photo by David Bernal/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
From the emergence of Graham Zusi to the return of Landon Donovan to the introduction of Julian Green, the U.S. Men’s National Team saw its options at outside midfield grow exponentially this cycle.
That may have been welcome relief for Jurgen Klinsmann, but now come the tough choices for the U.S. head coach.
Klinsmann is less than a week away from having to name his preliminary 30-man World Cup roster, and the wide midfield spots are another set of positions that he will have to think very carefully about. There are so many capable players on each flank – especially when you consider that fullback Fabian Johnson and forward Eddie Johnson are still candidates to play on the outside of the midfield – and that makes Klinsmann’s decisions all the more important ahead of a tricky World Cup group stage.
Here is a closer look at Klinsmann’s current wide midfield options:
The U.S.’s all-time leader in goals and assists has recently talked about having to earn his place on the plane to Brazil, but there is no denying that Donovan is still one of the best players in the pool when he’s on his game. On top of that, the 32-year-old midfielder is versatile enough to play either wide position and also capable of filling in up top. He also has three World Cups under his belt, can successfully drift wide or tuck in, tracks back well and is playing game-in and game-out for the LA Galaxy.
One of the players to really make a name for himself this cycle, Zusi is a sure bet to be on the final 23-man roster. He has an impressive work rate, can take set pieces, tucks in effectively and combines well with teammates. Whether he starts is up in the air, however, given the other options that Klinsmann has at his disposal. Zusi, 27, is making an impact on a consistent basis for reigning MLS Cup champions Sporting Kansas City, but he is primarily only a right midfield option for the U.S. and that hurts his chances of being a regular in the lineup a bit.
Having being one of the final cuts ahead of the 2010 World Cup, Bedoya is hungry to make it to Brazil this summer. He should be there given that he has an endless motor, some good technical abilities and can play on either flank. The recently-turned 27-year-old Bedoya has settled in nicely at FC Nantes this season and has found a regular starting role, leaving him in contention for a place in the Americans’ lineup at this summer’s tournament.
The young teenage sensation with so much potential is still a bit of an unknown at the international level. Yes, Green made his debut and showed some flashes in the 2-2 draw vs. Mexico last month, but the jury is still out on if he is able to make an impact at the international level at this point in his career. Green recently recovered from the shoulder injury sustained in that friendly, but has still only seen time for Bayern Munich’s reserve team. Klinsmann is high on Green, but the U.S. head coach will have to think long and hard as to whether the 18-year-old prodigy is worth taking to Brazil.
Currently not seeing the field for Stoke City, Shea seems unlikely to find himself on the plane to Brazil. The 24-year-old midfielder has not played in a competitive match since representing Barnsley back on March 1, and his loan at the club ended early after a notorious incident with a fan. Still, Klinsmann is known for liking what Shea brings to the table and that could at least earn the lanky player a chance at proving his worth in the preliminary World Cup camp.
The Houston Dynamo leader is seeing consistent minutes with his struggling club, but not even that is enough to assure him of a place in the 30-man pre-World Cup roster that will convene in California later this month. Davis, 32, is able to whip in a steady dose of accurate crosses and has a deadly foot on set pieces, but he has struggled to really make an impact in his last few cameos at the international level. That hurts the likelihood of him heading to Brazil, but does not rule him out completely. A strong camp, if Davis is invited, could make Klinsmann rethink things.
Despite finishing Club Tijuana’s Liga MX season not seeing as much playing time as he would like, Corona is still an option due to his ability on the ball. What helps the versatile 23-year-old midfielder’s cause is that he is able to play centrally as well, and that is important in a long tournament like the World Cup where depth is almost always tested. Corona will have to hope that his previous contributions for the U.S. combined with his recent outings for Xolos are enough to earn him a pre-World Cup camp invite.
What do you think of Klinsmann’s options at the outside midfield spots? How many of these players would you take to Brazil? Who would you like to see start on the right and left?
Share your thoughts below.