Coming into October of 2013, and since the United States has already qualified for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, here is the Best Starting XI that Jürgen Klinsmann can start for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers in October.
Michael Bradley and John Anthony Brooks are currently injured with an ankle injury and elbow injury, respectively, but here is the best Starting XI that the United States could use, if both players are healthy in time.
This starting line-up combines proven-players with players who have shown a real ability to offer the United States Men’s National Team upgrades in certain areas, most notably in the defense and at the playmaker role.
The national team must keep starting its very best players like Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Landon Donovan, and Jozy Altidore, but it should fill the rest of the starting line-up with new players with the tools to compete at the next level.
Here is World Soccer Source’s Best Starting XI for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers:
GOALKEEPER: Brad GUZAN
Chosing Brad Guzan over Tim Howard is a tough decision because Tim Howard excels at making game-saving stops that register high on the difficulty scale. There is some concern that Howard doesn’t always come off his line to collect balls played in the air fairly close to his own six-yard box, but goalkeepers are often judged too harshly. Nevertheless, it’s time to see if Guzan comes off his line better than Howard, and if Guzan is better at saving shots from distance than Howard is. Either way, this choice between two excellent keepers is a toss up, and until Guzan plays more, it will be hard to determine which keeper should start. Starting Guzan isn’t risky, nor is it a drop off in skill.
RIGHT BACK: DeAndre YEDLIN / Andrew FARRELL
The time for Jürgen Klinsmann to let DeAndre Yedlin or Andrew Farrell play right back is now. The United States has qualified for the 2014 World Cup, and both Farrell and Yedlin are better than Brad Evans. Both players are more technically-skilled than Evans, and both can stay with faster and more-skillful attackers better than Evans. Although Geoff Cameron can play right back quite well, Cameron has shown how he excels as a midfield destroyer with his tackling, passing, and running, so it’s better to let a natural and explosive outside back like Yedlin or Farrell play right back. Both Yedlin and Farrell are extremely fast and technically-skilled, but Farrell’s tackling is likely better than Yedlin’s (but Yedlin’s defense and tackling are quite good). Time will tell if Yedlin or Farrell is better or if they are just different, and time will tell if Farrell proves to be better suited to be a starting USMNT center back.
CENTER BACK: Shane O’NEILL
Just like DeAndre Yedlin and Andrew Farrell are legitimate options for the United States and likely upgrades at right back, Shane O’Neill is an upgrade at center back to both Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler. O’Neill is a better defender and a better soccer player in general, and O’Neill possesses a complete skill-set that allows him to play better defense and pass and dribble out of trouble better than Gonzalez and Besler. Both Gonzalez and Besler have become familiar to American soccer fans, and the recent winning streak makes people afraid to accept the possibility that there is another level above that at which Besler and Gonzalez play.
CENTER BACK: John Anthony BROOKS
Assuming he’s healthy, John Anthony Brooks should start at left center back for the USMNT. Brooks is a starting center back for Hertha Berlin at 20 years old, and he was named to the Bundesliga Team of the Week twice already this season. These facts combined with his agility, size, skill on the ball, and athleticism are just too much to ignore, and Brooks showed that he was ready to play international soccer against top competition when he started against Bosnia and Herzegovina.
LEFT BACK: Chris KLUTE
Chris Klute is the best American left back in the American player pool. Klute offers better defending and more speed than Fabian Johnson or DaMarcus Beasley, and Klute is a constant attacking threat who creates a lot of goals. Klute’s defending and attacking skills combined with his athleticism (most notably his world-class speed) make him too good to not incorporate into the national team now. Skeptics will argue that Klute is inexperienced, but since any defender has the potential to make a mistake or be beaten in any game, the possibility that a new defender may be beaten a few times is just an irrational excuse to ignore a talented player at a position where the United States is weak.
DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDER: Geoff CAMERON
Geoff Cameron’s passing, tackling, skill on the ball, and tireless and smooth running make for an excellent midfield destroyer to patrol the back of the midfield, while Michael Bradley has more freedom to attack and drop back as he sees fit. Jermaine Jones also likes to participate in the attack when he plays for the United States, and starting Cameron over Jones prevents a hole from being left in front of the American defense.
BOX-TO-BOX MIDFIELDER: Michael BRADLEY
Michael Bradley is a defensive midfielder who was always skilled as a passer and as a defender, and his trademark was his ability to run for the full 90 minutes participating all over the field. Bradley’s passing and technical ability have progressively improved, and Bradley’s forays into the attack and his combination play with Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan make him the ideal player to provide Cameron passing and defensive support deeper in the midfield, in addition to providing the link from Cameron to the attacking midfielders and strikers.
RIGHT MIDFIELDER: Landon DONOVAN
Landon Donovan’s skill-level and experience are a vital component of the USMNT, and using Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan together as attacking midfielders gives the United States good passing and excellent attacking in the midfield. Donovan’s speed and his ability to score and set up goals are well-documented. Starting Dempsey and Donovan together should be a priority for Jürgen Klinsmann.
PLAYMAKER: Benny FEILHABER
Benny Feilhaber brings playmaking qualities that Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan don’t have. Whereas Donovan and Dempsey are skilled-attackers who can score or help to create goals, Feilhaber is an actual playmaker who makes sure players like Jozy Altidore, Landon Donovan, and Clint Dempsey receive service when they make their runs in the final third. Feilhaber is a proven-performer, and he allows Dempsey and Donovan to focus on scoring goals and combining with Altidore, rather than being tasked with providing all of the playmaking responsibilities.
LEFT MIDFIELDER: Clint DEMPSEY
Whether Clint Dempsey is playing as an attacking midfielder out on the left or playing as a second striker, his role is a fluid role built around passing and moving throughout the attack in an effort to score or set up goals. As the best American soccer player ever and the most skilled American player now, Clint Dempsey is an obvious inclusion in any USMNT Starting XI that is looking to have the United States playing its best soccer.
STRIKER: Jozy ALTIDORE
Jozy Altidore has shown that he has blossomed into a more-refined striker with improved technical-skill and better movement off the ball; Altidore has also become a more aggressive striker and a more ruthless finisher who can score with both feet and his head. Altidore’s scoring drought with Sunderland is a product of no longer playing for a team like AZ Alkmaar that places a premium on quality passing and good technical play. Sunderland’s poor form doesn’t change the fact that Altidore has become a complete striker who brings skill, athleticism, and size to the front of the American attack.
USMNT Starting XI (4-2-3-1):
Guzan; Yedlin/Farrell, O’Neill, Brooks, Klute; Cameron, Bradley; Donovan, Feilhaber, Dempsey; Altidore.