MMCB: A strong week for American midfielders

JoseFranciscoTorres(ISIphotos.com)

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.

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63 Responses to MMCB: A strong week for American midfielders

  1. andrew in tampa says:

    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

  2. DC Josh says:

    Only 16 days away from the showdown in pot-town.

  3. Brian says:

    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.

  4. DadRyan says:

    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!

  5. DC Josh says:

    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.

  6. brant says:

    Rogers was always a longshot for this year’s roster, but if he makes it, it’ll be great experience for 2014. :)

  7. Felix says:

    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.

  8. wilyboy says:

    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.

  9. wilyboy says:

    And yes, I know he’s a forward. But that’s what we Really need right now.

  10. Sg says:

    J Jones looks bleak at this point

  11. El Michael says:

    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

  12. RevsFan says:

    Wasn’t it Adu’s 2nd start? Didn’t he get a start earlier this week?

  13. Erik says:

    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.

  14. Andy in Chicago says:

    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.

    GRINGO YOU’RE MY BOY!

  15. Walter Diaz says:

    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

  16. mexicanbluefish says:

    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.

  17. 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.

  18. HoneyHell says:

    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)

  19. MVK says:

    Even in a week of highlights from young American midfielders, Micheal Bradley shows us again way he is a set in stone starter.

  20. jeckert says:

    Would love to see Bradley paired with Torres: it could be a vital partnership for a long time.

  21. El Michael says:

    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

  22. kyle says:

    i want torres to start to, but one word, defense, can he do it?

  23. Arcticrules says:

    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.

  24. Jorge says:

    Speaking of Benny, here is his Facebook page if interested:

    link to facebook.com

  25. Smacking says:

    What a timely note on US Midfielders check out this mention on the US Soccer Blog: link to tinyurl.com

  26. Jorge says:

    So check this out from Everton Website:

    MEET LANDON DONOVAN

    link to evertonfc.com

  27. Tony in Quakeland says:

    They are not acting like a team that thinks his future with them is over in a couple weeks, are they?

  28. Jorge says:

    My thoughts exactly, Tony.

  29. Pete Rose says:

    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

  30. sef-one says:

    should be league start. earlier was a cup game.

  31. Jason says:

    How about Donovan and Dempsey up top?

  32. Jorge says:

    Let’s get going then. :-)

  33. Isaac says:

    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

    —————————-Altidore—————–

    —————–Dempsey—————————–

    Adu——————————————-Donovan

    ——————Torres—-Bradley——————

    Beasley————————————Cherundolo

    —————Bocanegra—-Onyewu——————-

    ———————–Howard————————

    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.

  34. mwc says:

    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.

  35. Andy in Chicago says:

    Replace Beasley with Spector and I’m okay with that.

    But I’m still skeptical of Adu being on the field.

  36. Nic D "The Texas 2 Stepper" says:

    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.

    nd

  37. Nic D "The Texas 2 Stepper" says:

    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.

  38. JohnC says:

    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.

  39. k says:

    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.

  40. ELAC says:

    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.

  41. HoneyHell says:

    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.

  42. SoccerJohn says:

    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.)

  43. Hush says:

    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 bums.lol 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 team.lol… 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

  44. Owlsie says:

    So . . . did Holden make a mistake going to Bolton?

  45. SoccerJohn says:

    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.

  46. Nic D "The Texas 2 Stepper" says:

    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.

  47. timothy says:

    I think he actually held his own defensively the last time we saw him play. I remember him tracking back and making a key tackle

  48. timothy says:

    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

  49. Tim says:

    Nope, he only starts because his father is the coach. The Bundesliga is not very good at all.

  50. KD says:

    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.

  51. ThaDeuce says:

    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!!

  52. ThaDeuce says:

    always have a typo LOL
    “struggling to choose between Torres, Jones, Edu, Clark, and Feilhaber for who pairs in the Middle with BRADLEY”

  53. ThaDeuce says:

    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`

  54. ThaDeuce says:

    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?

  55. ThaDeuce says:

    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.

  56. ThaDeuce says:

    hahaha, well put!

  57. ThaDeuce says:

    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.

  58. ThaDeuce says:

    HOLY CRAP!
    Scrap all I have said below about having so many great choices to pair with Bradley, THE ONLY ONE CAN BE JOHNNY O’!
    HE’S BACK!
    (lol)

    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 …”

  59. Lee from NYC says:

    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.

  60. ThaDeuce says:

    One word: yes

    and if defense is your prime concern, never mention adu as an option. To me, torres has proven his defensive skills.

  61. ThaDeuce says:

    True and I second your props to Bob.