Building a World Cup roster - A look at the U.S. defensive midfield depth chart

As we approach the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Goal's Ives Galarcep takes a look at each position battle on the United States national team.
There was a time not too long ago when Michael Bradley was seen by some as the future of the defensive midfield position for the U.S. national team.

That narrow-minded projection for a player of Bradley's qualities saw the obvious traits that made him seem perfectly suited for the role of midfield enforcer. Tenacious, tough and tireless, Bradley has played the role before, and played it admirably, but his continued evolution as a player always made it inevitable that he would move into a role that involved more attacking responsibilities.

Which brings us to the state of the defensive midfield role now, in 2014, just weeks before the World Cup, and with Bradley having evolved into a real force in the U.S. offense. His sharp passing and ability to intelligently time his runs into the attacking third have made him a weapon going forward. So much so that Jurgen Klinsmann went so far as to deploy him as the attacking tip of a 4-4-2 diamond formation against Mexico. A role Bradley thrived in.

With Klinsmann eyeing a more advanced role for Bradley, it is even more imperative that the coach find reliable defensive midfield options capable of connecting the defense to the attack, while also providing some support for a back line currently in a state of transition.

Jermaine Jones is Klinsmann's preferred option as the destroyer, even if Jones consistently seems reluctant to let his role on the team be boiled down to that basic responsibility. It has been that reluctance, particularly when partnerd with Bradley, that has made their partnership an uneasy one at times. Jones' penchant for freelancing, even when it has been clear that he should be staying home, has often left the U.S. mdifield exposed.

Jones is no slouch when it comes to providing attacking quality from deep in midfield either, but with Bradley the superior player in that regarded, Jones must either accept his role as doer of the midfield dirty work or risk losing his starting role.

How Jones handles his role will be one of the key storylines in the weeks leading up to the World Cup, especially with some other viable candidates just waiting for the opportunity to jump up the defensive midfielder depth chart.

So who are the five best defensive midfield options in the U.S. national team pool? Here are the five midfield stalwarts who fit the bill.

Jermaine Jones - Schalke

The German-born hard man can be an intimidating presence in central midfield, and his toughness will be needed in the World Cup group of death against the likes of Ghana and Germany.


Kyle Beckerman - Real Salt Lake

Call him the Dreaded Machine because he just gets the job done, spraying passes around with precision while positioning himself perfectly to support the defense. If Jones slips up, or is injured, Beckerman is in prime position to grab the starting defensive midfielder role.

Maurice Edu - Philadelphia

A player who should not be ruled out just yet, even if he is facing some tough odds to make the final 23-man World Cup squad. Edu works best from deep in midfield, where he can survey the field and make effective passes, while also being able to surge forward. The 2010 World Cup veteran needs a strong training camp to make it to Brazil.

Geoff Cameron - Stoke City

A player capable of starting at right back or center back for the U.S. team, Cameron also provides depth at defensive midfielder, even though it is the position he has played the least on the club level in recent years. He has had his ups (versus Panama in June) and downs (at Costa Rica in September) playing as a defensive midfielder, but if injuries hit this part of the field, and if Timothy Chandler thrives at right back, Cameron could find himself playing D-mid at the World Cup.

Danny Williams - Reading

An ill-timed knee injury forced him to miss playing time late in the season for Reading, and ultimately cost him a place on the preliminary U.S. World Cup roster. Before the injury, Williams was enjoying a strong seasin England, and at 25, Williams should get another chance at the World Cup in four years.