ANDY SCHREUR - Thursday, October 18, 2012
Has Jurgen Klinsmann found his ideal central midfield pairing in Danny Williams and Michael Bradley? It certainly looked like it last night.
With Jermaine Jones suspended Tuesday night due to yellow cards, Bradley and Williams teamed up for their second straight World Cup Qualifier and looked like the fluid midfield pairing Klinsmann has missed.
Bradley's importance to the USMNT has been well understood since the 2010 World Cup, when be broke out and played high level soccer at the highest level. Williams, after initially being placed on the right side of midfield, was moved to his favored defensive midfield role after an injury to Bradley left him unavailable in games against Jamaica last month. Maurice Edu, after moving to Stoke City, had not played many matches and has also been moved to central defense, which further lessened the coaches' choice in midfield.
Williams' first start in defensive midfield came at home in Columbus versus Jamaica and he excelled in what was a must win game for the US. Finally, with a healthy Bradley, Klinsmann was able to partner him and Williams against Antigua & Barbuda Friday night. Williams' performance was shaky and he was subbed for Jones in the 56th minute. Jones promptly received a foolish yellow card rendering him suspended for last night's match. Jones has received seven yellow cards in 11 matches in 2012, which accounts for 35% of the USMNT's total this year.
However, last night's performance by Williams could be defining. He looked confident in defense and is one of the best passing options Klinsmann has in midfield. His strong midfield play allowed Bradley to move further up the field and create scoring chances, which resulted in an assist for Bradley on Clint Dempsey's second goal.
With Jones' crunching (and risky) style of play, Edu likely moving to central defense, Williams looks to be the answer behind Bradley in the center of midfield and provides Bradley the opportunity to do what he does best: direct traffic and distribution in the midfield.