USMNT: Changes Without Real Risk

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Excluding a whole list of new players on the American soccer scene, Jürgen Klinsmann has to decide if he wants to select a roster and Starting XI that consists entirely of players that he has been using or if he wants to bring in some players that he hasn’t been calling up.

There are players like Jonathan Spector, Eric Lichaj, and Benny Feilhaber that are experienced but who seem to not be Klinsmann’s personal preferences.

With Mix Diskerud and Joe Benny Corona, Klinsmann doesn’t necessarily need Feilhaber, but he does need Spector and Lichaj if he isn’t going to call up outside backs like Chris Klute, DeAndre Yedlin, and Andrew Farrell.

This all means that Klinsmann can make some roster and line-up adjustments without really experimenting with new players during World Cup qualifying.

Certainly, putting Landon Donovan into the starting line-up for the next World Cup qualifiers isn’t experimentation, and neither is starting Lichaj or Spector at right back.

The preferred XI for Klinsmann is hard to guess because so many adjustments were made during World Cup qualifying, the Gold Cup, and the friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina. Therefore, no one knows what the Status Quo Starting XI would be for the USMNT and Klinsmann.

While Tim Howard is the first choice goalkeeper over Brad Guzan, even though Guzan is probably just as good, the first choice outside backs and center backs are unknown.

Are Brad Evans and DaMarcus Beasley the first-choice right back and left back, or are Geoff Cameron and Fabian Johnson the first-choice outside backs?

Is some combination of those four players Klinsmann’s first-choice outside back pairing?

After Geoff Cameron and John Anthony Brooks had a strong showing against Bosnia and Herzegovina, are they the first-choice center backs, or are Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler Klinsmann’s first-choice center back tandem?

Maybe Klinsmann liked the speed, positioning, and athleticism that Michael Orozco brought to the center of the American defense.

In front of the defense, Klinsmann prefers Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones as the defensive midfield tandem, but Klinsmann had to like the way Cameron played the midfield destroyer role against Panama.

Starting Cameron over Jones would fall into the New Starting XI category for Klinsmann, and it’s probably a change that needs to be made unless Klinsmann is going to start Cameron, Bradley, and Jones together in the midfield.

Whether Klinsmann starts Cameron or Jones, Klinsmann really has to insert Landon Donovan into the starting line-up to play with Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore, and this leaves one starting spot open in the Front Six.

If Klinsmann starts Bradley, Jones/Cameron, Donovan, Dempsey, and Altidore, then Klinsmann has one of his hardest decision to make: Who should start: Joe Benny Corona, Aron Jóhannsson, Mix Diskerud, Graham Zusi, or Alejandro Bedoya?

This decision will likely prove to be the most difficult decision that Klinsmann has to make for the next World Cup qualifier.

The problem is whether or not he wants to insert more of a true playmaker than Donovan and Dempsey or whether he wants to use two center forwards.

If Jones and Bradley are starting together, then both players are likely to constantly be pushing up into the attack, which leaves the area in front of the American defense exposed.

On the other hand, if Cameron and Bradley start together, then Bradley can push up into the attack to help to create scoring chances and play final balls.

With Bradley combining with Donovan and Dempsey behind Altidore and Jóhannsson, then the USMNT would have three skilled midfielders in Bradley, Donovan, and Dempsey creating chances for not only Altidore and Jóhannson, but also themselves.

Taking all of these factors into consideration, the USMNT could field a new and better Starting XI without introducing players who are inexperienced at the international level.

One option for the United States would be to start this line-up below:

Howard; Lichaj, Orozco, Brooks, F. Johnson; Cameron, Bradley; Donovan, Corona, Dempsey; Altidore


The line-up proposed above is a new combination of players, but it isn’t a group of players who aren’t used to playing together or who aren’t used to international soccer.

Lichaj has played with many of the players before, and Orozco and Brooks are good enough to play together in the center of the defense, especially with Cameron and Bradley in front of them.

This sort of line-up above is different but not risky.

The United States could lose to any national team on any given day, but this starting line-up gives the United States skilled and athletic players at every position who are experienced and used to big games.

There’s no escaping risk, but this line-up is a way for Klinsmann to field a more balanced and a more talented line-up without throwing new players into the deep end.

From a tactical standpoint, the line-up above offers defenders with the skill, speed, and positional sense to play international soccer, and it offers a variety of different types of players in the Front Six who each play a needed role.

Cameron allows Bradley more license to attack, and Corona allows Donovan and Dempsey to not be tasked with all of the playmaking responsibilities.

For all of the people who are skeptical of inserting new players into the next World Cup qualifiers, the line-up proposed above is a way for Klinsmann to play the type of soccer that he wants to play where the attack begins in the very back and all of the players can play one-to-two touch soccer.

Tim Howard, Eric Lichaj, Michael Orozco Fiscal, John Anthony Brooks, Fabian Johnson, Geoff Cameron, Michael Bradley, Landon Donovan, Joe Benny Corona, Clint Dempsey, and Jozy Altidore make a solid combination of players with the experience, skill, and athleticism to field a balanced Starting XI that produces quality soccer that puts the United States in the position to win.

This is a reasonable, capable, and effective USMNT Starting XI.


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