Top Stories

MMCB: A strong week for American midfielders


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.


  1. In regards to Williams, him being 20 is a negative when it comes to SA2010. I do believe he deserves to be called into camp, but that is based on him being named player of the week in the Bundesliga. THAT is worth something. And Wynne has looked exceedingly shaky, so I could see him taking Wynne’s spot

  2. Based on what performance? What qualities does he have that supersede the qualities of the other two?

    I’ve seen Rogers play a lot, but I do not rate him higher than Stu or Freddie.

  3. Thanks, Ives. I’m really glad to hear it. Actually, I was struck by his poise when receiving the ball and his close-down defense. Sounds like I missed the portions of the match I’d have enjoyed the most.

  4. Funny how people say what has Adu,Williams,Castillo done to get a call up for the USMNT.LOL I find that hilarious! Castillo is a starter in the best league in the Americas. He sees more competition than Bornstein,Finley,Casey,Rogers, Sasha, and the rest fot the MLS Williams? Playes in one of the top 4 leagues in the world, and he is only 20. Adu, I’ve seen more from him in 2 games that egual less than 90 minutes, than what I’ve seen in all the MLS pool players in 2 years of play.:)

    Once again, the noobies on this board continue to think we have a pool of players like the Brazilian… some of you guys say,..don’t bring Adu or Johnson, we have better options than that!LOL Who??Coooperr,Casseeyyy,Sashaaa and finnnleyyy…lol

  5. Ives, I’m surprised you were so impressed by Bradley’s performance vs Nurnberg. I only saw the portions of the game (a total of about 45 minutes), so it may be that I missed his most impressive play. But I’ve got to say, I saw him make two awful passes and a couple of others that were merely bad. I also noted that his teammates seemed to pass to him only when nobody else was open. I don’t think I saw a single instance of his receiving a pass when someone else was equally open. I actually thought he looked a bit frustrated by the end of the match. Don’t get me wrong–I thought he played strong defense and love the guy as a player, generally. I’m just surprised to see his performance characterized as MOM. Did you see any of the stuff I’m talking about?

    (SBI-Sounds to me like you were more intent on focusing on his miscues than his contributions. How many midfielders never turn the ball over, or complete every pass? Not saying he was perfect, or close to perfect vs. Nurnberg but ask yourself how much Nurnberg was able to build through the middle, or how many times Gladbach got forward with numbers thanks to good passes out of the middle.

    As for his Man of the Match designation, that came from German publication Kicker, which gave him his highest score of the season.)

  6. JohnC…a player at the age of 20, who can play well in one of the Top 4 leagues (Top XI honors in Bundas), who has the versitility to play Defensive Wing or Defensive Midfield. Yes, I’m willing to consider Them for a position on the USMNT. Expecially if Spector moves over to play the Left Defensive Wing, as many are pushing for. If Spector does move to play Left who would you place in support of Dolo on the Righ? Pearce, Simek, Wynne? Williams is on par if not better then any of these 3.

    If Spector remains on the Right…then I agree he wouldn’t make the squad. But to not consider him at all…really.

    It’s not like we have the depth and experiance of a Spain, Germany, Brazil, or England. So Ya…I’d take a chance.

  7. Play Torres NOW. He needs the chance to succeed or fail. He won’t get that on the bench.

    Basically, he needs the Sacha Kjelstan treatment.

  8. holden and castillo? both are unproven on any level.

    if you’re going to add ANY starting winger to the formation, as much as I hate to admit it, over holden and castillo you start rogers.

  9. C’mon Son, Williams has played four games of top flight football and you’re calling for him to make a world cup roster, even saying you would love to see him here. That is an absolute joke. He plays on one of the worst teams in the Bund. Let me guess you also want the new kid from Estaudientes to make the team as well. Maybe we should call in Sebastian Lletgart if he starts shining on the reserve squad. I heard Luis Gill might sign with the reserve squad of Arsenal, that is about the equivalent of what Williams has done. Jesus! You read statements like that and you wonder why the rest of the world thinks American Soccer fans are idiots.

  10. Also move Boca (LB) and Onyewu (LCB) left. Add Spector or Demerit (RCB), even though I prefer Spectors distribution and covering ability, and keep Dolo on the right.

    Now that’s right …

    I also don’t mind Holden/Castillo replacing Adu in my lineups.

  11. I have posted a line up like that here in the past. Flip Adu and Lando. I like being able to cut in/play the reverse pass to the overlapping FB. And they could always switch positions with Deuce at any time to provide different combo play in the build up.


  12. I agree on Adu, and, no, I am not going nuts over one goal and calling for a spot in South Africa. Adu has not shown what I, and likely all USMNT fans, had hoped he would show to this point. Many super-talented youth players never find success at the upper level. Still, I feel that if Adu can find his mojo, his upside is big and I hope, as should all USMNT fans, that he can reach it.

  13. Adu and Donovan on the outside with Bradley and Torres in the center, would be an excellent combination in the midfield. All of them seem to be comfortable and skilled on the ball. Something like this makes sense to me








    It puts players in positions that they do well for their club and maximizes everyone’s strengths. Torres Dempsey and Bradley up the middle seems a good spine to me. They all possess the sharp passing and creativity to bring the flank players and Altidore into the game, which would directly and indirectly provide service for Jozy. This would probably go against Algeria and Slovenia.

  14. He will need to sign autographs for at least 4 hours and at least 5 days a week until the end of his loan to raise enough cash for Everton to buy him

  15. That is not good! We really need Benny. He looked pretty upset and in pain. Based upon the wrapping, he may have sprained his ankle or broke his foot. Ugh.

  16. Jones has been running and rehabbing for sometime. Following his Dec 09 failed return it was reported that he would try again in Mid. Feb. I would expect that we hear something reported in the next few days. Now, whether or not he can make the team is another question. He would at least have to return to playing full time and BB would have to take a chance on him without the benefit of having him actually play with US prior to the WC

  17. Just wish we had this problem across the board. With the injuries we’ve suffered we need it. As it currently stands I see the following:

    Center Mid: Bradley, Clark, Torres, Edu, Feilharber (Jones – Hoping he makes a recovery and can play)

    Winger Mid: Donovan, Dempsey, Holden, Castillo/Beasley/Bedoya

    Center Defense: Bocanegra, Onyewu, DeMerit, Marshall/Goodson (Neither is great as a 4th)

    Wing Defense: Cherundolo, Spector, Bornstein (Would love to have Williams as the 4th option seeing as how Boca & Spector can both play Left).

    Strikers: Jozy, Findley, Ching, Tracy

    Goal Keepers: Howard, Guzan, Hahnemann (Perkins)

  18. I have to give Bradley credit on the first Gladbach goal. It was a beautiful pass and well weighted.

    It showed the kind of vision you want out of a midfielder. It almost had a Guti quality about it.

  19. It’s nice to see good writing on the Blog level… Thanks Ives.

    I think Torres deserves to be taken much more seriously than he has… he is patient, classy and an extremely hard worker.

  20. interesting as hell to see what would happen if J.Jones returned from injury and found form before the march freindly. that would relly shake things up. read on friday from an anon source that he has begun running again. hmm

  21. Torres sure has gotten screwed out of a lot of playing time at the national team level.

    His quality touch far surpasses anyone else on the team and he barely has gotten to play.


  22. Bradley looked good – but he is the weirdest of midfielders. He looks slow and lazy like Jozy does but had a killer pass in that game.

    He also breaks up a large amount of players by getting stuck in. Can’t wait to see how good he has become in a few years.

  23. Torres is definately one of the more underrated players for us. I hope BB gives him the start in March. Hard to believe we have 2 CM’s as good as MB and JT and both are only 22

  24. It’s worth mentioning that Johnson has shown well in limited minutes, and while some may argue the assist’s validity (personally think it’s just a stat) he has been active and shows signs of shaking of the rust and timidity of the past few years.

  25. It’s good news in the sense that our midfielders will have to push to be in good form to make the squad.

    In other words, you are not going to make the squad simply because you played well in a prior tournament or play in Europe, but you have to be playing WELL.

  26. Our depth in midfield is great. If we could leave players home who could make the roster, then we have certainly made progress in the last 4 years.

    I’ve always been on the fence about Bob Bradley. But one thing that is clear is he has supplied himself with the deepest pool of players in recent World Cup cycles. By allowing young players opportunities instead of relying on the same players, he’s helped to discover and groom some great guys we hadn’t heard of 4 years ago. This is probably the most important philosophy he has established and I thank him for it.

    Maybe one day we’ll have fringe players like Diego and Ronaldinho instead of Torres and Rogers.

  27. Glad Adu is seeing the pitch. I believe his potential is there, but same as anyone else, if you aren’t playing it isn’t being realized. Honestly most stoked about Torres. Not sure what Bradley’s problem is not using more of him, but he’s damn good.
    Keep it Boys!

  28. Didn’t Beasley only play the first half? I just figured he got injurred again or looked so poor that they brought him off. All three of Rangers goals were scored after Beasley left the pitch.

  29. I’ll take a week like this every time as opposed to what we have seen for the last six months. I am encouraged. I know the Adu haters will jump on this one, but the kid has so much upside. e


Leave a Comment