The U.S. National Team needs to win the next two World Cup qualifiers to qualify automatically for the World Cup. The U.S. faces off against Panama and Trinidad and Tobago in games the team should win. Nevertheless, the squad has been underperforming as of late.
Coach Bruce Arena must correct the team’s poor passing and play by altering the lineup or formation or both. Arena has started lineups the last two games without an attacking midfielder or playmaker, and it has shown.
There has been a big gap in between the central midfielders and the forwards, which has led to the creation of very few scoring chances. Arena has the personnel available to fix this problem, which is a bigger problem than the defense.
The coach can start Christian Pulisic as the playmaker beneath the strikers. He can also start Benny Feilhaber or Lee Nguyen. Both are proven playmakers at the international level: Feilhaber more so.
Arena will also have to address the problems with the center of the defense. The coach will be without at least one of the team’s two starting center backs, John Brooks, but he has a capable replacement in Matt Besler.
The U.S. has the players needed to get the job done at the other positions: goalkeeper, the outside backs, the midfielders, and the forwards. Brian Sciaretta of American Soccer Now has done a preliminary predicted roster for the U.S. National Team.
So who should Arena select for this U.S. National Team roster? Here are the players World Soccer Source would select:
Goalkeepers: Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Brad Guzan (Atlanta United), Ethan Horvath (Brugge)
Center Backs: Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Matt Besler (Sporting KC), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas), Tim Ream (Fulham)
Without John Brooks, Arena will have to go with a second-choice option, and Matt Besler has performed well enough at left center back. On the other hand, Omar Gonzalez has looked a step too slow for international play. The U.S. will need to roll the dice on either Walker Zimmerman or Steve Birnbaum, but is it really rolling the dice if they’ve performed well for the U.S. before?
Outside Backs: DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), Justin Morrow (Toronto FC)
DeAndre Yedlin is back from injury, so that gives the U.S. a starting right back. Jorge Villafaña has always performed well for the U.S. at left back. He is always really involved in the attack and build up play, and he does his job defensively. He even made an important recovery and clearance in his own penalty box in one of the last qualifiers. Villafaña also has developed a nice relationship with Nagbe down the left. For his backup at left back, Justin Morrow has demonstrated that he can provide some of the same attacking qualities along the left sideline.
Midfielders: Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Benny Feilhaber (Sporting KC), Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Paul Arriola (DC United)
The insertion of Benny Feilhaber and Lee Nguyen will be key for the United States with Sebastian Lletget injured. Nguyen can also play on either wing, and he has 10 goals this season as a midfielder. Arena must fix the U.S.’ poor passing and lack of creativity besides Christian Pulisic and Clint Dempsey. There needs to be a link between the midfield and the attack.
Several young American center midfielders have been performing well, but there isn’t room for them right now. These midfielders are Weston McKinney who is starting in the Bundesliga for Schalke, and Jonathan Gonzalez who is starting for Monterrey in Mexico. Tyler Adams of the New York Red Bulls has also impressed with his skill and smooth athleticism. He also has a lot of fighting spirit like the other two.
Kellyn Acosta is too good at this point to exclude, and even his free kick ability is a testament to his technical ability. Michael Bradley also needs his support deeper in the midfield. It feels a little wrong to leave Fabian Johnson out, but it’s important to get both Feilhaber and Nguyen on the roster. As started above, Nguyen can also play on both wings.
Forwards: Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Bobby Wood (Hamburg), Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution)
The United States is strong at forward. Jordan Morris is injured, and the U.S. will miss his direct play, speed, and scoring ability. Nevertheless, he is still likely a sub for Bobby Wood who has the same qualities, plus he starts in the Bundesliga. Not starting Clint Dempsey is a mistake, but we will see if Arena makes it again. Having him on the bench is borderline reckless for Arena.
With this U.S. National Team roster, who would World Soccer Source start?
USA XI (4-1-2-1-2): Howard; Yedlin, Cameron, Besler, Villafaña; Bradley; Acosta, Feilhaber; Pulisic; Dempsey, Wood.