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USMNT Notes: Klinsmann still working out Bradley’s ideal role, Shea needs defensive improvement to play left back, and more

MichaelBradleyJurgenKlinsmann1 (USATODAYSports)


Michael Bradley has worn a number of hats while playing for the U.S. in recent years. The Toronto FC midfielder is sometimes asked play atop the midfield, while at other moments Bradley has been charged with playing from a deeper role.

Klinsmann says, ideally, Bradley will stay more in the middle of the field, giving the centerbacks more responsibility with playing the ball out of the back. However, Klinsmann also reiterated that roles are fluctuating depending on the personnel and talent available at the time.

“When we adjust things on the field, Michael goes higher up or comes a little bit further back, we try to balance things out,” Klinsmann said. “We see him in that half position, ideally, like he played a couple of times like Mexico last April. This is really a role where he can connect with the forwards, the attacking players can play those penetrating balls, the killer passes as we call it and maybe even finish himself.

“We don’t want to see him come back and pick the ball up from the centerback; we want the centerback to open up the game and stuff like that. We’re working on that, but it depends also on who is next to him. Is it a more defensive minded player, a more passing player, a more offensive minded one? There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle guys.”

In addition, Klinsmann targeted March’s games, which will see the MLS stars united with the international group, as a chance to put together a team more suited for Klinsmann’s ideal vision.

“That preference comes through once we have the entire roster together,” Klinsmann said. “That means once we go into March games, that’s when the Europeans come in and the Mexicans come in and suddenly the whole picture changes. Then we will work on the final pieces.”


While Klinsmann has been fairly critical of MLS during his time as U.S. manager, he is finding positives in Jozy Altidore’s move to Toronto.

Altidore, who joined TFC last month, will now get the chance to play and train with Bradley week-in and week-out, which Klinsmann sees as a major benefit to the national team.

“Oh definitely,” Klinsmann said when asked if he thought Altidore’s partnership with Bradley would prove fruitful. “I think definitely when there are a couple of guys on the same club team, it always helps because they’re looking after each other and pushing each other like it was with DeAndre (Yedlin), Brad Evans and Clint (Dempsey). I think it’s a very good thing. It helps and you can give them the messages both at the same time.”


Break Shea scored a goal in his first appearance as a left-wing back in Chile, but Klinsmann insists there is still plenty of work to be done by the Orlando City player.

Klinsmann says Shea, like Yedlin, still has things to learn about defending, but the German insists that Shea’s attacking aspect will be an asset from a deeper position.

“You can see him as a left winger in a 3-5-2 which is a different position or you can see him as a left back. With left back, obviously, he needs to learn a lot,” Klinsmann said. “He needs to learn how to defend, how to approach wingers, how to close the gap on the centerback, all the stuff we talk also with DeAndre Yedlin, which is a process.

“I think he definitely has the mind to learn that and his will to do it. When he comes out from a different position, he might be better off because once he picks up his pace, he’s difficult to stop with his physical approach to it. It will be an interesting process that he’s going to go through.”

Where do you think Bradley performs best? What do you expect from the young players in Sunday’s match-up with Panama?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Bradley gave up on his nats career when he decided to play for MLS. He is past it. It’s time to play someone who is willing to challenge himself.

    • With? Mix, Dempsey, Jones, Kljestian, Nguyen or one of those other midfielders who did not stay away from MLS?

      Oh, I guess Bedoya or Torres, or maybe one of the U-23s or U-20s! Of course Cameron could fit in and JK could play yet another guy out of position.

  2. Shea isn’t a starter, fatigues both physically and mentality in second half.

    Bradley isn’t a playmaker, stick him back holding midfielder

    Jones isn’t CB, Jones is our Captain and great DM. Maybe Williams, Spector, Besler, or Gonzalez could be the middle guy in back three.

  3. I dont think Bradley is a good passer at all. His first impulse is to pass backwards all the time. That is if he doesnt immediately turn it over.

    • Actually I think Bradley is a good passer. Certainly he was the most successful passer on the US WC team. You can look it up. He is often the guy retreating or moving to a spot where he is available so his teammates can find someone to pass to and relieve pressure. That means he is not getting the ball in situations that lead to immediate attacking opportunities.

      I suppose it is confusing that I am responding to another Dennis.

  4. So, Bradley can’t play offense. He can play defense apparently and pass. Hmmmmmmmmmm………maybe midfield isn’t for him. Maybe there’s a position on the defense he can play.

  5. Call me crazy, but if I were the manager of the USMNT, I’d play the guys in the positions they’ve proven they play best, rather than constantly changing peoples’ roles and trying to fit square pegs into round holes.

    • Agree, but you have to have some round pegs to fit into positions. At the moment we have a wealth of Box-to-Box and Defensive Midfielders. We are thin/inexperienced at Creative players and outside backs/wingers.
      For the time being a little patience is needed in order to give the young talent a chance to develop to the level needed before throwing them into the deep end.
      While waiting you have to use what you have and try to find a formation that will give you a chance to win. Hence the experiment of the 5-3-2, the use of Jones as a CB, Bradley as CAM, etc….

    • What happens when you have a crucial match and your two starters in CB are injured and you only have players available who have never played CB, only FB? JK has to create a team for international tournaments, not a club season. They are different animals altogether. I hope you can think about it and realize the differences because I don’t want to take the time to explain.

      • Well put! Having some players who are not only talented but who can also play multiple positions is what makes guys like Dempsey, Cameron, Yedlin and (formerly) Beasley and Donovan especially valuable to the national team.

  6. The key is to make players uncomfortable. All my life I thought that people performed better when they’re comfortable. The messiah’s theory is that everyone has to be uncomfortable. Everyone should play out of position.

    • David M.

      In a recent interview Joe Montana was asked about how it felt to win so many Super Bowls and he answered that he was much more worried about losing Super Bowls.

      He went on to say that winning was what you were supposed to do and that it was the fear of losing to drove him to excel. It is safe to say Joe Montana knows a thing or two about excelling in sports. I think it is fair to say being uncomfortable is a companion to the fear of losing.

      I think it is also fair to say that that is what JK, who knows a lot more about winning in soccer that you or me, meant about being uncomfortable. He wants US players to aspire to be the best but so many here on SBI have a problem with that and just want them comfy. I wonder what Montana would think about that.

      • Playing your best players out of position has nothing to do with the fear of losing and the uncomfortableness of that fear. It does, however, have everything to do with not getting the most out of your best players.

      • “It does, however, have everything to do with not getting the most out of your best players.

        Care to explain that?

    • Interesting. Way back in the early 90’s, at P.U. Bob Bradley was talking about pushing players to a higher level and making them uncomfortable. I don’t believe Bob was talking about positional play, but more about the situations players find on the field when they are out-numbered, facing a superior opponent or even just dealing with a difficult pass.

      Maybe the mesiiah’s theory is not all that new.

  7. In the modern international game it is difficult for a CAM to take the game on his shoulders because of crowded midfields. I can see the US playing 3 in middle of park or 2 and a creative player just below target forward. In that set up Bradley can go box to box and contribute to the attack but not have all the play making responsibilities.

  8. If JK and his staff are truly wanting to implement a 3-5-2 with the full player pool I’d love to see something along the following in March:
    Subs: Gonzalez, Hedges, D. Williams, Yedlin, Garza, Trapp, Johannsson, Rubin, Zardes, Bedoya
    Hamid/S.Johnson, Rimando,

    Max the speed that we have available right now while keeping some of the older players in the conversation while the younger guys learn from the vets.

    • I love Bedoya’s work rate, so I think you have to find a place for him in the lineup. I’d put him ahead of Chandler on the right wing.

      • like slowleftarm said (i think), i’d rather have wingbacks who can defend first, and then add to the attack, especially with the CBs we have. bedoya’s a great runner, but he’s not a solid defender, and i sure wouldn’t expect him to be comfortable both defending *and* attacking against anyone other than the lesser concacaf teams. i think chandler’s a great fit for the RWB spot.

      • i’m giving Gary the benefit of the doubt but i believe he meant putting literally ahead of chandler, like on of the midfield spots on the right side. i agree with you on chandler tho. if we ever use a 352 for real i think between FJ, Yedlin, Chandler and Garza we have viable options. Shea i still see as a true mid or ST

      • I was thinking more in terms of where/how Bedoya played during the World Cup. I have always maintained that the first priority of defenders should be defending, but one element in Bedoya’s favor is his ability to cover a lot of ground up and down the field. It’s really hard to defend if you are behind somebody with the ball. Not sure how Bedoya would work out in a 3-5-2, but it would be interesting to try in a friendly.

      • Chandler wouldn’t be my choice. Right now, I think DY should play right wingback. Tim makes too many mistakes, see Turkey.

    • I like a lot of what you have there, with a few changes. I agree that Bedoya has put in the time and has shown the consistency to be in the starting line up. Who sits then? I think it’s one of Besler, Cameron or Chandler. I don’t want to see Chandler on the wing. His 2nd and 3rd touches are suspect and I don’t think he has the speed or skill to work box to box. At least Yedlin has the speed. I also think Garza has shown well enough to fight for a spot. While wing might be pushing it, I think he showed good discipline when pushing forward and played smart and within himself. I hope his knee injury is minor.

      If healthy, I would add Joe Gyau and Hyndman to the mix. Joe is the prototype WB, with speed, the ability to take on someone, and the work rate to track back. I really hope he can recover from the surgeries to be who he was before. Also Hyndman has shown the skills to be the next great hope in the midfield. He was the glue for the U-20 team and has shown well in the Championship. I say get him in early to learn the physical part of the international game.

      • While I would add Gyau to the equation (when healthy) it would have to be at either a forward Winger in the 4-3-3 or midfield winger in either the 4-4-2 or the 4-2-3-1. I do not see him as an option in the 5-3-2 as a winger. He’d have to be deployed as an out-and-out striker. That’d put him into direct competition with Dempsey, Jozy, Johannsson, Boyd, & Rubin.
        Gyau & Green both will be hard pressed to fit into the 5-3-2 formation.
        I like the potential that both Hyndmann & Zelalem represent….I don’t want to rush them into the conversation at this time. Let them both grow and progress with the U-20 & U-23 teams this year. Then in 2016 begin their true integration into the Sr. team conversation. The quality & depth of CM options we currently have (Jones, Bradley, Beckerman, Williams, Cameron, Diskerud, Morales, Lee, Torres) should be sufficient to get us through the 2015 Gold Cup and the first round of Qualification. Unless one of the Young Guns (Hyndmann, Zelalem, Gil, Canouse, Stanko, Senora, etc…) really starts taking off with their clubs 1st teams, I believe they’d be better off working their way up through the U-20 WC and U-23 Olympic qualifications this year, than sitting the bench at the Gold Cup.

      • Gatt has not played since June of 2013.

        The Norwegian league is arguably less competitive than MLS..

        Gatt is promising but at this point is something of a long shot.

  9. For my money, I think thrusting the mantle of CAM on Bradley has proven to be a mistake. That is definitely NOT his best position–regardless of his midfield partners.

    Over the years, he’s proven that his strong suit is as a box-to-box midfielder. He’s not an accomplished playmaker (the very occasional nice assist notwithstanding).

    I’d rather see him as the deep-lying/ holding mid, dictating tempo, and let the playmaking responsibilities fall to Mix or Nguyen.

    • Onsides,

      Mix and Lee have a lot to prove at the international level and Lee is one year older than Mikey.

      Those two will get their shots but at this point Mikey has proven that he is for the most part a more consistent player than those two. So I have no problem with favoring him above them.

      • Two years ago I would have agreed with you. Bradley was out of position in the WC. He made the turnover which led to the Portugal goal at the death. He missed an easy chance in that game too. Last week JK had him and Mix playing out of position. Bradley needs to get himself right if he wants to keep his place in the lineup.

      • I think you are thinking of the Mikey of say, 5 years ago. The Mikey we saw at the WC and then Toronto and now at Chile, was nothing special. Fans and JK have to accept the possibility that he is on the downhill part of his career and is not playing like he was in the past. For that matter, neither is Dempsey

      • Disagree. He had a nerve injury in his foot last year, which means he was playing with Cortisone shots in his foot. Which essentially replaced his foot with a wooden paddle…and it definitely explains where his touch went.

        He still had all that range and energy he always had, he just was banging really bad touches around, especially during and after the World Cup. His touch looked better the other night, though he obviously was shaking off some rust.

        I think Bradley will be fine. I do think he was more limited last year than people realized.

      • I agree. I think it is credit to Bradley that he dismissed his injury as having affected his play. That certainly did not hurt his ability to cover ground and be available to releive pressure during the W.C.

        I do think the down-time after the surgery and the break did affect his fitness. The second half of the Chile game he played less well than in the first, which was likely due to fitness.

    • Problem is that we have had a lot of midfielders who have been “kind of . . “. That is, they are maybe attackers, maybe defenders, maybe one thing with their club, but not so good internationally or whatever. Fact is, we haven’t had a real playmaking midfielder since Reyna retired. Remember how Torres was tried, had a good game, then faded? Corona is more of an attacker, but not a great attacking mid. Mixx will show flashes, and other games he just disappears. Donovan was maybe the best passer we had, but he was shifted between that and attacking because he was also our best attacker and now he’s retired. Davis is a good MLS player, but not good enough for teams outside of CONCACAF.Fact is, Bradley is now our best passer until we can find someone else.

      • Gary Page,

        It is very fashionable to say that the USMNT now has a deeper, better talent pool than ever. In terms of numbers and potential that may be true. But that is not the same as actual performance.

        In the 2002 World Cup Reyna, JOB, McBride and the young LD proved themselves to be the USMNT’s outstanding outfield players. LD went on to have an exceptional 2010 World Cup, but the US still has not replaced the other three.

        If you had those three in their prime right now they would walk right into the current USMNT 11 as starters.

      • Hey GW,
        Fashionable is a good way to put it.
        I said last year I thought our player pool was “wider”, not necessarily “deeper”. When I think of depth I think of teams like Bama, FSU, Ohio St.- where you have true depth at multiple spots, and though our pool has more players to consider, I wouldn’t call our team deep at all. You and Gary are both right that those guys could step in and start right now.
        I also think this 3-5-2 is more than just an experiment…like you and I were talking about just after JK made his WC roster selections. I think we’ll see a lot more position experimentation also. Everyone forgets that this led to the rebirth of DMB, restarted EJ’s career, gave Beck his shot etc.-and don’t forget how many people were blasting JK for not playing Mikey further up the field this time last year.
        I see this as a good idea thru the 2016 cycle with our current pool. We have no attack on the wings, both Jozy and Clint play better w a partner up top, we have wingback & CB options, JJ, Bes, Cam, Brooks-all good moving the ball out of the back… We’re short that attacking CM spot-someone needs to step up and take it.

      • Nguyen is the one who needs to step up and take that spot you are talking about. I think it’s a stretch to say that our backs are good at bringing the ball out of the back. Part of that is because of how the midfield is constituted. JJ is a problem in this regard whichever group he is a part of.

      • Sorry Don, not quite sure I understand what you mean about Jermaine… If there’s one guy I want on the field, right now, wherever he plays, it’s Jones

      • What I meant is that he is a turnover machine. He has his defensive moments, but causes a lot of confusion on the field. A lot of people like him because of his work rate and toughness. He is man of the match one in five games. In the other four, he is awful in two and average in two.

      • ‘I said last year I thought our player pool was “wider”, not necessarily “deeper”.’

        +1, great way to put it.

      • I said last year I thought our player pool was “wider”, not necessarily “deeper”.

        Very clever. I like this assessment.

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