A stats-based look at U.S. Soccer 

January, 4, 2012

One tool in the Insider toolbox we like to use occasionally is the next-level numbers our colleagues at ESPN Stats and Information come up with. Albert Larcada, Paul Carr and friends put together a nifty spreadsheet for the U.S. national team through the first seven games of the Jurgen Klinsmann era, and to start off the new year, we're sharing some trends that jumped out at us:

The box-to-box midfielder is dead

Remember those late runs into the penalty area from U.S. center mids the last cycle? Maurice Edu, or Michael Bradley, or Sacha Kljestan, even Jermaine Jones and Ricardo Clark, charging in for a finish or an assist, or just to reclaim possession? Forget them.

Klinsmann's use of Kyle Beckerman and/or Edu in a classic No. 6 role, where they're basically fifth defenders, and the implementation of Jose Torres as a deep-lying connector, has done away with box-to-box play. Statistics bear this out. Beckerman, Edu, Torres and Jones all have been active defensively, but they have created exactly one scoring chance between them in seven games. That's right, one.

Luke Cyphers is a former senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.
Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine. He has covered American and international soccer since 2002.