In anticipation of today's United States/ Honduras friendly, I was reading a rather interesting article on MLSsoccer.com about new USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann and the 4-3-3 formation that he is trying to implement, and it got the gears grinding in my head about a particular player on the Sporting Kansas City squad; Graham Zusi.
Now, I've never tried to sell myself as the ultimate know-all in regards to soccer tactics, formations, etc, but after reading the article it struck me that perhaps Zusi would be worth a look for a U.S. squad that is currently trying to figure out it's identity. A rash of injuries to the USMNT midfield (Jose Torres, Landon Donovan, Stuart Holden) just might open the possibility for a player of Graham's skill set.
First, it should be noted that Sporting Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes likes to utilize the 4-3-3 formation as well, although there are slight variations that can be utilized. With that being said, it would appear there wouldn't be too much of a learning curve for Graham if Klinsmann were to give him a look, given the fact that both Sporting and the USMNT play out of the same base formation.
One of the more interesting pieces of the article;
Unless he is missing sitters or blowing hold-up touches, the striker is about the lat one to wag a finger at when the team fails to create chances. The responsibility for creating attack falls on the wide players and the two more advanced midfielders. They are to create numbers forward and get balls into the box via air and land, from all directions, like they're getting paid by the set-up.
If the role of the midfielders in Klinsmanns' 4-3-3 system is to 'create numbers forward and get balls into the box' I would have to imagine Zusi would fit that criteria. We've seen just how dangerous he has been finding players through the air, creating chances, as he's tallied 6 assists this season.
Not only can Zusi find the open man on a consistent basis, but he has also shown that he is more than capable of finding the back of the net as well. In fact, Zusi has emerged as one of the most dangerous long distance shooters in MLS. This ability to score from ridiculous ranges gives Zusi a unique weapon that many of his midfield counterparts simply can't match; the guy has a complete cannon for a right leg.
Zusi has been dominant for stretches of the 2011 MLS season, and I would imagine a part of that would have to be attributed to his extremely high work rate, both on offense and defense. Graham is known to cover a ton of ground during matches, which would perhaps make him a good box to box midfielder in Klinsmanns system.
Another plus for Graham? His ability on set pieces. The fact that he has become so dangerous on free kicks can only help his case.
Will Klinsmann end up giving Zusi a look? Honestly, probably not. It seems there is usually always a certain list of players that are continually called back to national team duty*, whether the call back is actually warranted, and who really knows what type of player Jurgen is really looking for? We've seen him omit such players as Omar Gonzalez and George John from inclusion on the team on a few occasions already, and those are two players in particular I would think could be potential main stays on the USMNT for quite some time.
*Although to his credit, Klinsmann does seem more open to giving unproven players a chance than former USMNT coach Bob Bradley was.
It's also worth noting that international play is completely different than the MLS game. There have been numerous examples of players that have flourished in one or the other, but failed to make it work in both.
As I've said before, I'm not an expert by any means. I'm just a fan who has watched Graham turn into a very good midfielder for Sporting Kansas City this season. Perhaps he could help a U.S. side that is not exactly at top form at the moment.
I'd at least have to think he's worth a look.