If one thing was apparent after the 2-2 draw to Mexico, it was that Michael Bradley is the most important player going into this year’s World Cup. This is something that fans of the United States (USMNT) have known for a long time. After seeing his return to MLS and his performance in last week’s match, it is apparent that Bradley is in top form and the US can be a force to reckon with in the Group of Death. Bradley’s success in Brazil will largely depend on his partner and the tactics played. But who should play alongside him, and how?
Here are 5 Jurgen Klinsmann’s options to consider when deciding who to play with Bradley:
1. Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones
This is the pairing that we have seen the most, and it’s the one the Klinsmann seems to favor. It is based on a double pivot system where each midfielder plays off each other, covering for one another when the other goes forward in attack. The problem here is the Jones is not as adept at going forward as Bradley. At times when Jones goes forward, he fails to complete that decisive pass or is dispossessed in midfield, leaving Bradley to both clean up his mess and be the first line of defense against the opponent’s counter-attack.
I think this partnership could work if they used the tactic deployed last week against Mexico — Bradley at the top of a diamond midfield, while having Jones sit back and protect the centerbacks. This formation would allow Bradley to push into the attack. The key to this is if Jones is willing to accept this role, and allow Bradley to orchestrate.
2. Michael Bradley and Kyle Beckerman
This partnership is fresh in our minds, and it seems like the one that fans would like to see more often. Beckerman accepts his defensive minded role and flourishes. He protects the centerbacks like no one else in the player pool and consistently completes passes. The issue with Beckerman is his athleticism and speed. While he looked good last week against Mexico, it will be a daunting task for him to do the same in Brazil. Mexico is nowhere near the quality that the US will see in the group stages. Does he have the athleticism to hang with the likes of Mesut Ozil, Toni Kroos, Joao Moutinho, and Cristiano Ronaldo?
3. Michael Bradley and Geoff Cameron
Fans may remember this partnership last summer in Seattle against Panama. Bradley and Cameron looked good together in the midfield. However this partnership can only happen if a suitable replacement can be found at right-back. Right now it seems that the drop off to Brad Evans and DeAndre Yedlin may be too great.
4. Michael Bradley and Maurice Edu
Another viable midfield option for Klinsmann. While he does have a lot experience, the question about Edu is can he play consistently at the highest level without any lapses. One mistake can be punished in the World Cup. After being away from the National Team for over a year, will the May camp be enough time for him to re-integrate with the team? The key is building an understanding with Bradley, that is just as good as Beckerman or Jones.
5. Michael Bradley and Mix Diskerud or Sacha Kljestan
While both players have quality, I see them playing their best against CONCACAF opposition. I wonder if each can raise their game to a be starter in the World Cup. Kljestan may have played himself off the team after the Ukraine match, whereas Diskerud maybe fighting for a spot on the bench.
Let us know what you think and what partnership you would like to see in Brazil.