Bruce Arena hears you, US national team fans – he wants a better passer in the attacking midfield, too.
The new USMNT manager, who took over for the fired Jurgen Klinsmann last week, told reporters at a Tuesday media roundtable in New York that he thinks the US needs to identify “a better passer in the midfield” ahead of the next round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers in March.
Klinsmann played many recent important matches with Michael Bradley as an attacking central midfielder, but Arena said that he sees the Toronto FC man as more of a defensive midfielder. He does think the US have some players capable of pulling the strings in the attack, and said that he’ll use the team's January camp in Southern California to evaluate candidates.
“We need a better passer in the midfield than we have. We need to have a player in the attacking half of the field who can deliver the right ball at the right time,” Arena said. “Who that is remains to be seen. There’s a couple of domestic players that are very good at that who we’ll look at in camp in January, and that to me is an area we’ve got to identify.
“And that’ll help establish how we play. Do we play with one striker, two strikers? Do we play with three? How do we define our midfield shape based on that? I’m 90-percent sure we’ll play with a back four, but at the same time be prepared to play with three when need be. But all those little things have to be fine-tuned and we have to find someone in the center of midfield who can be a little bit more creative in our scheme.”
One likely candidate for the position is New York Red Bulls' Sacha Kljestan. The veteran No. 10 is coming off of a 20-assist season with New York and was a part of Klinsmann's last two World Cup qualifying rosters. Another attacking midfielder Arena expects to take a closer look at is Sporting Kansas City creator Benny Feilhaber. The 31-year-old has 41 career caps with the USMNT and represented the country at the 2010 World Cup, but was largely excluded from the national team picture under Klinsmann.
“Benny’s played in a World Cup, he’s been in camp so he’s not an inexperienced player. I would tend to believe he’s going to get an opportunity,” Arena said. “I haven’t checked with him yet or with [SKC head coach] Peter Vermes and certainly I’ve placed a call into Peter and I’ll be discussing his players, of which Benny’s one.”