By Joe Tansey
By now, we are well aware that there are plenty of holes still left to fill in the first starting 11 that the United States men's national team will send out to the pitch against Ghana on June 16 at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
One of the players who is a lock to start in Natal is Michael Bradley, who has been nothing short of consistent for the national team during the current World Cup cycle.
One of the greatest unknowns about Jurgen Klinsmann's side is who will partner Bradley in the defensive midfield of the preferred 4-2-3-1 formation that Klinsmann trots out to the pitch.
Realistically speaking, there are five players that could play next to Bradley, and each of the candidates brings something different to the table, which will make Klinsmann's decision even more difficult.
With just under two months left before the quest to escape the Group of Death begins, it is time look at who is in the best form to give Bradley a capable partner in the defensive midfield.
The most common name that will be associated with the position, sans Bradley, is Jermaine Jones, who has been one of the regular choices for the starting lineup when healthy.
Jones, who is currently with Besiktas in Turkey, is a solid option forKlinsmann to select for his starting 11, but he comes with one major flaw.
The 32-year-old German-born player has a propensity to pick up yellow cards in the most inopportune situations.
With Bradley looking to go forward and push the attack out of his defensive midfield position, he will need to be able to trust the other player at his position.
Trusting in Jones to not commit a silly foul and concede a free-kick in a crucial area is hard to do with his track record, but he may be the best option at the World Cup because of his experience against the European-based players on the rosters of Ghana, Portugal and Germany.
The two next best options currently play in Major League Soccer and were both a part of the squad that drew 2-2 with Mexico back on April 2.
Kyle Beckerman of Real Salt Lake has always seemed to be a favorite of Klinsmann, and he has been the man to get the call when either Bradley or Jones cannot play because of injury or suspension.
Beckerman does not contain the experience that Jones does against certain players in Group G, but he is a model of consistency at the position for club and country, which will earn him a spot on the roster of 23.
The player is direct competition for a roster spot with Beckerman at the moment is Maurice Edu, who has starred for the Philadelphia Union since returning home on loan from Stoke City.
Edu barely received a chance to play against Mexico, as he came on late in the second half, but he does bring with him World Cup experience from 2010, something that Jones and Beckerman do not have.
The fourth option in the defensive part of midfield is Mix Diskerud, who is more of an attack-minded player who can also play the holding position.
Diskerud's game is similar to Bradley's, which would give the Yanks two potentially deadly finishers from a position that is known more for its defense.
Adding an additional offensive weapon to the starting 11 is something that every United States fan would love to see, but in a group with so many talented attackers, defense will be a priority.
The final out-of-the-box option is to line Geoff Cameron, who has starred at Stoke City, up next to Bradley.
The only problem with this scenario would be the fact that Cameron plays at right-back for the Potters, but he is one of the most versatile players that the United States will take to Brazil.
Cameron is also in the best form of any player listed above, and his consistency throughout the strenuous English Premier League season must count for something.
In all honesty, all of these players are in good form at the moment, so it is the little things that will determine who is the present favorite.
Diskerud has to be taken out of the running since he is more of an attack-minded player, but do not be shocked if he makes the trip to Brazil, especially because he has fresh legs, as the Norwegian season began in March, just like MLS.
Beckerman has the edge over Edu at the moment because he has seen more playing time under Klinsmann, and he has done nothing to make the United States manager think of him in a bad light, especially after the game he had against Mexico.
Jones' recent national team exploits aren't too great, but he has been the first-choice player alongside Bradley throughout World Cup qualifying and some of the major friendlies along the way.
Deciding between Jones and Beckermanis a tougher decision than you may think, but the slight edge goes toBeckerman at this point because of his most recent performance in the red, white and blue, in which he played with Bradley.
Beckerman brings the stability that Jones lacks on occasion, and he is also trusted by Bradley—as seen in the Mexico match—so that the powerful 26-year-old can move forward without any hesitations.
With that being said, Klinsmann could chose to go either way with his selection, but do not be shocked if Beckerman ends up in the starting 11 over Jones when the Ghana match comes around.