BRIAN SCIARETTA - Wednesday, June 13, 2012
The United States played to a disappointing 1-1 draw against Guatemala in a World Cup qualifier which concluded a five game series of games.

The US began these games with a terrific performance against Scotland in a 5-1 win. Since then, however, their performances have been mostly mediocre. In large part, their offense was unable to create many opportunities and the team only played well in brief stretches. It is clear the team needs consistency.

But those are broad terms. Here are the specific areas of concern that need to be addressed by Jurgen Klinsmann going forward.

Central midfield trio of Bradley, Edu, and Jones

Against Guatemala, Klinsmann elected to start three central midfielders in Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, and Maurice Edu.

It is very clear that all three are solid players and have impressive club resumes. That being said, these three do not work well together and they do not play up to the sum of their parts. They all play similar roles and neither of the three are possession oriented players.

With these three players, the US looks sharp defensively in central midfield but when they move into the attack, they seem out of ideas in the final third.

The US needs better passing out of the central midfield and that likely means that one of these three will need to sit in favor of an attacking minded player or a winger. It remains to be seen who would fill this void. Jose Torres is a good player but he prefers to sit deep. It is uncertain whether or not Stuart Holden will recover from his injury and Joe Corona is still untested.

Either way, the best thing would be for the US to use any friendlies or meaningless qualifiers (after qualification to the "Hex" is secure) to try more options instead of trying to work with the existing trio.

Lack of wide players is a major problem

Perhaps the most significant problem facing the US team right now is the lack of wide attacking options.

Fabian Johnson's return from injury was a welcome surprise against Guatemala and he assisted on the US team's only goal. Still, that's not enough. With Landon Donovan having an off night, the US was forced to go down the middle and this was easy to defend.

This was very similar to the problems the US U-23 team faced in its failed bid to qualify for the 2012 Olympics. Brek Shea had an off week and as a result, there was nothing the US could do out wide. Opponents were easily able to defend the middle.

With this senior US team, everything has to go down the middle and when that responsibility lies with the trio of Bradley, Edu, and Jones, it is unlikely to be effective.

To Klinsmann's credit, he has tried Robbie Rogers and Brek Shea out wide and neither were that effective. Still, Shea is showing signs that he is breaking out of a slump with FC Dallas and that would be very welcome news for the US team. Shea still has a lot to learn but being able to play wide is a very valuable asset.

Fabian Johnson

Fabian Johnson has been a revelation to the US team since deciding to file his one-time switch and leave the German program for the US national team.

As a left back, he has been terrific for both Hoffenheim and the United States. That position has been the Achilles Heel of the US national team and Johnson maybe the fix for that seemingly constant problem.

Despite that, Johnson is far more needed in the midfield because he addresses so many weaknesses there.

The first is that he is primarily offensive minded. He was terrific setting up Clint Dempsey's goal but he also was caught out of position on defense. If he moves to the midfield, he can focus on his strengths in moving forward.

The second is that he is a great wide option and that is an area the team lacks. He is naturally right footed but is also very strong with his left. As a result, he can play either wing. He can also pinch into the middle and play an attacking position centrally.

Johnson is so valuable because he gives the US team so much of what they are lacking: left back, wings, or creativity in the middle. With Aston Villa's Eric Lichaj also a capable left back, Klinsmann should get Johnson into the midfield to fix the problems there.

Distribution from central defenders

This has been a problem for the US team for awhile and that appears to still be the case.

Right now, the passing from the central defense is significantly hurting the US possession game. As it stands now, the US central defense far too frequently boots the ball upfield when under pressure. This often concedes possession back to the opponents. Also as a result, the midfield has to play further back closer to the defense.

Geoff Cameron has shown promise in improving the backline's ball handling and this is also a strength for Tim Ream. Clarence Goodson is still a good player but he struggled at times with Brondby this season and he will be 32 by the next World Cup.

Carlos Bocanegra and Oguchi Onyewu have occupied starting spots in the back for years but it is important to gradually move towards defenders who can move the ball forward effectively.

Bocanegra is still the leader of the US team but it is important to integrate over time a new style of central defense with players who are focused on playing the ball. For too long the American focus of this position has been on physical players who are "hard men." That aspect of the game is useful at times but without sharp passing, it can hurt the offense as well.
Sunday June 17, 2012 9:40 pm
Stop talking about Chandler. He sucks anyway
Sunday June 17, 2012 9:37 pm
What we've learned from these matches is...
1) Boca, Gooch, Dolo are showing their age and shouldn't be considered locks anymore. Of the 3 Boca has looked the best and should still be used until another CB option is found. We need Ream, Hines, Cameron, and Gonzalez to step up and show that they want to be starting CB's for the USNT. I'm still hoping Chandler will play for the US. He should be called in for the next friendly/qualifiers. If he doesn't accept so be it. Either way Chandler or Lichaj should be given the starting RB spot, with Dolo as their backup.
2) Wingers/Attacking minded players are needed. Jones, Bradley and Edu can get the job done defensively, but they often lack something in the attacking 3rd. If Holden returns at his previous level he should replace Edu (Dropping Jones into the CDM spot). I also expect that Bedoya, Adu, and Williams to push for inclusion.
3) Donovan shouldn't be considered a lock anymore. Gatt, Gyau, and Corona need to push Donovan to perform every time.
Saturday June 16, 2012 12:00 am

Fabian was a LB for Hoffenheim starting at the beginning of Feb. So he was there Feb, March, April, and half of May. He missed a few weeks with injury so that is roughtly 3 months.

Do you realize that in the first half of the season when Fabian Johnson was playing in the midfield, he was second in the Bundesliga in assists?

Fabian is a good left back, but US fans shouldn't kid themselves in thinking that is the best place for him. He is an elite midfielder. And with the US team struggling to create goals, getting Fabian involved at his best position is a step in the right direction.
Friday June 15, 2012 9:00 pm

Two things I disagree with. (1) Michael Bradley doesn't need to be lumped in with Jones, and especially Edu. Bradley is 10x the player of Edu in both a holding role, and in the attacking 1/3rd. Bradley is and has been the best MF for the US for quite some time. (2) Moving Fabian Johnson to MF. I would rather see JK try out some of the youth at winger before moving Johnson up there. That said however, I wouldn't be against it one bit :).

I would REALLY love to see Geoff Cameron and Tim Ream play together.
Friday June 15, 2012 1:47 pm
I agree totally with Girt. Our current midfield stinks. Look no further than our performances against two "minnows" in qualifying. Replacing Edu with Johnson will give us the skill, speed, possesion and goals we sorely need in the final third. Lichaj has proven himself to be a solid LB in the Premier League and is better defensively than Johnson (a true midfielder). These moves only make us better as a team. Based on what we've seen, the status quo is totally unacceptable!
Friday June 15, 2012 1:31 pm
Surprised most folks keep missing Danny Williams. Once he gets back, I see him replacing Edu in the midfield upside-down triangle.
Friday June 15, 2012 12:20 am
Actually no. Johnson played LB from December until the end of the season. Not 3 months more like 5 1/2 months due to Germany's winter break. I will say it again Lichaj at RB. We have finally found a player to really lock down a very troubled spot for the U.S. for years, and now we should move him. No. We have plenty of Wingers/Attacking middies. There is no need to move Johnson from LB. Considering he will be playing LB for Hoffenheim.
Thursday June 14, 2012 11:23 am

Fabian Johnson is a good left back but it is not his top position. He is naturally a midfielder and played there the entire first half of the Bundesliga season - he only moved to LB the last three months

In Johnson's career in Germany, he has played far more in the midfield than left back.

While a good left back, he would be a boost to the US midfield. He would give the team a different type of attacking player.

Lichaj can help out at left back. Eric can get forward and is much better defensively than Johnson. With Lichaj the better defender and Johnson the better attacker, it's better to let the players play to their strenghts.
Thursday June 14, 2012 10:16 am
Johnson needs to stay at LB. You guys have been pushign for him to be a Left Winger for awhile, but he has played far more LB for club then winger.

Go look at Shea's stats under Klinsmann at LW. He has created 7 chances for himself and 9 chances for other's in the attacking third. Thats not ineffective as some of you seem to think.

Lichaj should be groomed to take RB not LB.

It's time to hand over the RCB spot to Cameron.

How many times are we going to read or hear Donovan had an off night before fans finally come to the realization that he is not the same Donovan of old.

The Mexico friendly will be a good game to bring in new players i.e Gatt, Adu, Pontius, Myers etc......

And people need to realise that Chandler is not going to play for the U.S.
Wednesday June 13, 2012 8:12 pm
Your comments are dead-on! Do you think Jurgen Klinsmann is smart enough to see this as well???

I have believed strongly that three defensive midfielders and a single, stranded forward is a highly dysfunctional set up. The results have proven that out.

Fabian Johnson's best position is still midfield despite his excellent play at LB. I'd like to see Lichaj and Chandler be our fullbacks for the hexagonal (if we make it). I don't think Steve Cherundolo will be able to carry the full load by 2014. With Brazil still two years away, I'd like to see more of Corona, Gatt and Shea. I'd like to see less of Jose Torres.

With his tremendous energy and work rate, I would also like to see Hurculez Gomez get a shot at right wing if he can't beat out Altidore and Dempsey for starting forward spots. Gomez is a dangerous player!
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