Central Winger: Who's the better box-to-box USMNT midfielder, Kyle Beckerman or Mix Diskerud?
This series has introduced a concept called the "secondary pass." Conceptually, the secondary pass attempts to look at not just the immediate effect of a pass, but also the impact on the ensuing sequence of a play.
For the first time, we have mapped primary and secondary passes together, allowing for a more insightful glimpse into how passing sequences move through a system and how they can define a player's style of play, in this case US national team and Real Salt Lake holding midfielder Kyle Beckerman's.
Below are two of his secondary passing charts. The first belongs to Beckerman's first half against Cuba. The second belongs to Beckerman's first half against Guatemala. The darker line shows the first (primary) pass and the connected second line in gray shows the resulting (secondary pass). The graphed team is attacking downward.
KYLE BECKERMAN PASSES VS. CUBA (1st Half):
KYLE BECKERMAN PASSES VS. GUATEMALA (1st Half):
While these charts indeed belong to the same dreadlock-laden passer, they look like they were generated by two entirely different players.
The diagrams highlight the counterargument Real Salt Lake fans pose to the contingent of USMNT fans who feel Beckerman is too conservative. The RSL faithful in Utah have been keen to point out that he only plays conservative when he dons the Red, White and Blue instead of his normal Claret-and-Cobalt garb.
The high-frequency five-yard-pass trader (see first half vs. Guatemala) is simply a byproduct of Jurgen Klinsmann's system and instruction. The more free-wheeling Beckerman (first half vs. Cuba) is much more in tune with the KB5 found in his native Rio Tinto Stadium habitat.
Why this change? There are plenty of possible reasons. One possibility is Jurgen taking advantage of a blank Gold Cup canvas and wanting to experiment with different tactical strokes. While I'm the first to grant Klinsmann artistic freedom against lesser CONCACAF opponents, I'm not sure if this particular effort was a masterpiece.
In the first half of the Cuba match – with the Jurgen-chains loosened in a pairing with Stuart Holden – Beckerman took on a much more box-to-box role. But the United States attack was starved, managing just a single shot on goal aside from the stoppage-time Landon Donovan penalty.
Just two games prior, Jurgen had also experimented with two box-to-box midfielders, this time pairing Mix Diskerud with Stuart Holden in the second half against Guatamala. Here is Diskerud's secondary passing chart against Guatemala.
MIX DISKERUD PASSING VS. GUATEMALA (2nd Half):
Notice how much more vertical Mix's system is in the middle of the field. The contrasting Beckerman system seemed to only find additional space along the wings. With Mix incising the attacking third, the United States went on to seize total control and score five goals against the tiring Guatemalans in the second half.
While this particular Beckerman experiment is unlikely to continue, Jurgen seems to have learned some critical pressure points of the American midfield.