Who Should the U.S. National Team Select for the October World Cup Qualifiers?

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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.

Matt Doyle of MLS has also put out a roster prediction.

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.



Max Bretos & Herculez Gomez’s Opinion of the Alexi Lalas Rant

After Alexi Lalas’ rant at halftime of the Seattle Sounders and L.A. Galaxy game, Max Bretos and Herculez Gomez had a field day with the former player’s comment on the Max & Herc podcast for ESPN.

In the podcast, Gomez also shared his thoughts on Craig Burley of ESPN’s view of the U.S. team. Gomez described the Lalas rant as ‘over the top.’ For his part, Bretos didn’t seem to have a problem in general with the comments or their targets. Bretos did point out that Lalas’ comments were very pointed.



Speaking about Burley, Gomez had this to say:

“Our ESPN colleague Craig Burley and I had a discussion on (ESPN)FC, and you have to understand. These guys are showman. Craig doesn’t want to talk about CONCACAF. He doesn’t want to talk about the league…so he changes the narrative to what he wants to talk about.”

He went on further to say:

“Craig couldn’t name the squad. He couldn’t name the players. He doesn’t care. He plays his persona, and that’s why he’s successful at what he does” Speaking about Lalas, Gomez had this to say: “To me this feels like a cop out. It feels like a cheap plagiarism. A little over the top.”

Gomez separated himself from other American soccer analysts by not being afraid to question the actual knowledge of a non-American pundit. Part of Burley’s worldview is that there is no real soccer played in CONCACAF, and Gomez essentially called him willfully ignorant. Instead of actually talking about the team and the players, Burley will just talk in sweeping generalizations about the U.S. team while forcing whomever he is speaking to to answer “yes or no” questions without allowing the person to give a nuanced answer.

Already we see Gomez as an analyst and pundit who isn’t intimidated or bullied around by pundits from Europe or the British Isles. He knows his soccer, and he’s not shy about calling a colleague out for not knowing enough on a certain topic. Gomez was pointing out how Burley’s opinion shouldn’t matter if he doesn’t know the team or the players and doesn’t want to know.

Now looking at Gomez’s comments about Lalas, it certainly wasn’t plagiarism by Lalas. Lalas sounded off on various players for specific reasons, whereas Burley just talked about the same topic of the U.S. national team.

Gomez gave specific retorts to all of Lalas’ player attacks. He argued that goalkeeper wasn’t a position where the U.S. was weak. The former player contended that Lalas wasn’t specific about how Bradley could play better. He also shared his opinion that Altidore’s scoring record speaks for itself.

Gomez went on to say this about Lalas:

“It’s over the top from Alexi. He’s pandering. He’s playing to the crowd when he says it’s dark days indeed. He didn’t say it when the U.S. beat Honduras in… what was it? 6-0 in San Jose? Then they went to Panama and they tied, and the U.S. did not play well. And he didn’t say that. He says it now because of the Costa Rica game. The U.S. whenever they go on the road they don’t play well. Nobody plays well on the road. They all just get results. They all just try to get results.”

And the most personal aspect of his response to Lalas was, “Alexi Lalas was known more for his look than his play.”

Gomez laced into Lalas a little more when he said, “There’s a sentiment with the players that that whole 94’ class is still in a way bitter that they didn’t get their due.”

Unlike Gomez, Bretos found Lalas’s comments more entertaining than controversial. Bretos knows much more about world soccer and American soccer than most in the United States, and his opinions and thoughts were insightful and accurate as usual. He was right to point out that Lalas’ comments were nothing compared to what people say in other countries about their clubs and national teams where he said pundits ‘empty the chamber’ when criticizing.

Despite all of Gomez’s various critiques of both Lalas and Burley’s comments about the U.S. team, Gomez declared the result of Lalas’ rant good.

Why Alexi Lalas’ U.S. National Team Rant Was Great for American Soccer

Alexi Lalas’ rant about the U.S. National Team poor play against Costa Rica and Honduras was just what the doctor ordered for U.S. soccer because the remarks were entertaining and funny without being overly personal or insulting. They were a little personal and insulting, but not overly so.

The delivery of his takes tended toward the mean, but they weren’t off base or wrong.

His comments should inspire some more specific discussion of the play of the various U.S. players instead of U.S. Soccer trying to tell the media and fans that they aren’t allowed to have an opinion. Even Max Bretos, who is discussed below, pointed out how there’s a fear that any criticism of U.S. Soccer would create a toxic relationship with the federation.

Lalas’ rant was funny, and if you didn’t think so, then you might be too uptight. It was after all a staged performance with the desired effect of getting more discussion of the U.S.’s play.

Tim Howard was criticized for not making a save. Geoff Cameron was criticized for a sloppy pass. Clint Dempsey was criticized for not leading. Michael Bradley was criticized for not playing well enough. Jozy Altidore was criticized for not playing up to his potential.

The comments were insulting, but they didn’t feel too insulting.

There is a definite feeling that Lalas in a way made it acceptable for the American press to be more critical of the U.S.’s play. Despite this, Lalas’ comments were not well received by Greg Vanney, the coach of Toronto FC.

It was telling how Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore’s coach for Toronto FC complained about Lalas’ right to criticize his players in public. Criticizing soccer players’ play during a soccer broadcast is ubiquitous around the world, but some felt Lalas, a soccer analyst and commentator, didn’t have the right to share his soccer opinions. To be fair, Lalas’ comments were delivered in a Piers Morgan-esque meanness.


Maybe the Lalas rant will inspire some more specific and advance discussion of the United States’ play in the future instead of so many people throwing up resistence to anyone’s right to critique the U.S.’s play.

Until now, it has felt like U.S. Soccer (The United States Soccer Federation) and the players have tried to tell everyone that nobody else in the U.S. knows anything about soccer. Bradley in particular under both Jürgen Klinsmann and Bruce Arena has tried very hard to dismiss any observations that the media or fans have made about the team’s play.


Recent United States Passing Problems Fixable with Formation Change

The United States Men’s National Team played poorly against Costa Rica and Honduras, but the problems are fixable with a formation change. Bruce Arena used the 4-4-2 formation for both games, and there was little creativity or team passing.

Christian Pulisic was left to carry most of the creative load from a wide position in both games, and his individual dribbling was impressive. Without Clint Dempsey starting against Costa Rica, the United States had very few ideas or combination play in the final third.

Passing was the real problem against both opponents, despite the defense understandably getting much of the blame.

The United States Finally Faced Appropriate Domestic Criticism for their style of play and performance

Plenty of pundits, journalists, and fans laced into the United States for their poor performances, and none more so than Alexi Lalas. Lalas was clearly looking for his rant to go viral and rile people up. Nevertheless, nothing in the rant was really off base. Tim Howard, Michael Bradley, Geoff Cameron, and Clint Dempsey were taken to task for various reasons.

Howard was criticized for not saving the first goal against Costa Rica, and Cameron for a bad pass, which led to a goal. Bradley’s zen mentality was questioned, presumably because he always tries to appear calm and level-headed. Dempsey’s leadership was oddly questioned as he only started the second game.

Bruce Arena’s Tactics Have Been Bad Recently

Despite the Lalas rant, Arena got his tactics wrong in both games. By using the 4-4-2, the United States had no playmaking in the center of the midfield against Costa Rica. A 4-2-3-1 formation against Honduras would have given the United States more midfield defending in the second game. But Arena went with the 4-4-2 again resulting in the same problem.

Perhaps the problem was that Arena didn’t go with just one striker against Honduras when he added Kellyn Acosta as another center midfielder with Bradley. The same hole between the midfield and attack existed in both games, and Pulisic tried his best to make up for this.

Looking Toward the next World Cup Qualifiers

In the next World Cup qualifier, Arena should go with the 4-1-3-2 or the 4-2-3-1 formation in order to fix the creativity and passing weaknesses. Pulisic is certainly versatile enough to play wide in a fluid attacking three allowing he and Dempsey to move around.

Arena does have the option of calling up Lee Nguyen of the New England Revolution. With Sebastian Lletget and Kelyn Rowe injured, Nguyen along with Benny Feilhaber is the only playmaker with the skill set and pace to play at the international level. Both playmakers are proven at the international level.

Amidst all of the criticism of the U.S. team, the talent is still there to possess the ball well and score goals. Arena has reverted to the prehistoric 4-4-2 formation, but maybe he has come to his senses.

The United States should be able to put in a much better performance against Panama, and they will have to. To be on more solid World Cup qualifying ground, the U.S. needs all three points, and three more points against Trinidad and Tobago.

In a formation where Bradley and Acosta sit behind Nagbe, Dempsey, and Pulisic with Wood up top, the United States have no excuse for not keeping possession and scoring more easily.

The United States Must Start a Playmaker

The shambolic performances against Costa Rica and Honduras proved that the United States still needs a playmaker. At the very least, Bruce Arena needs to always actually play Christian Pulisic as a playmaker.

To be clear, Arena definitely fielded players that should have been able to keep possession and slice up Costa Rica and Honduras. The players definitely deserve the bulk of the blame.

Arena and the United States had a formula that worked. That formula was Michael Bradley as the lone defensive midfielder behind three attacking midfielders and two forwards. The U.S. players should have been able to adapt to the 4-4-2 formation and still possess the ball well, but they didn’t.

Against Costa Rica and Honduras, U.S. coach Arena went with the empty bucket formation, and the team’s passing suffered. In both games, Pulisic was playing wide without Mario Götze there to be the playmaker like at Borussia Dortmund.

Christian Pulisic Has Impressed as a Playmaker

Pulisic has been impressive in the past as a playmaker for the U.S. It’s hard to remember another American player besides Benny Feilhaber who showed real artistry and boldness in his final balls.

Probably the biggest evidence of Pulisic’s playmaking abilities for the U.S. was how in the past he knew exactly how to feed Clint Dempsey and executed it. Pulisic saw and executed passes to Dempsey a second or so faster than other American players were able to do. Pulisic has quickly chipped the defense to find Dempsey, and he has hit him on the break in stride.

Darlington Nagbe at Playmaker Hasn’t Worked

Arena has tried to force Darlington Nagbe into something of a playmaker role, but it doesn’t work. Nagbe doesn’t have many playmaking qualities. That’s not to say that Nagbe can’t pass. It’s simply saying that Nagbe doesn’t play the balls that Benny Feilhaber, Lee Nguyen, Sebastian Lletget, or Kelyn Rowe play.

Nagbe doesn’t dictate that the team play through him by presenting himself as a return passing option once he releases the ball. The Portland Timbers midfielder also doesn’t play the type of incisive passes needed to slice up an opponent.

Nagbe mostly makes dribbling forays, and he’s good for a spectacular goal every once in a while. Nevertheless, looking to orchestrate the team’s passing more is likely in his wheelhouse.

The United States Has Other Playmaker Options like Lee Nguyen

After seeing the United States’ inability to pass against both Costa Rica and Honduras, Arena would be wise to recall Lee Nguyen, who is a gifted playmaker who also has quickness and 1v1 skills. Nguyen also knows how to score. Nguyen can’t be accused of not having the pace or intensity needed for international play.

Even when Pulisic plays wing he will have plenty of freedom to cut inside and play centrally. Calling up Nguyen gives the United States both a backup playmaker and a playmaker to start if Pulisic plays wide.


Reaction to the United States 1-1 Tie with Honduras in World Cup Qualifying

The United States displayed no ability to pass the ball well or keep possession against Honduras on Tuesday, and only a handful of U.S. players looked like they were trying to win. The performance was so devoid of collective passing or positives that analysis of the game is virtually pointless.

Christian Pulisic, Clint Dempsey, and Jordan Morris played very direct from the beginning, and Kellyn Acosta was also looking to build up a passing rhythm and advance the ball with incisive forward passes.

Darlington Nagbe and Michael Bradley were not involved enough or impressive.

Pulisic was certainly direct and aggressive against Honduras, and the Borussia Dortmund midfielder pulled off at least two nutmegs while most of the team looked disinterested.

Dempsey and Acosta were involved and looking to keep possession and attack the goal, but Nagbe was virtually invisible without any trademark dribbling bursts. Morris starting at first striker was the other U.S. player who played like he wanted to win.

Where the goals came from

One again a defensive mistake caused a goal. Omar Gonzalez missed a tackle close to goal that allowed Honduras to score an easy goal at the far post, and he either didn’t have the pace to get down fast enough on his slide tackle or he just mistimed or whiffed his slide tackle. Bruce Arena still has Graham Zusi playing right back despite not really equipped to play the position at the international level, as Zusi is after all really a midfielder.

With some five minutes left, Bobby Wood brought a ball down off his chest and stabbed the ball off the bounce into the back of the net. It was a composed and cool finish off a bit of a melee after an excellent Kellyn Acosta free kick where Matt Besler kept the ball alive after a richochet.

Final Thoughts

All in all, not being able to keep possession and create more scoring chances against Honduras or any CONCACAF opponent for that matter is still unacceptable. The United States has the players to play better soccer, but there wasn’t enough urgency and directness against Honduras with the exception of several players. Nagbe was pretty flat for a player of his ability, and the outside backs didn’t provide much in the way of attacking down the sidelines.

Once again a 4-4-2 was used by the U.S. and there was a big gap between the midfield and the attack where Pulisic tried to fill the hole by attacking people off the dribble.

The United States had a formation that work, and it was an attacking formation where Bradley featured as the lone defensive midfielder behind three attacking midfielders and two forwards. Certainly, using a 4-2-3-1 would also work well with the U.S.’ talent pool, but reverting back to the 4-4-2 is causing the U.S.’s play under Arena to regress.


Isco Has Reached Superstar and World-Class Status

Isco recently destroyed Italy in a World Cup qualifier with two goals and one memorable, ruthless, and disrespectful sole-roll nutmeg on Marco Verratti, one of the best midfielders in the world. Isco’s two goals were against Gigi Buffon, perhaps the best goalkeeper of all time. One was a free kick with his right foot and one was a left-footed goal to the far post from the run of play that he created out of nothing.

After the loss to Italy and speaking to AS, Italy’s coach Gian Piero Ventura had this to say about Isco, “All I can think about is that nutmeg he pulled off in midfield – and the coolness and integrity you need to do something like that. When I saw it, all I could do was applaud – he’s a rival, he’s on the opposing team but I am just as much a lover of the beautiful things in this game as anyone.”

In the last year or so Isco has gone from an underappreciated star to a superstar playing for the best club team in the world. But, there wasn’t always room for Isco in Real Madrid’s starting lineup, but now Isco has become a player that Zidane cannot leave on the bench at Real Madrid. Rob Train’s article for ESPN FC linked to above was particularly entertaining and educational in detailing Isco’s rise.

The Spanish attacking midfielder used to be somewhat one-footed, favoring his right foot, but now he really uses left foot and scores with it.

His directness makes him deadly, and he quickly advances play with his dribbling or incisive passing. He also has a rocket of a shot, but his placement and mastery of ballstriking techniques is world class as well.

As good as Spain are and as many great players as they have, Isco is the best Spanish player unless Andrés Iniesta is feeling truly inspired, and like Iniesta Isco has a combination of world-class passing and dribbling ability that give him few equals.

Isco is now starting as the playmaker or Number 10 for both Spain and Real Madrid, and that shows you just how great he is.


Who Should the United States Start vs. Honduras in World Cup Qualifying?

“The United States are not good enough to be arrogant about how they play.” Those were Alejandro Moreno’s words for ESPN about the United States after the loss to Costa Rica, and it was presumptuous on Bruce Arena’s part to think Clint Dempsey didn’t need to start.

The last time the United States played Honduras the U.S. used a 4-1-3-2 formation, and using that set-up again makes sense. The U.S. should look to attack Honduras rather than trying to beef up their defending in the midfield. The injection of Dempsey with Christian Pulisic should improve the U.S.’s passing and attacking because Dempsey and Pulisic have a great understanding and thrive when playing together. Not using Pulisic as a playmaker feels like a mistake, and against Costa Rick, Arena had him out on the wing.

Geoff Cameron and Tim Ream were scapegoated for the U.S.’s loss to Costa Rica, but maybe starting the two center backs together again after they’ve just played together will pan out. Cameron and Ream were too far apart last game leaving the middle too open, but that’s an easy fix that they are well aware of.

Fabian Johnson and Darlington Nagbe were criticized last game, but Johnson was pretty active and aggressive in his passes and runs  into the final third. If Nagbe is reverted back to his left wing position where he can cut in from the left off the dribble and advance the ball into the attack, then he should be more effective than in the loss to Costa Rica where he played as a center midfielder without any real playmaking ability.

Here is World Soccer Source’s preferred lineup vs. Honduras on Tuesday:

Goalkeeper: Tim Howard

Right Back: Eric Lichaj

Center Back: Geoff Cameron

Center Back: Tim Ream

Left Back: Jorge Villafaña

Defensive Midfielder: Michael Bradley

Right Wing: Fabian Johnson

Center Attacking Midfielder: Christian Pulisic

Left Wing: Darlington Nagbe

Forward (First Striker): Bobby Wood

Forward (Second Striker): Clint Dempsey


Takeaways from 2-0 United States Loss to Costa Rica in World Cup qualifying

For some reason, right after the United States’ 2-0 loss to Costa Rica, Kasey Keller on ESPN declared that the United States hadn’t fouled Costa Rica enough. Many people have a hard time accepting the fact that better soccer with better passing and more technical ability directly leads to more wins. Bad passing and not a lack of fouling led to the U.S. loss.

Here are my takeaways from the USA’s 2-0 loss to Costa Rica in World Cup qualifying:

The United States’ passing against Costa Rica was poor

The U.S. didn’t seem capable of stringing more than two or three passes together against a Costa Rican side who bunkered. The space was there for the United States to play through balls or build up a passing rhythm, and Fabian Johnson, Darlingon Nagbe, and Christian Pulisic all had the dribbling ability to open up space for incisive passing and final balls.

Not starting Clint Dempsey took away the creativity and attacking threat of Pulisic and Dempsey playing together

Once Pulisic started playing for the United States with Clint Dempsey, the level of the U.S.’ creativity, technical ability, and attacking play improved dramatically. Why Bruce Arena would not field those two players together when he could is anyone’s guess. Surely, using Dempsey as a substitute when Arena doesn’t need to is a bad idea.

There’s also still a sense among too many that the United States is good enough to not really need Clint Dempsey, or at least there’s a sense that not playing him when he isn’t tired is some how a good idea.

Geoff Cameron and Tim Ream were scapegoated

The two U.S center backs didn’t play as bad as many people believed they did. Certainly a bad pass from Geoff Cameron allowed Marco Ureña to have something of a breakaway and score easily on Tim Howard for the second goal, but the first goal was something of a billiards shot from Ureña, which Howard probably should have stopped.

Darlington Nagbe isn’t a playmaker, and he didn’t provide incisive passes from his central midfield position

Darlington Nagbe has showcased plenty of individual dribbling skill and scoring ability, but he’s yet to showcase much in the way of final balls and through balls. This might be an area where Nagbe can improve, but he hasn’t shown himself to be a playmaker as of yet. When Arena used Nagbe out left, he was able to cut inside and blow past defenders, but as a central midfielder with Michael Bradley, he didn’t make sure that the team played through him. Pulisic is really more of a playmaker, and the 4-4-2 Arena used relegated Pulisic to too much of a wing role where Nagbe didn’t have the passing ability needed to pull the strings from the center of the midfield.

Bobby Wood’s movement, pace, and directness were on full display

The Hawaiian striker hit a couple of passes too heavy in the beginning of the game, but he did start combining well with his teammates and getting behind the Costa Rican defense. On at least two occasions, Wood blew by the Costa Rica defense, and on one of those occasions a non-existent foul was called on him, and on the other his shot was blocked by a Costa Rican defender immediately after it left his foot. Nevertheless, Wood was again showed how dangerous he is, and how the United States has never had another striker with his combination of pace, skill, and movement.

Fabian Johnson looked dangerous and active despite receiving criticism

On multiple occasions, Johnson played dangerous diagonal balls in front of the penalty box and continued his runs only to not receive the ball back. Johnson was active the whole game looking to push the pace and get the ball into Zone 14.


Who Should Start for the United States against Costa Rica in World Cup Qualifying?


The United States takes on Costa Rica in World Cup qualifying on Friday, and the biggest decisions for Bruce Arena will be in the defense with two of the four normal starters injured. The injuries are to right back DeAndre Yedlin and center back John Brooks.

Goal and Defense

Tim Howard should start in goal, but the right back selection is a tougher one. Arena has favored Graham Zusi at right back, even though this is Zusi’s first season playing his new position, but Eric Lichaj is the more experienced right back with years of playing professionally in England.

Geoff Cameron will be one of the two starting center backs, and Arena has to decide whether he’s going to start Omar Gonzalez with Cameron or whether Matt Besler or Tim Ream will start. Whoever will or should start with Cameron at center back is anyone’s guess, but Jorge Villafaña is the first-choice left back.


In the midfield, Michael Bradley will start as the lone defensive midfielder, and the United States appears set to start a line of three attacking midfielders again. Christian Pulisic will start as the center attacking midfielder, and Darlington Nagbe will start as the left wing. The right wing position is more of a toss up. On the one hand, Paul Arriola has been playing well for the U.S. recently at this position, but Fabian Johnson is widely regarded as one of the very best players in the pool. There’s a chance Alejandro Bedoya could start at right wing, but maybe Arriola has the inside track, based on his recent performances for the U.S. and D.C. United.


World Soccer Source favors Bobby Wood and Clint Dempsey starting as the two forwards. Nothing against Jozy Altidore, but Wood and Dempsey are the more fluid, active, and clinical players. Wood always looks more dangerous and direct than Altidore, and Dempsey is too good not to start.

Here’s who World Soccer Source thinks should start:

Goalkeeper- Tim Howard

Right Back- Eric Lichaj

Center Back- Geoff Cameron

Center Back- Tim Ream

Left Back- Jorge Villafaña

Defensive Midfielder- Michael Bradley

Right Wing- Paul Arriola

Center Attacking Midfielder

Left Wing- Darlington Nagbe

Forward- Bobby Wood

Forward- Clint Dempsey