NEW YORK - One of Bruce Arena's first priorities as U.S. national team coach is finding a playmaker who can consistently create scoring chances, the new boss said on Tuesday.
"We need a better passer in the midfield than we have," Arena, who replaced the fired Jurgen Klinsmann last week, said during a wide-ranging discussion with national reporters at a midtown Manhattan hotel.
"We need to have a player in the attacking half of the field that can deliver the right pass at the right time. Who that is remains to be seen."
Captain Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones served as Klinsmann's go-to central midfielders during most of the German manager's five-plus years at the American helm. And Arena said the two veterans will still play a key role. But while both showed that they can contribute to the attack from the center of the field, both are more naturally defensively inclined.
Klinsmann experimented with New York Red Bulls maestro Sacha Kljestan, Portland Timbers string-puller Darlington Nagbe and even 18-year-old Borussia Dortmund prodigy Christian Pulisic in the position in 2016, but none of them stuck.
Now Kljestan and Nagbe are likely to get a fresh look under Arena, who said he'll probably also summon Sporting Kansas City's Benny Feilhaber -- a 2010 World Cup vet whose last cap came in 2014 -- when his first camp kicks off in Southern California early next year.
"There's a couple of domestic players that are very good at that that we'll look at in January," Arena said.
Pulisic, however, doesn't appear to be a candidate despite getting a start as an attacking No. 10 in a 2-1 loss to Mexico on Nov. 11, Klinsmann's penultimate game in charge. While the Hershey, Pennsylvania product is a natural chance creator who played centrally for the U.S. U-17s, he's manned the wing exclusively for Dortmund and, at his tender age, probably doesn't need the added pressure of orchestrating the American attack.
"He's still young," Arena said of Pulisic, one of several German Bundesliga-based Yanks that Arena will scout in person this weekend. "I think where Dortmund plays him, he plays pretty well."
Whether the ex-LA Galaxy coach is able to fill the playmaking role will have implications across his lineups.
"That will help establish how we play," Arena said. "Do we play with one striker, two strikers, or do we play with three? How we define our midfield shape is based on that.
"All those things have to be fine-tuned," Arena added. "But we have to find someone in the center of midfield who can be a little bit more creative."