We heard from Backpost reader RefBaiter after the U.S.’s 1-0 loss to Ecuador on Tuesday night, and he had some interesting things to say about the match, and the U.S. team in general. Take a look:
“Last night was a mixed bag. They certainly played okay, but never really threatened. It’s hard to figure out the problem.
My initial reaction is that they have lots of problems in the center of midfield. Kyle Beckerman is fine defensively—not better than Michael Bradley in my opinion—but I don’t think he’s a particularly good passer. Same with Maurice Edu. He is being asked to do more than he is capable of. His first touch is weak and he can never get us out of pressure.
These guys can’t receive a ball in traffic and pass out of trouble. Think back 10 years—the U.S. had Claudio Reyna and John O’Brien (and before that, Tab Ramos). We are still waiting for their replacements.
Without an outstanding creative midfielder, we are never going to be very good. And I don’t think Clint Dempsey or Landon Donovan fall into the category of creative midfielder.
Some unusually levelheaded points from the RefBaiter, who was never so even-keeled with the officiating during his playing days.
We agree that the U.S. currently lacks a player in the Reyna-O’Brien mold—a box-to-box midfielder who is strong in possession and can pull strings on offense.
(They also lack a post-up striker such as they used to have in Brian McBride—an absence that may be as glaring as that of a playmaking midfielder, but that’s another discussion.)
Is there anyone out there, yet to be tapped by Jurgen Klinsmann, who can fill that role?
Stuart Holden, if he ever gets and stays healthy, could be the guy (he’s 26, btw).
What about Benny Feilhaber? He’s certainly good in possession and on offense, but he’s not exactly a bulldog ballwiner (and he’s 29).
Other possibilities include Jose Francisco Torres (23), Mikkel Diskerud (21), and, at the youthful end of the spectrum, rising Real Salt Lake youngster Luis Gil (17).
Also, you never know who will emerge in the next two years or so. Dempsey, after all, was hardly a household name when he won the MLS Rookie of the Year Award in 2004, and then went on to USMNT and EPL greatness.
There’s another possibility, too, one that Klinsmann brings up in this recent piece in The Atlantic (where he also has high praise for Torres):
“One thing you see less and less in modern soccer is the classic Number 10 [creative midfielder], because as a coach you don’t want to depend too much on one individual. The role model at the moment is Barcelona. Xavi, Iniesta—these guys work both ways. Defensively, they are nasty to win the ball back, then when they have it they are very skillful. Are they classical Number 10s? No, because you never know which one is the Number 10.”
If Klinsmann is looking to apply that model to the U.S., then he is definitely not done auditioning central midfielders.
Perhaps we’ll see a new face or two when the Yanks take the field against France on Nov. 11 in Paris, a friendly that was just confirmed today.