Should Kyle Beckerman Start Over Jermaine Jones for USMNT?

The on-going debate over the United States’ defensive midfielders may no longer be debatable
by Herb Scribner   |   Tuesday, April 29, 2014

USMNT Report - coverage of the United States Men's National Team

There’s little doubt United States Men’s National Team coach Jurgen Klinsmann will start 2 defensive midfielders at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. That’s because that is how he has done it nearly every game since he’s been in charge of the US.

But the question for a while now has been who should get the 2 spots. Michael Bradley, the so-called USA midfield general, is guaranteed one of the slots, barring any injuries. European-based Jermaine Jones is the likely pick for the second slot. Klinsmann typically favors German-born and European-based players, and has especially championed Jones, the 2008 Bundesliga midfielder of the year.

Enter Kyle Beckerman.

Real Salt Lake’s captain has been pinned as a backup to Bradley, given he’s a more offense-oriented defensive midfielder, pushing forward and looking to play-make, much like Bradley.

As Beckerman’s stock has risen for the USA, Jones’ has dropped off. With the 2013 Gold Cup and proceeding friendlies, Beckerman’s been given the nod and played consistently well in the middle. He’s kept things clean in the back and even contributed offensively on occasion.

Now, Beckerman playing behind Bradley in the World Cup seems like a real possibility.

We saw a glimpse of this lineup earlier in April when the 2 defensive midfielders were paired together against Mexico. Beckerman was forced to play deeper than normal (though several analysts incorrectly repeated he just sits in front of his backline for his club) as a quasi-fifth defender. Beckerman wasn’t as successful as he usually plays higher up for RSL and contributes to the attack. But fans were impressed, and critics rejoiced in the idea. The move allowed the more attack-oriented Bradley to push forward, while Beckerman backed him up and kept things organized.

Having Beckerman and Bradley together is the right strategy, especially in the USA’s opening World Cup game against Ghana.

The best chance for the USA to advance past the group stage this summer is by beating international nemesis Ghana, and hoping for favorable results against Portugal and Germany. To win, the USA will have to attack and pressure the Ghanaians. Goals are necessary. With a Beckerman and Bradley D-Mid partnership, the Americans can do just that. Not only does it give the USA the chance to attack more with Bradley — and with Beckerman for that matter, seeing as he’s an excellent passer and was an attacking midfielder during his early years — but it also allows the USA to stay defensive and organized.

Jones, meanwhile, is a bit of a brute. He’s physical, tough and can be brash at points. Against the stacked and physical Germany, Jones could prove useful – especially if the USA is looking to secure a draw in that game. He’s not going to better the attack, though, which could hurt the Yanks in that opening game where they need to score and grab 3 points ahead of the Portugal affair.

Aside from all the obvious positives Beckerman has, like his passing ability, his knack to find space and his defensive acumen, he’s also a leader. He’s the captain of one of MLS’ best ever squads. He has led RSL to a MLS Cup title in 2009 and a runner-up spot in 2013. Like many feisty players he overcompensates when missing a pass or losing a ball, but he’s hardly as risky of a player as Jermaine Jones has proven to be in the past. Jones is a red card waiting to happen. Beckerman is a yellow at worst.

Beckerman’s also got chemistry to bring with the USA. He was brought up through the USA ranks with Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley, who are both very likely to start for the US in the World Cup. Letting the trio work together will certainly help this USMNT, which has been non-cohesive and unbalanced for much of Klinsmann’s tenure.

And, maybe most importantly, Beckerman is heating up at the right time. Like Clint Dempsey has done for Seattle, Beckerman is playing some of his best soccer right now in Salt Lake City. He’s kept RSL composed and confident, even during a season of change with their coach leaving for NYCFC. Players with momentum and success at club level can carry that to the world’s tournament, and Beckerman is no different.

No matter what is said about Beckerman, the decision is still up to Klinsmann. He’s favored Jones for a while now, and it’s very likely he’ll keep the Besiktas midfielder in the starting squad. He’s valued, he’s achieved success in Europe, he knows European players and he’s played consistently for the USA during CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying.

Jones isn’t a bad choice, he’s just not the best choice any longer.

For the USA to get out of the first game with a win, the Yanks need a player that can keep things neat, while also allowing the offense to move forward. The Americans need a leader who can bring solidarity, chemistry and cohesion in what has been a tumultuous couple of years. And to bring down the giants of Germany and Portugal, Klinsmann needs to bring a player who can keep things settled, calm and far away from crimson-colored cards.

For the US, that player is Kyle Beckerman.

NEXT UP: May 27 – Friendly: United States vs. Azerbaijan, Candlestick Park, San Francisco, Calif. 10 p.m. EST, ESPN2, WatchESPN, UniMas.

Herb SCRIBNER

Nationality:
USA
College:
UMass Amherst
Club Domestic:
NE Revolution
Club Foreign:
Bayern Munich
SN managing editor, award-winning journalist and recent college grad, Herb has always been known as "The Soccer Guy" wherever he goes. He's been published by the Boston Globe and has experience with film production and novel writing.
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