While the pool of U.S. national team defenders deals with injuries and limited established options, and the pickings at forward remain slim, the U.S. men's national teams' options in midfield look as good as they have in a while after a strong weekend by a handful of Americans Abroad.
That might be tough to believe on a weekend when Landon Donovan was off and Clint Dempsey was still recovering from a knee injury, but Michael Bradley, Jose Francisco Torres, DaMarcus Beasley and Freddy Adu all gave American fans reason to feel better about the middle of the park come June.
Bradley turned in a Man of the Match performance in Moenchengladbach's 2-1 win vs. FC Nurnberg, dominating proceedings in central midfield. Freddy Adu scored his first goal in European league play in two years, notching a game-winner in his first start for Aris FC. Jose Francisco Torres shook off a hamstring injury to score a wonder goal and put in a strong overall performance in Pachuca's 5-3 win against Puebla.
Throw in DaMarcus Beasley earning his first start for Rangers since being re-injured in December, and it was indeed a good weekend for the deepest part of the United States roster. While you can't make too much about one weekend, these performances should put some added pressure on the MLS-based midfielders currently in camp with the U.S. national team.
Players such as Robbie Rogers and Sacha Kljestan should already be feeling pressure after the United States thoroughly forgettable performance in a 3-1 loss to Honduras in January. For players like them, as well as longshots like Brad Davis and Kyle Beckerman, the re-emergence of Adu and Beasley, coupled with Torres' continued steady play for Pachuca, is going to make it that much tougher for them to grab the remaining available spots on the U.S. World Cup roster.
The most promising of the weekend's performances came from Adu, who impressed in his first start in Greece. After having delivered an assist in his debut, Adu provided a deft touch and showed some determination in finishing off his chance. It will take more than just one good game to erase the reality of Adu's situation (namely the fact that he has barely played on the club level for two years), but Bob Bradley has shown a willingness to give Adu call-ups even when he hasn't been playing. A couple more good outings for Aris should earn Adu a call-up for the March 3 match against the Netherlands.
Torres' performance wasn't surprising, but it was refreshing and served as a reminder of the bags of talent the young midfielder possesses. There is little reason to believe Torres won't find his way onto the U.S. World Cup roster, but matches like Sunday's make you wonder whether the time is right for Bob Bradley to give Torres a look as a starter. With Ricardo Clark sidelined, and Maurice Edu still struggling to stay healthy, Benny Feilhaber might seem like the obvious pick to partner with Michael Bradley against the Dutch next month, but Torres is an intriguing option alongside Bradley and certainly merits getting his first look as a starter since last June's World Cup qualifying debacle against Costa Rica.
There isn't a player with a better chance to boost his World Cup stock than Beasley, who has the benefit of unmatched experience as a strength the aforementioned midfielders can't come close to topping. The form he showed for Rangers in December reminded us that he can still be an impact winger when healthy, but he needs to put together a long run of injury-free soccer before he can claim the World Cup roster spot that is his for the taking (something Beasley readily acknowledges). That might seem like a stretch considering Beasley's poor national team form over the past year, but his experience, versatility and status as one of the few true wingers in the pool make him a lock if he can stay healthy and active for Rangers.
If its starting to sound as though one or two good midfielders could be left home this summer, that is a problem the United States can only dream of having. The reality is that, given the lack of established forward options, and the potential necessity to play Clint Dempsey (and potentially Landon Donovan) at forward, we could see multiple selections from this group of midfielders. If we don't, then that would likely mean that Charlie Davies has succeeded in his comeback and perhaps one other quality forward option has emerged.
Maybe this weekend winds up being an anomaly. Perhaps Adu eventually returns to the Aris bench and maybe the injury bug begins to feast on Beasley yet again. Even so, their performances this past weekend have served as a reminder to all the U.S. national team midfield candidates that it is going to take a strong next three months, both on the club level and in the few national team chances that remain, for players to secure their World Cup spots.
As unsettling as the race at forward is, and as limited as the options are among defenders right now, the weekend's performances by American midfielders bodes well for U.S. head coach Bob Bradley, who wouldn't mind the "problem" of having choosing from a plethora of in-form midfielders.
True and I second your props to Bob.
One word: yes
and if defense is your prime concern, never mention adu as an option. To me, torres has proven his defensive skills.
It seems to me that every time Torres plays for the USMNT, he slows down the pace of running and increases the pace of passing. He has this assurance with the ball that you don’t see with other USMNT players. He looks slow at times, but that’s bc he can handle the ball and does not need struggle to control it. His passes are quick and precise under pressure. Isn’t that what we want? Especially when the lead is in our hands?
Bob Bradley.. please start Torres. Give him meaningful minutes. You give it to Sasha (who was in form for only one game) and Feilhaber (who has flashes of brilliance but also looks too slow and forces the passes).
Torres should get a chance to play creative mid. Will he? Doubt it. The “system” of play won’t allow it. Can’t wait until our coaches have evolved past the physical game and start stressing technique more. At that point I think the USMNT’s chances of glory can be attained.
Scrap all I have said below about having so many great choices to pair with Bradley, THE ONLY ONE CAN BE JOHNNY O’!
Blast from the Past
Posted by ussoccer at 2/14/2010 5:04 PM CST
We arranged for a special visitor this afternoon at the team hotel as Studio 90 prepares a new series that will debut in the run-up to South Africa. The first contestant was none other than John O’Brien, former U.S. National team midfielder. Johnny O looks great and is enjoying his life in Southern California. In addition to his business with S90, he ran into several former teammates.
We don’t want to let the cat of the bag just yet, but we will say that if all the features are is interesting as his, you’re going to be in for a treat …”
The only position that Adu makes sense in (right now and to me, not 25 year old Adu, who knows what that will look like…defensive monster) is withdrawn forward. His ability to link up between the midfield and the forwards is impeccable, like his calm 1 touch flicks and such…amazing. His outside shots and set pieces are also stellar. If he gains regular minutes and actually keeps the team’s defensive tactics and defensive shape, he could actually see some real time on a real real team in South Africa, until then, I’d rather have brian Ching’s whole package than Adu’s 1 sidedness.
And at this point, i don’t think he can defend well enough to play the wing.
I’d rather have Beasley there Isaac, if he can get back into form also.
hahaha, well put!
Donovan, Dempsey, Bradley, and Torres.
But seriously, Adu has arguably more talent than maybe those 4 i listed, but his ability to fit into the team’s tactics and defense are areas he is still working on.
Noobies on this board think We have a pool of players like the Brazilian team, so that we don’t have to play defense because they shoot goals out of their butts.
True, I dare say Torres is the best option to be paired with Bradley. Every time he has seen the field I have felt he was a super star. But Bradley always gets ticked, maybe he wasn’t following special locker room instruction.
Feilhaber has had bad games, so has Clark and Edu (and bradley for that matter!)….
Who will be on it when the time comes?
no, even if he was starting in the MLS he could get as much attention as on the bench in europe, but now he can move forward. He has only been there a short while, you have to pay your dues ala Clint Dempsey`
always have a typo LOL
“struggling to choose between Torres, Jones, Edu, Clark, and Feilhaber for who pairs in the Middle with BRADLEY”
I would love to see Beasley on the left with Donovan on the right, Dempsey paired with either Altidore or Davies up top, and Coach Bradley struggling to choose between Torres, Jones, Edu, Clark, and Feilhaber for who pairs in the Middle with Torres… Add our Backline of Spector-Demeritt-Gooch-Dolo and our power house of goalkeepers, then stir in strong subs like captain bocanegra and swift stuart holden…the possibilities are there for a deep run in the world cup.
HEY, IT COULD HAPPEN!!
For Paco Torres, what debacle in Costa Rica was there?
I have posted something like this, long time before.
He had quality touches, which were few and far between for us in that game.
He came off at half. Why?
He didn’t see much time on the field for a long period of time after this game. Why?
Beasley started at LB with Torres at LM.
This unfortunately was into DMB’s fall of US form.
And Torres was the one who came off without reason.
…the guts of the guy then to come back after months, unfairly no pt, not seeing the field in SA Confed, and shows up late in October at the RFK Costa Rica home match.
From mid he dug the ball out from our corner stick and was the push that brought our attack in the late minutes. HIs effort helped make the unforgettable draw.
I agree he has unfairly missed minutes. We need to see him in NL and SA.
And to see time on such a talented side as Pachuca…
He knows tempo and has vision. Michael and he may be a pair.
The service for LD, Jozy, and Clint would be there in buckets throughout the 90 minutes.
As for defense?- Donovan is a tiger endline to endline, Clint is making the right defensive decisions at Fulham, and Bradley is tough for 95 minutes.
As long as the backline is strong and where we want it, in my opinion Coach B should get wise on Gringo Torres.
Nope, he only starts because his father is the coach. The Bundesliga is not very good at all.