MLS Preview: Midfielders to Watch

SEATTLE - MAY 08: Landon Donovan #10 of the Los Angeles Galaxy takes the field during pre-game ceremonies against the Seattle Sounders FC on May 8, 2010 at Qwest Field in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

There’s only one MLS player who has a chance at starting in the midfield for the National Team. Obviously Landon Donovan doesn’t need to prove himself worthy of a spot on the USMNT. But in the early going of the 2011 campaign, you might want to pay extra attention to Donovan. For the first time in two years, USA’s leading goalscorer didn’t head to Europe during the MLS offseason. A rested Donovan should be an intimidating prospect for the rest of the league.

But other than Donovan, it will be quite difficult for any MLS midfielder to make Bob Bradley’s 2011 Gold Cup squad.

Center midfield – Dax McCarty (DC United), Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Jeff Larentowicz (Colorado Rapids)

USA’s center midfield has been packed for a number of years now. The current campaign is no different, with Stuart Holden, Jermaine Jones, Maurice Edu, and Michael Bradley competing for 3 starting spots in Bob Bradley’s 4-2-3-1. Benny Feilhaber and José Torres round out the depth chart. And we haven’t even mentioned Jonathan Spector yet. Or Ricardo Clark. Or Sacha Kljestan.

If McCarty, Beckerman, and Larentowicz (what a great law firm moniker) want to make the Gold Cup roster, they’ll have to dominate MLS competition. Bradley the Elder has shown that he’ll reward outstanding MLS performances, so they shouldn’t lose all hope. But it really doesn’t look good.

Outside Midfield – Brek Shea (FC Dallas), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew), Eddie Gaven (Columbus Crew)

USA doesn’t have quite as much depth on the flanks. But with Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey guaranteed starting roles – and Spector, Holden, and Feilhaber able to play inside and out – MLS wingers have a lot of work to do to win a spot on Bradley’s roster.

Shea, though, does offer an intriguing prospect for the 4-2-3-1. While he isn’t as quick as Rogers or as skilled as Gaven, Shea’s height allows him to serve as a secondary long ball option (more on this Tuesday in our March podcast). But, again, these wingers are competing for backup roles, and the recent emergence of Alejandro Bedoya and Mikkel Diskerud further reduces the chances any MLS flankers will see time at the Gold Cup.

Gringos, do MLS midfielders have any shot at participating in the Gold Cup? Or should they focus on being part of the 2012 Olympics squad?

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