You have heard plenty of talk about how the U.S. national team has more depth than ever before, and a look at the number of forward, wide midfield and center back options suggests that this notion is pretty true.
One position you can't say that about is a position that has been a void for the USA for decades. Attacking midfielder, the true No. 10, remains an elusive spot to fill with a player that feels like a natural fit.
We were reminded of this Friday, when Sacha Kljestan was deputized into a playmaking role in Jurgen Klinsmann's 4-2-3-1 and failed to impress. There was reason to be hopeful in Kljestan's ability to create in that spot underneath the lone striker considering the outstanding season he is enjoying at Anderlecht, but rather than be an effective creator, Kljestan was largely underwhelming and appeared too content to sit deep in midfield and knock the ball around rather than look for the incisive passes.
To his credit, Kljestan did set up at least one good chance for Jozy Altidore, but based on Klinsmann's postgame comments, Kljestan didn't fill the role the way the German coach was hoping he would.
“He did OK, but it was tricky for him because we wanted him to play in between their two lines, the back line and the midfield line, and to find him in those spaces closer to Jozy, rather than further back," Klinsmann said of Kljestan. "His instinct tells him to drop a little deeper because that’s what he does at Anderlecht, and then suddenly we had three midfielders in the same area with Jermaine [Jones], Michael [Bradley] and Sacha. That’s not what we wanted. We wanted to find people between their two lines of four, so it was a bit tricky for him.”
Klinsmann has gotten by with using Clint Dempsey in a playmaking role for much of 2013, and Dempsey's ability to create his own chances and draw attention from opposing defenses has made him a useful option there. Nobody would call Dempsey a pure playmaker, though, and the absences of Dempsey and Donovan left Klinsmann without his two stopgap playmaking options.
Donovan did well in the Gold Cup with the freedom to create, but the level of competition that tournament is a far cry from what the USA will see in Brazil next summer. We saw a better measure of what Donovan might be able to do in the attacking midfielder role on the road against Costa Rica. He made a few good passes in the attack, but was far from looking like the long-term answer in the role.