On Thursday evening from CenturyLink Field in Seattle, the USMNT were able to pull out a victory against Ecuador 2-1 to advance to the semi-finals of the Copa America Centenario with goals from current Golden Boot joint-leader (Lionel Messi and Philippe Coutinho) Clint Dempsey and Gyasi Zardes.
The hosts advanced without the services of starting defender DeAndre Yedlin behind a very stout defensive performance by the backline including John Brooks’ tournament-leading 26 clearances.
12 – @FabianJohnson23 had 12 ball recoveries tonight. Only four field players have had more in a single game in this Copa. Workhorse.
— OptaJack (@OptaJack) June 17, 2016
In the aftermath, the USMNT lost the services of Jermaine Jones, Alejandro Bedoya, and Bobby Wood due to a red card on Jones and card accumulation for Bedoya and Wood. While Wood’s pace will be missed, the suspensions Jones and Bedoya will serve will come to be a blessing in disguise. The reason for this, is that the USA have better midfield options in their squad.
At the risk of sounding obvious, Christian Pulisic and Darlington Nagbe are both options that can serve to replace Wood and Bedoya respectively. Pulisic is skilled, balanced, and aware beyond his years. Nagbe is tough, immensely skilled and has flashed moments of brilliance in the limited time he’s had available with the U.S. national team.
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 17, 2016
Along with the readily apparent options of Pulisic and Nagbe, Perry Kitchen also provides another option for the U.S. men’s national team. His coolness on the ball, intelligence and sound technique could prove to be more than enough to replace Jermaine Jones’ contribution.
Coach Jurgen Klinsmann has perhaps stubbornly made little changes to his starting line-up throughout the tournament. Much to the annoyance of critics and fans, Klinsmann has stuck with his stalwart veteran players over young and exciting talent.
Whilst the USA have been successful, minus their first game against Colombia, the contributions from Bedoya and Jones have been sparse to say the least. Bedoya does a lot of running in the middle of the park but doesn’t show the skill he does with his club Nantes.
Jones, in the same vein, is the type of player who will score a goal every time he puts together a string of bad of performances that would otherwise indicate that his services to the national team should come to an end. Not only that, but Jones’ often unnecessarily high temper either puts him at risk for a booking or it affects the team morale in negative way.
Frankly, the U.S. can do better and deserves better than these two. Their absence comes at the perfect time for the USA and will allow the USMNT to play openly and with skill against the team of the tournament in Argentina (or Venezuela) thus far.