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Who should Klinsmann call up vs. Italy? (Midfielders)


Photo by Andrew Katsampes/

If there's a logjam and heated competition at any position for the U.S. men's national team, it's in the midfield.

Jurgen Klinsmann has plenty of options to sort through for the heart of his formation, and aside from an injured Stuart Holden and a recently injured Kyle Beckerman, the U.S. manager should have a full complement of midfield charges from which to choose for the Feb. 29 friendly against Italy.

The U.S. Under-23 training camp that coincides with the match may throw a bit of a wrench into Klinsmann's plans, but even so, he should be able to field his strongest group of midfielders yet since taking over as coach last August.

So which midfielders should Klinsmann call in? Here's who we think should make the trip (To reference back to the goalkeepers and defenders we see Klinsmann calling up, read on here):


Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu, Jermaine Jones, Danny Williams, Jose Francisco Torres, Sacha Kljestan

Bradley continues to be a consistent presence in Chievo Verona's lineup, even if he is slotted on the right there. His work rate, growth and maturity have gone noticed, evidenced by his call-ups to senior team camps in October and November after being left out in September while he earned his place for the Serie A club. Already based in Italy, Bradley being included is a no-brainer.

Edu remains a steady force in the midfield at Rangers, and he has done nothing to tarnish his place among the upper echelon of central midfielders at Klinsmann's disposal.

Even though Jones is out of action while suspended at Schalke, that did not stop Klinsmann from calling him into January training camp and having him be an integral part of the team's friendlies against Venezuela and Panama. He might not be in game shape after spending the last couple of weeks on the sidelines, but the hard-tackling ball-winner still merits another call from Klinsmann and proved in camp that he is a cut above the fringe players in the pool.

Klinsmann has insisted on using Williams as a right winger, but it is clear that he is out of position there. He's been pressed into centerback duty at Hoffenheim lately as well, but he is admittedly more of a defensive midfielder. Despite Williams not being deputized centrally for Klinsmann yet, it would be interesting to see what a Williams-Bradley partnership could accomplish. Unfortunately, testing that for the first time against the Azzurri might not be doing so under the most ideal circumstances. 

As for Beckerman, he has been dealing with an adductor strain since the U.S. January training camp and just recently got reintegrated into Real Salt Lake's squad. Even though Klinsmann has shown an affinity for the dreadlocked RSL captain, he is highly doubtful to be called upon for the match.

In terms of the central creators, the touch-passing Torres has fully recovered from a broken foot, has enjoyed a strong start to the Clausura season for Pachuca and is due for a recall. Kljestan, meanwhile, is in the midst of his most successful season as a professional with Anderlecht and is perhaps the most improved player in the pool. He has earned his place after being called in just once under Klinsmann, back in September.


Landon Donovan, Fabian Johnson, DaMarcus Beasley

FC Dallas' Brek Shea has been a fixture for Klinsmann in his tenure as head coach, but given Shea's likely role with the Olympic team and the fact that the U-23s will be training and playing Mexico in Dallas, it makes all the more sense to integrate him into Caleb Porter's team for the first time ahead of Olympic qualifying rather than bring him across the pond for this friendly.

Johnson, who can man either flank and impressed for the U.S. on the left as recently as November's Slovenia friendly, inherits Shea's role on the left, while U.S. veteran Beasley, who has been in form for Puebla, remains another candidate on that side .

That leaves the right side to Donovan, who has missed the last seven U.S. friendlies and has yet to share the field with Clint Dempsey (a forward/withdrawn striker for our purposes) since Klinsmann has been in charge. Donovan has excelled on the right while on loan for Everton, sending in pinpoint crosses while maintaining his defensive responsibilities as well.

The goals aren't there right now for Donovan, the United States' all-time leading scorer, but they don't necessarily need to be. In this set-up, if he can play the role of consistent provider for those up top, combine with Steve Cherundolo on that side and track back when necessary, he'll be the steady right-sided option that has been noticeably lacking in recent friendlies. 

The combinations of Timmy Chandler and Johnson overlapping on the left and Donovan and Cherundolo doing the same on the right would give Klinsmann his most dynamic and balanced flank options yet. Kljestan, Bradley and Williams are also right-sided options should Klinsmann have a different idea in mind for Donovan.


Which midfielders do you think Klinsmann should call up vs. Italy?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Very good point you’ve made! I was at the phily match against Turkey just before the WC. Torres played half the match whith Dempsey and Donovan and he played one of the best 45 mins of any cental mid. check it out if you can find it on youtube.

  2. “If Klinsmann does not play Donovan at right wing I am gonna scream.”

    Regardless of where he starts, Donovan usually winds up playing wherever he feels he needs to be. Scream if you like, it may help you feel better but it’s rather irrelevant.

    Jones hasn’t played a game since the Panama game and may not be match fit.

    It’s clear you have a thing about Bradley but for the foreseeable future there aren’t too many US midfielders who are all around better, proven options. Promising is one thing. But actual production is another.

    I think you may be overly optimistic about Bradley’s demise as a USMNT regular.

  3. Thoughts:

    1. Bradley has faltered a bit with Chievo recently. But in the main he has been really impressive there. Clearly is one of our strongest midfielders. Very interested to see whether he can excel as a defensive midfielder with the nats.

    2. Torres: from where I sit this kid has special skills and real potential. I’ve been impressed with his play at Pachuca this year. I agree [with Dennis] that Torres needs to “find the game” more. I’m betting and hoping that Klinsmann gives Torres a serious run in the team. We need someone in the center of the field who can vary the attack and keep the ball. (In my view, Torres is far better than Benny and Sascha.)

  4. I was following you until you stated that Bradley is not one of our top 3 or 4 defensive midfielders. I respectfully disagree. When on his game, Bradley may be our best defensive midfielder. He’s had some ups and downs, but he is a solid pick for the USMNT.

  5. Edu clearly has a poorer touch and worse passing skills then Feilhaber. However, Edu is a great tackler and really good at breaking up plays. Personally I’d rather see Feilhaber ahead of Edu, however Edu works harder on the field and in practice and the coaches value that more.

  6. Totally agree that it is time to give Brek Shea a rest from the USMNT and let him focus on the U-23. Shea’s potential is still there, but he has not been convincing recently, I think partly because of all the pressure and hype. Shea will bounce back and most likely play a big role in WCQ and WC 2014. And yes, Johnson as left winger backed by Chandler at left back could ignite some fireworks.

    If Klinsmann does not play Donovan at right wing I am gonna scream. With Beckerman out, Jermaine Jones should be a lock to start as the lone holding defensive midfieder, with Edu his back-up. Klinsmann has already said that Torres has a steady spot on the USMNT, but might be wise to let him stay home for this game to continue club play as he bounces back from his injury. Definitely time to call up Sacha Kljestan and see what he can do.

    As for Michael Bradley, do not see him as a starter, been faltering in recent games for Chievo, has been subbed out in the second half in past games. His corner kicks and free kicks also are not as sharp as they were last autumn, so is no longer has that duty full-time as he did then. He has pretty much been removed from offensive duties at Chievo, playing almost exclusively a defensive role. And that is MB’s conundrum on the USMNT. He is not a good choice as an offensive midfielder and is not one of the top 3 or 4 defensive midfielders. That said, Klinsmann is under tremendous pressure from some to call him up and no doubt will do so with the match in Italy. But down the line, later this year and next year, as some of the less younger less experienced prospects start ripen, it is going to be increasingly difficult for MB to win a spot on the team.

  7. I would drop Jones in favor of someone younger who could use experience in a senior camp or perhaps Spector because of his versatility. I just think he doesn’t have the mobility and still gives away too many balls to be an effective 90 minute starter.

  8. 4 of your 6 central midfielders are without a doubt defensive (Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu, Jermaine Jones, Danny Williams). is that necessary? id bring 2-3 of them, and find room for a player like benny feilhaber who can do more going forward – not saying that it necessarily needs to be benny, but someone who is a distributor and not just a ball winner.

  9. Wondolowski?! The only player on the planet to miss more wide open goals than Fernando Torres? No thanks.
    And yes, I’d take your Grandma over Altidore too, providing she can run a 4.4 40……

  10. I want to see Feilhaber. Bradley, Jones, and Edu are all the same player, we don’t need all three. I would say drop Edu (and I generally like him) until he moves to a better league. Bradley and Jones face far better competition in Italy and Germany, and will be sharper than Edu.

  11. My Midfielder Tiers:

    Tier 1: Donovan, Dempsey, Bradley, Jones, (Holden)
    Tier 2: Edu, Shea, Kljestan, Feilhaber, Johnson, (Bedoya)
    Tier 3: Clark, Beckerman, Torres, Zusi, Beasley, (Diskerrud)
    Tier 4: Adu

  12. Here’s what I would like to see:


    Or we could be with the safer choice of:


    I REALLY want to see someone like Cameron get SOME time at Center back here. Also wouldn’t mind if Spector got a run at Right back, or maybe even left back and let Chandler play his natural and very dangerous going forward Right Back spot.
    If sticking with the safe option and play Chandler at Left back, maybe give Morales some time instead of Spector???

    open to suggestions guys, don’t crucify me if you don’t like the line up

  13. How can you bring up Air Bud but NOT remember to mention Santiago form “GOAL” and “GOAL 2”?

    Come on now….dude was in LA for so long, we can give him citizenship and cap him…

  14. I realize I stated all that even though it was just regarding midfielders. For the most part I like all the choices. I’m not really a fan of Beasley, but I suppose he’s decent enough wing cover if he plays at all. I think the most important inclusion is Klestjan. As Ives stated, he’s been killing it for Anderlecht, so he certainly deserves another shot. When he and Bedoya played together, we were creating quite a few chances. If Bedoya is back from injury, it may be useful to bring him in just to work with the squad again, not necessarily to play.

    Another possible choice could be Feilhaber, as he showed pretty well during the last friendlies.

    It’s always nice when it’s difficult to choose who to bring in. We’re getting better.

  15. We could see Jozy and Buddle. I also wouldn’t be opposed to Jozy and Landon with Johnson and Shea on the wings. I just believe that Dempsey seems to float when up top and plays best with the system running through him.

  16. Generally speaking, Dempsey is not at his best when playing as a forward. His goals tend to come from an advanced midfield position. So maybe something like this:


    Lichaj has played for the reserves, been on the game day squad as of late, and is bound to see more minutes with serious injuries to two Aston Villa defenders. It may be too soon, but it’d be nice to see him back. You can always put Chandler back on the left and use Cherundolo on the right.

    As for Davies, due to his current form, he may be getting more and more time with Sochaux, so maybe bringing back the Davies Altidore tandem could work. I would put Agudelo or Buddle next to Altidore if Davies still isn’t quite there yet.

    Gooch seems to be back in great form, so it would be nice to see him starting again. As for Boca, he’s still our go to guy, but he’s getting slower at a rapid pace, so we will need someone to step up soon to take his place. Who that is? I don’t know. Our CD’s are so hit and miss each game. Cameron, Goodson, etc. Maybe throw in Whitbread to see what he’s got. Also, Gonzo (no call up yet and hurt) as well as George John.

  17. THANK YOU!

    Guys we simply don’t have that many wingers that are not part of the U-23 pool. Maybe Corona if we want to bring him in?

    Pontius would have been great had he taken part in the January camps and excelled but he broke or fractured a bone in his leg I forget which one?

    Zusi couldn’t hang against Panama& Venezuela’s B teams….

    Beasley has been playing well for Puebla, no reason not to call him when the other options are not going to be available busy with the U-23 team…and please NO Robbie Rogers claims!


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