USMNT: Why The Michael Bradley Attacking Mid Experiment Must End


Upon looking at Tuesday’s line-up for the USA-Honduras friendly, I was certain there was a misprint. Mix Diskerud, an attacking midfielder, was slotted in the #6 role as a defensive mid while Michael Bradley, a defensive midfielder, was atop the diamond midfield as an attacking mid-fielder.

Surely someone had misinterpreted Jurgen Klinsmann’s lineup.

Sure enough, when the white jerseys dispersed on the pitch in Boca Raton, Florida, Bradley was playing the more advanced role of the two, with Diskerud parked right in front of the back four. The result was, for the most part, an invisible Bradley and an out-of-his-comfort-zone Diskerud.

While I’ll address Diskerud later, Klinsmann’s ongoing experiment with Bradley as the attacking mid needs to end.

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Since early this year, Klinsmann has had a desire to play Bradley at that attacking mid role as part of the diamond midfield. From the get-go, though, it was a circle in a square hole. Bradley is arguably USA’s most talented player, certainly one of their most important. As the most talented midfielder produced in recent years, the desire to put Bradley in a forward, play-making role may be ill-advised.

Bradley is at his best in a defensive midfield role, or possibly even a central mid in a 4-4-2 formation. His natural tendency is to drop back and help on defense, not a quality you necessarily want in an attacking midfielder. We saw how out of position and out of his element Bradley was in the World Cup, more often an innocuous bystander than a play-making difference maker.

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We know Bradley is capable of some fantastic passes like thisthis, and this. However, he’s better suited as a deep-lying play-maker than anything else. Taylor Twellman drew some criticism when he compared Bradley to an Andrea Pirlo, but the comparison in how they affect a game can be made. Neither is suited for an attacking midfield role, better sitting back and surveying the field, finding the pass that leads to an assist.

This now brings me to Diskerud. Klinsmann has been adamant that Diskerud (and players like him in Alejandro Bedoya, Joe Corona, etc.) need to contribute defensively as well as their offensive skills. Maybe Klinsmann deployed Diskerud as a defensive midfielder to force him to play defensive, which, in theory, might work. But it was Diskerud’s foul on the edge of the box that led to the set piece Honduras leveled the score on late in the second half.

Friendly games are made to experiment. With a new cycle leading up to the 2018 World Cup beginning in the near future, The USA needs a clearer future heading into the Russia World Cup, where expectations will be lifted. Players need to be put in their comfort zones. Experiments need to end.

Bradley is a defensive mid. Diskerud is an attacking mid. No more messing around, Jurgen.