Previous
Arsenal
Southampton
1
2
FT
Game Details
Liverpool
Middlesbrough
(14) 2
(13) 2
FT-Pens
Game Details
Real Madrid
Elche
5
1
FT
Game Details
Bayern Munich
SC Paderborn 07
4
0
FT
Game Details
Empoli
AC Milan
2
2
FT
Game Details
Arsenal
Southampton
1
2
FT
Game Details
Cardiff City
AFC Bournemouth
0
3
FT
Game Details
Derby County
Reading
2
0
FT
Game Details
Leyton Orient
Sheffield United
0
1
FT
Game Details
Liverpool
Middlesbrough
(14) 2
(13) 2
FT-Pens
Game Details
Milton Keynes Dons
Bradford City
2
0
FT
Game Details
Shrewsbury Town
Norwich City
1
0
FT
Game Details
Sunderland
Stoke City
1
2
FT
Game Details
Swansea City
Everton
3
0
FT
Game Details
Fulham
Doncaster Rovers
2
1
FT
Game Details
Real Madrid
Elche
5
1
FT
Game Details
Celta Vigo
Deportivo La Coruña
2
1
FT
Game Details
Bayern Munich
SC Paderborn 07
4
0
FT
Game Details
Eintracht Frankfurt
Mainz
2
2
FT
Game Details
TSG Hoffenheim
SC Freiburg
3
3
FT
Game Details
Werder Bremen
Schalke 04
0
3
FT
Game Details
Empoli
AC Milan
2
2
FT
Game Details
Stade de Reims
Marseille
0
5
FT
Game Details
Stade Rennes
Toulouse
0
3
FT
Game Details
Newport County
Swindon Town
1
2
FT
Game Details
Aberdeen
Livingston
4
0
FT
Game Details
Falkirk
Rangers
1
3
FT
Game Details
Kilmarnock
St Johnstone
0
1
FT
Game Details
Partick Thistle
St Mirren
1
0
FT
Game Details
Ross County
Hibernian
0
2
FT
Game Details
Clyde
Montrose
1
2
FT
Game Details
Brescia
Lanciano
1
1
FT
Game Details
Cittadella
Pro Vercelli
1
2
FT
Game Details
Crotone
Catania
1
1
FT
Game Details
Frosinone
US Avellino
0
0
FT
Game Details
Livorno
Varese
1
0
FT
Game Details
Modena
Perugia
0
0
FT
Game Details
Ternana
Bologna
0
1
FT
Game Details
Trapani
Virtus Entella
2
2
FT
Game Details
US Pescara
Latina
1
1
FT
Game Details
Vicenza
Bari
1
0
FT
Game Details
FC Ingolstadt 04
FC Erzgebirge Aue
1
1
FT
Game Details
SpVgg Greuther Furth
VfR Aalen
1
1
FT
Game Details
St Pauli
TSV Eintracht Braunschweig
1
0
FT
Game Details
SV Sandhausen
TSV 1860 Munich
1
0
FT
Game Details
AC Ajaccio
Le Havre AC
0
1
FT
Game Details
Angers
AJ Auxerre
0
0
FT
Game Details
Arles
Stade Laval
2
3
FT
Game Details
AS Nancy Lorraine
Tours
2
1
FT
Game Details
Dijon FCO
Créteil
2
1
FT
Game Details
Nimes
Chateauroux
1
0
FT
Game Details
Orléans
Ajaccio GFCO
0
1
FT
Game Details
Sochaux
Brest
0
0
FT
Game Details
Troyes
Niort
4
1
FT
Game Details
Capelle
FC Volendam
0
1
FT
Game Details
Rijnsburgse Boys
Sparta Rotterdam
0
3
FT
Game Details
Scheveningen
Lisse
4
1
FT
Game Details
VVSB
Vitesse Arnhem
1
2
FT
Game Details
Spakenburg
NAC Breda
3
4
FT
Game Details
Achilles '29
Twente Enschede
Postp
Game Details
Ajax Amateurs
NEC Nijmegen
2
2
FT
Game Details
Almere City
ADO Den Haag
2
2
FT
Game Details
Deltasport
Willem II Tilburg
2
1
FT
Game Details
Exelsior Maassluis
FC Emmen
1
4
FT
Game Details
Flevo Boys
DOS '37
1
0
FT
Game Details
HHC Hardenberg
RKC Waalwijk
1
0
FT
Game Details
Kozakken Boys
Sportlust '46
1
2
FT
Game Details
ONS Sneek
Dordrecht '90
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
PSV Eindhoven
FC Utrecht
Postp
Game Details
VVV Venlo
FC Eindhoven
0
0
FT
Game Details
Roda JC Kerkrade
Heerenveen
2
1
FT
Game Details
FC Basel
FC Vaduz
3
1
FT
Game Details
FC Thun
Lucerne
3
2
FT
Game Details
Sporting Kansas City
Real Estelí
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Portland Timbers
Alpha United
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
César Vallejo
Universitario de Sucre
1
0
LIVE 56'
Leg 2Aggregate: 3 - 2
Game Details
Cerro Porteño
Independiente del Valle
12:15 AM GMT
Leg 2Aggregate: 0 - 0
Game Details
San Martín de San Juan
Argentinos Juniors
11:10 PM GMT
Game Details
Atlante
Mérida
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Correcaminos
At. San Luis
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Lobos BUAP
Oaxaca
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Mineros de Zacatecas
Dorados de Sinaloa
12:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Santos
Monterrey
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
U.A.N.L
Queretaro
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
UNAM
Toluca
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Veracruz
Chiapas
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
ABC
Goianiense
1
0
LIVE 17'
Game Details
Boa MG
Luverdense
1
0
LIVE 31'
Game Details
Bragantino
Icasa
0
0
LIVE 20'
Game Details
Joinville
América Mineiro
0
1
LIVE 37'
Game Details
Paraná Clube
Avaí
0
0
LIVE 0'
Game Details
Vila Nova-GO
AA Ponte Preta
0
1
LIVE 26'
Game Details
Ceará
América RN
12:50 AM GMT
Game Details
Portuguesa de Desportos
Náutico
12:50 AM GMT
Game Details
Sampaio Correa-MA
CR Vasco da Gama
12:50 AM GMT
Game Details
Santa Cruz FC
Oeste
12:50 AM GMT
Game Details
Vantforet Kofu
Vissel Kobe
2
0
FT
Game Details
Cerezo Osaka
Nagoya Grampus Eight
1
2
FT
Game Details
Kashiwa Reysol
Sagan Tosu
2
0
FT
Game Details
Rangers de Talca
Palestino
0
1
FT
Game Details
Universidad de Concepción
Colo Colo
3
0
FT
Game Details
Next
Oct 9, 2009

Yearning for Jermaine: the key to U.S. success

U.S. men's national team coach Bob Bradley has a problem. He has only two more games to solve it, and it's not looking like he will. Bradley lacks a world-class defensive midfielder. He released his roster for the two upcoming and final World Cup qualifiers on Oct. 1. Once again, it lacked a true, dedicated holding midfielder -- one who seldom strays more than a few yards past the halfway line and makes disrupting service to opposing strikers his inexorable charge. The incumbent in the position, Ricardo Clark of the Houston Dynamo, has proved himself serviceable enough during the qualifiers so far. But he nevertheless is a very weak link in the U.S. chain, one that will be exposed at the World Cup in South Africa in June, now that qualification is all but wrapped up. At home against El Salvador, Bradley experimented with playing no holding midfielder at all, picking attacking midfielder Benny Feilhaber, rather than Clark, to play alongside Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and Bradley's son, Michael -- with the latter and Feilhaber taking turns dropping off as the other pushed up. This is striking, considering that not terribly long ago, he was lining up two defensive midfielders. But the dearth of stoppers has made that impossible, even though it is becoming the dominant tactic in international soccer.

U.S. men's schedule
Saturday
U.S. at Honduras
Estadio Olimpico; San Pedro Sula, Honduras 10 p.m. ET

Wednesday
U.S. versus Costa Rica
RFK Stadium; Washington, D.C.
8 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN360.com

So, how to solve this? With the World Cup approaching, it's time to look for a pragmatic solution. What the U.S. needs is a holding midfielder who never vacates his spot. A defensive-minded stopper. An enforcer. Bob Bradley's lineup for the World Cup is all but set, his team sheet set to be copied in bulk and laminated for all-purpose use, no matter the opponent -- but that's a whole different can of worms. Only two jobs are still calling for applicants. Provided that everybody is fit, Tim Howard will tend the nets; Jonathan Spector, Oguchi Onyewu and Jay DeMerit (assuming that he recovers from his infected eye in time) will man the back line; Dempsey, Michael Bradley and Donovan will concern themselves with all things midfieldly; and Jozy Altidore and Charlie Davies will be forgiven for their considerable inexperience and given the jobs up front. That leaves vacancies at left back and in central midfield. The former is trivial, the latter crucial. Both left back front-runners -- captain Carlos Bocanegra and upstart Edgar Castillo -- will do at least a passable job. And if they don't, Spector will shift over to the left with Steve Cherundolo or Frankie Hejduk slotting in on the right. No biggie. However, what happens with the second central midfield position will go an awfully long way in determining whether the U.S. will advance to the second round of the World Cup -- which it can, if things are lined up properly. While Howard, Donovan and Altidore will garner the accolades, the outcome of games, and thus America's fate, will be determined elsewhere. Games are won and lost in midfield. Whom Bob Bradley picks to set up beside -- or behind, more likely -- the offensive-minded Michael Bradley will be key. Historically, all great teams have had a bedrock defensive midfielder as the rubber cement that holds even the most fanciful sides together. The great Manchester United side of the '90s had Roy Keane. Covering for Luis Figo and later Zinedine Zidane on the Real Madrid side that won two Champions Leagues in 2000 and 2002 was Claude Makelele, who did the same for Jose Mourinho's back-to-back Premiership-winning Chelsea. The Arsenal team that wedged its unbeaten season in between Man. U's and Chelsea's heydays sported Patrick Vieira. Brazil's '90s successes were butressed by Dunga and Emerson. Even Johan Cruyff's Holland side of the '70s, seen by many as a paradigm of frenzied attacking, knew it could stray upfield with some considerable peace of mind, as Willem van Hanegem and Johan Neeskens weren't prone to taking prisoners behind them. The successors to this side, the Dutch 1988 European champions, shone by virtue not of the mesmerizing foursome of Marco van Basten, Frank Rijkaard, Ruud Gullit and Ronald Koeman, but of the mustachioed, chainsaw-wielding Jan Wouters, who held things together at the other end.
U.S. national team blog
Get exclusive insight into the U.S. national team and its players as they aim for South Africa. National team blog Insider
In short, behind every great footballing dynasty has stood a transcendent holding midfielder, an enforcer preventing opponents from taking too many liberties, making life as difficult as possible for the opposing playmaker. Recent years support this notion, too. Every winner of a major tournament in the past decade held up the trophy by the graces of its holding midfielder. Spain's 2008 Euro victory owed a great debt of gratitude to Brazilian-born Marcos Senna. Italy's 2006 World Cup run fed off Gennaro Gattuso's scorching form. Greece's 2004 Euro stunner was made possible by Angelos Basinas and Theodoros Zagorakis, who reinforced an already impenetrable defense. In 2002, Gilberto Silva backstopped Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho. France's victories in the '98 World Cup and Euro 2000 were due in large part to its abundance of holding midfielders, consisting of Didier Deschamps and Patrick Vieira, and in a bind, even Marcel Desailly and Emmanuel Petit. I could go on. "That kind of position holds importance, whether it's a club game or international game," said Bruce Arena, whose tenure as U.S. coach included its run to the quarterfinals at the 2002 World Cup and who has done a remarkable job of shoring up a leaky Los Angeles Galaxy defense this year. "Depending on the way you play, the play centers around the player in that [holding midfielder] position." "The U.S. needs a good holding defensive midfielder, or they won't make it," said Dave van den Bergh, a former Dutch international who occassionally has slotted in as a holding midfielder for FC Dallas this year. "Against a few teams, you can get away with playing without one, but against the big teams, you really can't. They need someone there to set the defensive parameters, who preserves the balance and can shift play. If you look at the big countries, they all have such a player. Brazil has Felipe Melo, Argenina has Javier Mascherano, Spain has Marcos Senna."
More World Cup coverage
For more features, analysis, predictions and opinion about the World Cup, drop by our special U.S. index page.
So why not Clark? He's prone to creeping upfield, looking for long-range shots, one of which, admittedly, bailed the U.S. out against Trinidad and Tobago. "I do think Clark will be a good one," Van den Bergh said. "If he goes to Italy [Clark is rumored to be joining Livorno], they'll teach him to hold his position and to eliminate the strange fouls he sometimes makes." But Clark doesn't have the experience to play such a pivotal position just yet, especially on a team not terribly deep on international exposure as it is. There are two viable alternatives, each option frought with hindrances. German-American hard-man midfielder Jermaine Jones would be a cinch, were he not behind on his paperwork and sidelined with a fractured leg. Jones has both the pedigree and the stature, standing at 6-foot-1. He's thrived in the physical Bundesliga for nearly a decade, checking the experience box, too. But his paperwork, allowing him to switch from representing Germany to playing for the "Stars and Stripes," isn't complete. That also means he never has played for the U.S. and would, at most, appear in a few friendlies before taking up a central position. Far from ideal.
Tweet, tweet
Don't miss a moment of the latest U.S. soccer and MLS coverage from around the world. Follow us on Twitter and stay informed. Join
Second in line: Maurice Edu, a similarly phyiscally imposing midfielder. Edu has a dozen games in the unforgiving Scottish Premier League under his belt. But Edu is just returning from an injury and has yet to play any minutes for his Glasgow Rangers. Yes, this shortage of playing time also applies to Onyewu, but he isn't rehabbing from injury and has been available to the U.S. Edu of course didn't help his case in the battle for minutes by going to a Jay-Z concert in Glasgow rather than watching his teammates play VfB in Stuttgart in the Champions League, saying he would be staying behind to work on his recovery. The bulk of the starting lineup discussion has revolved around whether Donovan and Dempsey ought to man the flanks. Certainly, this doesn't put those players in their best, or indeed natural, positions. But it does allow the U.S. to line up as much talent at once as possible. Ultimately, though, it won't matter where Donovan, Dempsey or anybody else plays, so long as the midfield behind them can't hold the territory the duo will inevitably vacate in pursuit of their natural urges. Without the right man playing defensive midfielder, this World Cup jamboree is doomed.

Leander Schaerlaeckens is a former soccer columnist for Guardian.co.uk and a contributor to World Soccer magazine.

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.