The 2015 Gold Cup was an unmitigated disaster for the United States.The team looked out of sync throughout the whole tournament, and rode that to a worst-ever fourth place finish.
Unquestionably, of the biggest holes in the side was at the defensive midfield spot. Kyle Beckerman has been the go-to destroying midfielder for Jurgen Klinsmann for a couple of years now, but the Gold Cup proved that the aging Beckerman has lost a step or two and needs to be replaced as soon as possible.
Having a true defensive midfielder in the center of the park to break up attacks and to distribute going forward is a vital part of a team. One could argue it is the most important position to evaluate when setting up your lineup. With Beckerman declining, Klinsmann has to find a natural replacement to fill in when the USMNT return to action this fall.
The obvious candidate for the squad is Danny Williams. Unfortunately, he's injury-prone and cannot be relied upon consistently. The depth chart behind Williams is wide open, with plenty of fringe players having the chance to throw their name into the hat for a call-up.
Enter New York Red Bulls midfielder Dax McCarty. The "Ginger Ninja" has only appeared five times for the USMNT, all under former manager Bob Bradley. He was named the captain of the "B" team that assembled at the January training camp in 2011. For whatever reason, he hasn't gotten a sniff at the national team since Jurgen Klinsmann took the reins.
It's time for that to change. Dax brings a few assets that the USMNT lacked during their Gold Cup failure.
Ability to pick out a pass
No matter if it's a short or long pass, Dax consistently delivers quality balls to his teammates. This is something USMNT midfielders struggled with mightily during the Gold Cup.
Defensive positioning and awareness
Despite his small stature, Dax is willing to tussle with the best opposing attackers any chance he gets. His awareness on the defensive side of the ball is crucial in his position. The ability to anticipate where the ball is going and track runners entering the attacking third isn't something one can teach, yet it's possibly one of the most effective defensive skills a player can have. Closing down passing lanes is an off-the-radar skill because usually when a player does it, you don't notice at all; the attacker simply chooses to make a less incisive pass or holds onto the ball for too long.
At the international level there isn't as much space with which to operate on the field. A great first touch and composure on the ball are required to be successful as the space condenses. Dax has both of these skills.
Even more importantly, he's capable of making quick decisions and getting the ball out of the back after his team regains possession in the defensive third. He doesn't panic and simply clear the ball out. Dax's head is constantly on a swivel assessing the danger, and he makes the proper pass whether it's a quick outlet or a long ball to a runner.
Grit and work rate
Dax McCarty is the epitome of heart and soul for the Red Bulls. He's consistently one of the smallest players on the pitch, but his playing style rarely reflects that. The USMNT desperately needs someone who will play for the badge on the shirt over everything else. Dax may not be the most talented player, but no one will give everything they have like he does.
(h/t to @MLSAnalyst for the streamables)
MLS finally awarded Dax for his stellar play by naming him to the 2015 All-Star team. It is time for Jurgen Klinsmann to pick up the phone and give him a call for the September friendlies against Peru and Brazil. A change is needed in the USMNT midfield and Dax McCarty is the perfect candidate to bring everything needed to help the team. Michael Bradley needs a partner he can rely on next to him who will allow Bradley to float up the field. Bradley is not a number 10 at this point with the national team, but having a reliable partner next to him will do wonders for his game. Dax is not flashy, but he knows where he needs to be on the field at all times, to limit opponent's opportunities.
Come on, Jurgen. Make the call.