: I don’t disagree that it’s maybe a little unfair to compare him to other players who play different roles in the midfield. I think Lleget’s problem is that he good at any of those roles, but not great at any of them. And I could swear that in the second game of the season, he played RB? This was based on highlights I watched, not the whole game.

        From what I saw D’allesandrini keeps drifting right and hangs out at the top of the box. JJ and Pedro may be a bit duplicative, but it can’t hurt to have them both over the course of a long season. I just haven’t seen Lleget take over a game and spray the ball around and launch the office. Maybe it’s the lack of a healthy sample to base it on, but I’m just not sure he has it in him. I hope I’m wrong.

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  • Gary Page

    I think we should go with more of a playmaker or attacker vs. Honduras. That means Nagbe, Kljestan, or Lletget in the middle, with Pulisic and another winger outside and Bradley in the 6. I would keep the fullbacks close to the back line and rely on the wingers for crosses, thus reducing the likelihood of successful counter attacks. With Bradley and the CB’s clogging up the middle, that should be enough protection, hopefully, especially if we control possession.

    Like

  • I scored three goals in one game

    I understand wanting experience but what has that gotten them of late, nothing except old legs getting overrun in the midfield. U got Bradley, there is your experience in the middle now add a young guy like Acosta who is in great form. Put nagbe and CP on the wings for attacking without fear and start your 2 best strikers on the roster in Jozy and deuce. Seems like enough experience and youth mixed in to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • dan

      I 100% agree with Altidore/Dempsey up top, best two strikers available, put them on the field. Also agree pulisic and nagbe on the wings. For me pair lleget, acosta, or Sasha with Bradley, just no Bedoya please!!! It should more be about who the best players are in the best form and making sure they are on the field.

      Like

  • Turkmenbashy

    Meh, Jozy and Dempsey up top… Bedoya, Pulisic, Zusi as AM, then Bradley with Beasley, Brooks, Cameron/Oroszco, and Oroszco/Cameron/Ream depending on what Arena sees…

    Like

    • UclaBruinGreat

      And you also like Bedoya? Eesh. And you want Zusi in the starting lineup? Hmm we aren’t going to agree on anything are we?

      If Arena plays Zusi i think it will be at RB. Not mid.

      Like

      • Old School

        If Arena plays Zusi i think it will be at RB. Not mid.

        i.e. Out of position.

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      • UclaBruinGreat

        Yes out of position. I don’t think Zusi will play though. And if he does, it’s because Yedlin, Chandler and Lichaj are all injured or suspended. You want to keep going in circles?

        Like

      • Old School

        Yes out of position. I don’t think Zusi will play though. And if he does, it’s because Yedlin, Chandler and Lichaj are all injured or suspended. You want to keep going in circles?

        There’s been plenty circles ran around Zusi when he’s been placed at RB. That’s entirely the point. No one, outside Arena, thinks this is a good placement for him.

        …and again, that’s called being played out of position. These injuries didn’t happen in camp, and further cements why it’s a joke Johnson is being considered to move to midfield full-time in the future.

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      • UclaBruinGreat

        Well I agree I don’t want Zusi. This is clearly Arena saying that after Yedlin, Chandler, and Lichaj every other RB option sucks more than an out of position Zusi. It’s up to everyone individually if they agree with that or not.

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      • UclaBruinGreat

        Actually after those three plus the players already on the roster: Orozco and Cameron.

        Zusi is like the 6th option on the RB depth chart.

        Like

      • Turkmenbashy

        “like” is a strong word that I didn’t use. I think both guys are past their long term usefulness to the world cup effort… I just think that is going to be the line-up. Who do you play in their place (assuming Morris is hurt)? I’ll be very surprised if the no-names/youth guys are actually started. I know SNESChalmers likes lleget, and people like accosta, or whatever… but I’ll be shocked if anyone other than the guys I mentioned starts. Remember this is Arena we are talking about, and after people literally crucified JK for taking chances with untested guys, no way Arena does anything but play it conservative.

        Like

    • Super Nintendo Chalmers

      Bro you have to be trolling with that craptacular lineup. Bedoya’s time as a starter is over. He’s less effective than he was, and at his best, he was never more than a mediocre hustle player. The same with Zusi, although he has been known to assist on some key MNT goals (thank you John Brooks and Dempsey). I wasn’t against the idea of him learning FB. However, he is a defensive liability against speedy players as he was exposed by Jamaica. Honduras has pace and youth. Oroszco just sucks. He’s the Mexican-American Jeff Agoos 2.0 Being able to play multiple positions doesn’t help if you are as bad as him. Ream is the best of that lot. Gonzo. has potential to be better but his loafing against Costa Rica worries me and I don’t want the center of our defense exposed to mental lapses and a lack of desire. My roster:

      Howard

      Cameron W. Zimmerman Brooks Beasley

      Bradley

      Pulisic Letget Nagbe

      Dempsey

      Altidore

      Potential subs: Vilefana, Acosta, Kleijstan, Ream,

      Like

      • Turkmenbashy

        hahaha, Zimmerman at CB and Lleget in MF in a must win game… dude. I don’t “like” the lineup… I just have a pretty strong conviction that is what its going to be. Maybe guys forgot the 2002-6 version of Arena… dude is not taking chances. not in this game.

        Like

  • bizzy

    GEOFF CAMERON should be played at DM / CDM. He is playing at a higher level than Bradley, Has better physical attributes than Bradley and the list goes on and on. He played (and played) for Stoke City against Chelsea, and played really well, in front of the back line (a game that ended 1-0). We do not have a DM (including Jones) playing at a higher level than Cameron. Plain and simple)

    ———————–Cameron———————

    Villafana—–Brooks——-Gonzo——-Orozco

    ———————–Howard———————–

    Like

    • dan

      I don’t disagree with your comments on Cameron, but having Gonzo and Brooks paired makes me nervous. They are both bulky dudes who might be a step slow. I think best quality would be villafana – brooks – zimmerman – cameron with bradley in front of them. I think while you gain with cameron over bradley, you lose more at right back/center back playing someone else over cameron there, if that makes sense.

      Liked by 1 person

      • whammmm

        Also agree it would be great to have the option for Cameron as a CDM but not at the expensive of playing the constant liability in Omar. I guess Bruce loves him from the Galaxy days but give me anyone besides him. You can’t trust him in an important game, there is no partnership with brooks either. If we want Cameron in the midfield put Besler back there with Brooks.

        Like

    • Bac

      Cam may be the most important player we have.. I agree he’d be better than MB at DM… but he and Brooks compliment each other so well… and a Brooks Omar pairing is scary to me

      Like

    • Gary Page

      If we had more of our regulars in the back, ;then, yeah Cameron at defensive mid would be good. But, because of injuries I think we really need him at CB or RB.

      Like

  • dan

    Given the depth at center back, why not start a back 3 – Brooks/Zimmerman/Cameron, then play with villafana and acosta as wing backs. Villafana seemed to have good speed and service last game and is a decent way to get Acosta onto the field who is in the best form on the team. Then I would play bradley/pulisic/nagbe in front of them and Altidore/Dempsey up top. If Bruce doesn’t want to start Dempsey quite yet, then you could push pulisic up top slightly behind Altidore and bring in lleget or Sasha in the midfield. Just trying to think of ways to get our best players onto the field.

    Like

    • Super Nintendo Chalmers

      That’s actually a really good idea. You would get lots of width in that 5-3-2/3-5-2 hybrid. We did try something similar against Mexico before scrapping it. THAT was a disaster. The players revolted because they said they didn’t know what their role was supposed to be. I don’t think Arena will have any trouble communicating what he expects tactically. Yes JK speaks excellent English but Arena is very simple direct and succinct. I think we also must give Mexico lots of credit for making us, especially Chandler look awful in that first half hour in Columbus.

      Like

  • jb

    All of the names listed above are defensive midfielders except for Klejstan and Lletget. If Bradley is going to start as the #6, then surely we need a more attacking midfielder, especially in a home match against a team we should beat, and need to beat.

    Like

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