Who Should the United States Start Against Mexico in World Cup qualifying?

Who Should the United States Start Against Mexico in World Cup qualifying?

Except for starting Jozy Altidore over Bobby Wood at center forward, coach Bruce Arena got his United States lineup right in the World Cup qualifying win over Trinidad and Tobago in Denver. The United States beat Trinidad and Tobago 2-0 as they should have, and the U.S. should obviously be playing for the win against Mexico in Mexico City.

Altidore played well for the United States in the last game where he even set up a goal, but Wood is the more dangerous player and the more difficult player to defend and contain. Arena also has the option of altering his formation, but he seems content with his 4-1-3-2 formation which has worked very well for the U.S. It’s even an attacking lineup, which the United States and Arena never used to use.

Wood over Altidore may be the only lineup change for the United States, and having Wood and Pulisic running at the Mexican defense in Azteca should be a more electric attack than the U.S. has ever fielded in Mexico’s enormous Azteca stadium in Mexico City. There is a possibility that Kellyn Acosta will start against Mexico with the logic being that the United States will need another center midfielder to keep possession and recovery possession, and both Bradley and Acosta cover a lot of territory.

Fabian Johnson didn’t play particularly well in either of the last two U.S. games, but nobody doubts his talent, speed, or experience. Nevertheless, Arena should play somebody over Johnson, and that somebody should be Acosta.

Using Acosta would alter the Americans’ formation, and just maybe Dempsey plays tucked in on the left rather than playing as a second striker. Pulisic moves all over the attack and all over the field for that matter, and rigidly confining Dempsey or Pulisic to wide or central roles on the field is a misunderstanding of how they play and how the sport is played.

A strong option for Arena against Mexico therefore is to insert Acosta into the lineup and not use a three-man defense with three center back, which is something the U.S. is comfortable enough with to really use against Mexico. Even though the U.S. just played Thursday, switching up the center backs or the defense at all feels risky. If a player or players get tired, then that’s what substitutes are for. Going with the 4-3-3 formation would help with the fatigue from the recent game since the 4-3-3 would have Nagbe, Bradley, and Acosta as a three-man midfield with three center midfielders to keep possession and recover possession, which would make for an attacking three of Pulisic, Wood, and Dempsey who are all fluid and versatile attackers who know how to move into space and show for the ball. Rather than trotting out some unproven and new defense, Arena should play a three-man midfield of Nagbe, Bradley, and Acosta

Here’s who World Soccer Source believes the United States should start against Mexico:

Goalkeeper: Tim Howard

Right Back: DeAndre Yedlin

Center Back: Geoff Cameron

Center Back: John Brooks

Left Back: Jorge Villafaña

Right Center Midfielder: Kellyn Acosta

Defensive Midfielder: Michael Bradley

Left Center Midfielder: Darlington Nagbe

Right Wing: Christian Pulisic

Center Forward: Bobby Wood

Left Wing: Clint Dempsey


Who Should the United States Select for the March World Cup Qualifying Roster?

Who Should the United States Select for the March World Cup Qualifying Roster?

Bruce Arena’s has a big decision to make when he selects the U.S. Men’s National Team for the March World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and Panama: how many of the new and impressive players will he give roster spots to?

There’s a possibility that all of the deserving new or newer players won’t all get a roster spot, if Arena feels more comfortable going with familiar regulars. Looking at the U.S.’ midfield, Arena needs Benny Feilhaber, Sebastian Lletget, Dax McCarty, Darlington Nagbe, and Kellyn Acosta all on the roster, but the American coach might insist on including the mediocre Alejandro Bedoya, who is something of a burning who offers little passing or quick combination play. There are also defenders like Walker Zimmerman, Steve Birnbaum, Eric Lichaj, and Jorge Villafaña who all offer qualities and skill-sets that the team needs, but several ineffective regular veterans could prevent them from receiving a roster spot.

Whatever starting lineup Arena plans on using dictates the rest of the roster because after planning on a certain lineup, the rest of the roster spots are substitutes for each of the 11 starters. Some of the roster spots are quite predictable – if Michael Bradley is the starting defensive midfielder, then Dax McCarty is the backup defensive midfielder, but other roster spots aren’t as clear-cut. If Christian Pulisic is the starting left wing, then is Darlington Nagbe or Sebastian Lletget the back-up, or is Lletget the starting right wing or box-to-box midfielder? Is Feilhaber or Sacha Kljestan going to play as the team’s Number 10, and if it’s Kljestan, which would be the wrong call, then will Arena include Feilhaber, Lletget, and Nagbe all on the roster?

In the defense, there are questions about who will be the backup center backs for Geoff Cameron and John Brooks. Will it be Gonzalez and Birnbaum, or will it be Birnbaum and Zimmerman? Will Matt Besler be called up?

There are tough decisions to be made in the attack as well. Should Arena call up Jordan Morris and Juan Agudelo, or is Jozy Altidore too experienced and still too young not to call up? Clint Dempsey and Bobby Wood have to be the starting forward pair, but Arena could insist on using Altidore and Dempsey and maybe crazily omit Wood from the lineup.

Who knows who the coach of the United States will select? But, here is a 23-man roster that is not exactly a prediction, but more of an opinion of which players should be selected:


Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, William Yarbrough


Geoff Cameron, John Brooks, Steve Birnbaum, Walker Zimmerman, DeAndre Yedlin, Eric Lichaj, Jorge Villafaña, Fabian Johnson


Michael Bradley, Dax McCarty, Kellyn Acosta, Benny Feilhaber, Sebastian Lletget, Darlington Nagbe, Christian Pulisic, Paul Arriola


Clint Dempsey, Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, Juan Agudelo


Who Will the USMNT Start vs. Panama?


Geoff Cameron (20. (Photo: USA Today Sports)
Geoff Cameron (20) will likely start at center back. (Photo: USA Today Sports)


In the United States’ final World Cup qualifier for the 2014 World Cup, for which it has already qualified, coach Jürgen Klinsmann has sent four players back to their club teams either due to injury or simply because he is going to rotate some of his other players into the starting line-up.

Against Panama, Klinsmann’s primary intention appears to evaluate or give playing time to some of the players who he already considers part of his best group of players but who aren’t starters. Klinsmann could either go with the 4-1-3-2 formation again, or he could revert back to the 4-2-3-1 formation.

Either way, one of the biggest questions is whether both Jozy Altidore and Aron Jóhannsson will start for the USMNT.

Both Jermaine Jones and Landon Donovan were released back to their club teams due to injury, but Matt Besler was sent back to his club team because Klinsmann is going to start Clarence Goodson in his place at center back instead.

Likewise, Tim Howard was sent back to Everton to allow Brad Guzan to receive some well-deserved minutes, and Guzan has already demonstrated on the club and international level that he has what it takes to be the starting keeper for the United States. While Howard is still the first-choice goalkeeper, Klinsmann needs to give Guzan some more playing time with the United States because he is roughly at the same level or higher than Howard, and the United States will need Guzan in the World Cup.

With these roster changes in mind, it would appear that the United States will likely start Brad Guzan in goal, Brad Evans at right back, Geoff Cameron and Clarence Goodson at center back, and DaMarcus Beasley or Edgar Castillo at left back.

Michael Orozco could possibly start at right back or possibly at center back, if Klinsmann wants to use Cameron as a defensive midfielder, but with Jermaine Jones and Matt Besler gone, Goodson and Cameron will probably start at center back with Kyle Beckerman at the defensive midfielder position.

There is also a possibility that Orozco could start at right back, but Klinsmann will likely start Evans, Cameron, Goodson, and Beasley as the defensive back four with Beckerman right in front of them as a midfield destroyer.

Panama’s speed and technical play could be a problem for players like Beckerman and Goodson, so Cameron might be without enough defensive support around him down the center of the field.

Given the lack of quality possession from the United States against Jamaica, Klinsmann could start Kljestan and Beckerman as a two-man defensive midfield, but the coach of the United States could just as easily simply instruct one of the other midfielders to provide Beckerman with some defensive support deeper in the midfield. There is also the possibility that Diskerud could line up next to Beckerman as the player who links Beckerman to the more attack-minded players.

In the United States Men’s National Team’s last game against Jamaica, the United States played without much conviction or intensity, and this, and not the 4-1-3-2 formation change was the likely culprit for the U.S.’ poor passing and general play.

The absence of Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey from the midfield resulted in a lack of quality possession and good passing, and even with Landon Donvon playing, Jozy Altidore, Aron Jóhannasson, and Mix Diskerud were constantly dropping deep to show for the ball, which diminished the ability of the United States to have Diskerud playing final balls for Altidore and Jóhannsson.

There was a disconnect in the American midfield against Jamaica, but with Beckerman presumably sitting back deeper against Panama than Jones did against Jamaica, Diskerud should be able to collect the ball from Beckerman and combine with Alejandro Bedoya and Graham Zusi or Sacha Kljestan in order to attempt to feed Altidore and Jóhannsson a steady stream of passes in the final third.

All in all, Klinsmann could use a 4-2-3-1 where Jóhannsson lines up out wide merely on paper, or Klinsmann could use the 4-1-3-2 formation again given the fact that Beckerman hangs back much deeper when playing for the United States than Jones tends to do.

The United States will likely start both Altidore and Jóhannsson again, which would mean that the likely Starting XI will be as follows:


Despite the line-up prediction above, the United States could decide to give Terrence Boyd a start up top, but it’s important that Diskerud, Altidore, and Jóhannsson build some chemistry.

World Soccer Source doesn’t feel that Beckerman or Goodson have the athleticism to keep up with the quick and skilled attackers that the United States will see at the World Cup, so this game against Panama should be used to see how Orozcco does at center back and how Cameron can do playing as the lone defensive midfielder.

For this writer, there’s no real point in giving Goodson or Beckerman minutes against Panama, even though they will both likely start. Goodson and Beckerman are fundamentally-sound players, but they lack the combination of skill and athleticism that the United States will need in the 2014 World Cup.

But, working within the constraints of the roster, this writer would like to see a  4-1-2-1-2 Starting XI as follows:



USMNT Announces 20-Man October Roster



Aron Jóhannsson (Photo: AZ Alkmaar)
Aron Jóhannsson (Photo: AZ Alkmaar)

With the United States Men’s National Team already qualified for the 2014 World Cup, Jürgen Klinsmann selected 20 players for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers, and he will presumably call up three more players in order to have a 23-man roster.

It will be interesting to see which three players Klinsmann calls up in the coming days, but this most recent roster is again without any of the new, young American talents who would appear to have the tools to strengthen the United States at various positions.

Below is the United States Men’s National Team roster selected by Jürgen Klinsmann:

GOALKEEPERS: Tim HOWARD (Everton), Brad GUZAN (Aston Villa), Nick RIMANDO (Real Salt Lake)

CENTER BACKS: Geoff CAMERON (Stoke City), Matt BESLER (Sporting Kansas City), Omar GONZALEZ (LA Galaxy)

OUTSIDE BACKS: Brad EVANS (Seattle Sounders), Edgar CASTILLO (Tijuana), DaMarcus BEASLEY (Puebla)

DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDERS: Jermaine JONES (Schalke), Kyle BECKERMAN (Real Salt Lake)

ATTACKING MIDFIELDERS: Mix DISKERUD (Rosenborg), Graham ZUSI (Sporting Kansas City), Alejandro BEDOYA (Nantes), Sacha KLJESTAN (Anderlecht)

FORWARDS: Jozy ALTIDORE (Sunderland), Aron JÓHANNSSON (AZ Alkmaar), Terrence BOYD (Rapid Wien), Eddie JOHNSON (Seattle Sounders), Landon DONOVAN (LA Galaxy)

INJURED: Clint DEMPSEY (Seattle Sounders), Michael BRADLEY (Roma), Fabian JOHNSON (Hoffenheim), John Anthony BROOKS (Hertha Berlin)

Below is U.S. Soccer’s official roster announcement:


A close examination of the roster reveals that it contains no natural outside backs, and that it contains only two center backs and two defensive midfielders with Geoff Cameron increasing those numbers to three center backs and three defensive midfielders.

Cameron normally plays out of position at right back for Stoke City, but Klinsmann has favored using Brad Evans at right back over DeAndre Yedlin, Andrew Farrell, Jonathan Spector, and Eric Lichaj – all of whom have never been called up or used by Klinsmann.

Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Fabian Johnson, and John Anthony Brooks are all out injured (at this time), but Klinsmann has selected a strong group of forwards including Jozy Altidore, Aron Jóhannsson, Terrence Boyd, Eddie Johnson, and Landon Donovan, who is the only one of the forwards who isn’t a first striker.

Until Klinsmann calls up the final three players up to the national team to take the roster to 23 players, not too many conclusions can be made about the amount of players selected for each position, but the pattern of not using natural outside backs and the pattern of not incorporating new talent into the USMNT continues to be disconcerting.

One of the major flaws with the roster and Klinsmann’s coaching is that Klinsmann continues to say that he’s trying to strengthen his best group of players, but his starting line-ups are frequently characterized by inserting Geoff Cameron at a different position almost every game, which negatively affects the ability of the national team to build chemistry.

Predicting the USMNT’s Starting XIs under Klinsmann has proved to be more difficult than predicting his rosters, and the real problem with predicting the starting line-up for the upcoming games is whether or not he will start Bedoya or Zusi and who he will start up top.

Predicting the Back Four seems easy enough, unless Klinsmann wants to test out Cameron with Besler as a center back pairing. The likely Back Four is Evans, Gonzalez, Besler, and Beasley.

Based on the 20 players who have been called up to the national team so far (with Dempsey, Bradley, and F. Johnson injured) as well as Klinsmann’s tendencies, Klinsmann’s likely starting line-up may be as follows:

Howard/Guzan; Evans, Gonzalez, Besler, Beasley; Cameron; Jones, Diskerud; Donovan; Altidore, Jóhannsson.

It’s very possible that both Jóhannsson and Altidore will start for the United States, which would either mean that one less defensive midfielder starts or that Jóhannsson lines up as an attacking midfielder, just on paper.

More answers about the line-up options will come when the final three roster spots are handed out, and these three roster spots could drastically change the likely Starting XI or not affect it at all.


October 2013 USMNT Roster Proposal


Joe Benny Corona (Photo: Evan Habeeb/USA TODAY Sports)
Joe Benny Corona (Photo: Evan Habeeb/USA TODAY Sports)


Since the United States has already qualified for the 2014 World Cup and since Jürgen Klinsmann is frequently fond of talking about throwing players into the cold water, he might as well use the upcoming World Cup qualifiers to let the new or young talents in the player pool join the Polar Bear Club with swan dives and cannonballs.

As the United States Men’s National Team has already qualified for the 2013 World Cup, Klinsmann should use the final two World Cup qualifiers to test the player pool, in order to see who should start or be on the roster with the U.S.’ strongest players like Tim Howard, Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Geoff Cameron, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Jozy Altidore, and Aron Jóhannsson.

On the other hand, another coaching philosophy would be to use a mixture of the best of the most-proven players with new players.

World Soccer Source proposes calling up the following players to test out the depth and talent of the American player pool:


CENTER BACKS (4): John Anthony BROOKS, Shane O’NEILL, Andrew FARRELL, Amobi OKUGO






USMNT Starting XI Proposal: 

Guzan; Yedlin/Farrell, O’Neill, Brooks, Klute; Cameron, Joya; Corona, Hernandez, Diskerud; Agudelo/Boyd.



Since the United States has already qualified for the 2014 World Cup, there’s no reason to call up Tim Howard, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Fabian Johnson, Jozy Altidore, or Aron Jóhannsson because all of these players have thoroughly demonstrated an ability to perform at the highest level.

These October World Cup qualifiers should be used to test out newer players who have demonstrated a real potential to possibly improve the United States Men’s National Team.

Geoff Cameron, Andrew Farrell, Amobi Okugo, and Shane O’Neill play at least one more position than where they’ve been designated in the roster listed above. Cameron, Farrell, and O’Neill play center back, outside back, and defensive midfielder, whereas Okugo plays as a center back or as a defensive midfielder.

Since Cameron could use some minutes as a defensive midfielder with the national team, World Soccer Source has proposed calling him up to this roster, which is without many of the regular U.S. starters.

Gyasi Zardes is a striker that has been frequently playing as a wing for the LA Galaxy this season, and José Villarreal can play as a second striker or as an attacking midfielder.

Proven-performers like Benny Feilhaber, Jonathan Spector, Eric Lichaj, and Freddy Adu fall into a different category than the players listed above as players who have performed at the highest level under Klinsmann because Feilhaber, Spector, Lichaj, and Adu are players Klinsmann has simply frozen out of the national team without a clear reason, even when he needed them.

The point of these October World Cup qualifiers should be to see who should start with players like Geoff Cameron, Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Jozy Altidore, and Aron Jóhannsson.

The United States needs a right back, a left back, a center back, and a playmaker, but the United States also needs to know the best group of 23 players and the best Starting XI. There’s no way to learn these things without testing out players in the upcoming World Cup qualifiers and friendlies, and the United States has already qualified for the 2014 World Cup, which allows Klinsmann to focus on evaluating players more than the result of the games.


Klinsmann’s USMNT Options For October Qualifiers


Joe Benny Corona. (Photo: MexSport)
Joe Benny Corona. (Photo: MexSport)


Despite the possibility of Michael Bradley and John Anthony Brooks still being injured, Jürgen Klinsmann still has a lot of new options for the United States Men’s National Team’s October World Cup qualifiers.

A prudent decision for the future success of the USMNT is for Klinsmann to start many of the proven players who he has chosen to snub in the past, but he should fill the rest of the roster with new players that need to be given experience.

The math on this is simple; Klinsmann has 11 starting line-ups spots that he can reserve for some of the more-experienced American players who he has chosen to not use, and he has 12 roster spots for the new talents in American soccer.

The other alternative is to use the same roster outlined above but start the new players.

If Klinsmann wants to start more-proven players, then this is a topic that can be discussed with specificity.

For example, Klinsmann could start Brad Guzan in goal with Jonathan Spector at right back, Shane O’Neill and Michael Orozco at center back, and Eric Lichaj at left back.

In front of them, Klinsmann can start Geoff Cameron as a defensive midfielder with Joe Benny Corona, Benny Feilhaber, and Mix Diskerud as a line of three attacking midfielders.

Up top, Klinsmann could start Juan Agudelo (if he’s healthy) or Terrence Boyd with Aron Jóhannsson.

The line-up proposed above leaves 11 or 12 roster spots open for Klinsmann, depending on the health of Agudelo.

Starting in the defense, the obvious names are DeAndre Yedlin, Chris Klute, and Andrew Farrell.

This leaves eight or nine roster spots (depending on whether or not Agudelo is healthy) for goalkeepers, midfielders, and forwards.

If there are eight roster spots, calling up Nick Rimando and some other goalkeeper like Clint Irwin, Dan Kennedy, Sean Johnson, Luis Robles, or Tally Hall leaves six more roster spots to fill.

For the final six roster spots, Perry Kitchen as a defensive midfielder, Amobi Okugo as a center back and defensive midfielder, Benji Joya as a midfielder who plays as an attacking midfielder or as a box-to-box midfielder, José Villarreal as a forward or attacking midfielder, Joe Gyau as a winger or forward, and Freddy Adu as midfielder or forward (it’s time for Klinsmann to check in with Adu).

The roster proposed above includes three goalkeepers, four outside backs, four center backs, four forwards, five attacking midfielders, three defensive or box-to-box midfielders (plus Shane O’Neill and Geoff Cameron).

To be clear, the USMNT could start the following fairly-experienced XI below:

Guzan; Spector, O’Neill, Orozco, Lichaj; Cameron; Corona, Feilhaber, Diskerud; Agudelo/Boyd, Jóhannsson.

On the bench, the USMNT would have the following players available:

Rimando, Irwin/Kennedy/Robles/S. Johnson/Hall, Yedlin, Klute, Farrell, Kitchen, Okugo, Joya, Villarreal, Gyau, Adu.

Starting Guzan in goal with Spector, O’Neill, Orozco, and Lichaj forming the Back Four should be a strong enough defense to win or at least they should be strong enough to win.

In front of them, Cameron as a defensive midfielder behind a line of three attacking midfielders (Corona, Feilhaber, Diskerud) should be a midfield with a strong defender and good passer patrolling the back with three creative midfielders helping the United States to maintain possession and set up goals.

Up top, Agudelo or Boyd with Jóhannsson is a potent young strike force who at the very least should cause problems for all but the very best of international defenders.

These forwards still have room to improve, but all three of them are real threats on the international level. There is no reason to think that they aren’t capable of easily scoring against CONCACAF opposition unless they simply don’t receive enough service.

Something similar to the roster and starting line-up proposed in this article combines the best of both worlds for the United States Men’s National Team: more-experienced players that Klinsmann hasn’t favored as starters with new talents who can gain experience and help to strengthen the national team.

On the other hand, if Klinsmann wanted to use mainly new and/or younger players, then he could start the following XI:

Guzan; Yedlin, Farrell, O’Neill, Klute; Cameron, Joya; Adu, Feilhaber, Corona; Agudelo/Boyd/Jóhannsson.

What Jürgen Klinsmann really needs to learn is whether or not he’s been using the best players and if the new talents or some of the out of favor talents can improve the ability of the USMNT to better compete or win at the highest level against better national teams.

The coach of the United States enjoys using the metaphor about tossing players into the cold water, and with the 2014 World Cup approaching next summer, it’s time to see who the best American soccer players are and prepare them for the big stage.



Why the USMNT lost to Costa Rica

From an American perspective, the loss to Costa Rica was largely blamed on the pre-game injury to Michael Bradley, which crippled the United States Men’s National Team’s ability to maintain possession and win the battle for control of the midfield, but the absence of natural outside backs and a playmaker were equally to blame.

Even without Bradley, the duo of Geoff Cameron and Jermaine Jones was missing a playmaker to link them to attacking midfielders like Graham Zusi, Landon Donovan, and Fabian Johnson, and Clint Dempsey was stranded up top out of position as the lone striker.

This tactical set-up left the United States without any outlet for Cameron and Jones who could feed the attack. In many ways, there was an abyss between Cameron and Jones and players like Donovan, Johnson, Zusi, and Dempsey.

With the injury to Michael Bradley before kickoff, Jürgen Klinsmann would have been wise to use an out and out striker like Eddie Johnson or Aron Jóhannsson with Mix Diskerud linking Cameron and Jones to Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, and whichever striker Klinsmann selected.

Klinsmann received all of the praise for the United States’ 12-game winning streak, so it’s fair to question his line-up decision, which showed an inability to recognize the necessity of a playmaker like Diskerud to link up the defensive midfielders with the attackers.

A wise decision would have been to start a Front Six of Geoff Cameron, Jermaine Jones, Landon Donovan, Mix Diskerud, Clint Dempsey, and Aron Jóhannsson as soon as the injury to Michael Bradley happened.

While Michael Bradley is a defensive midfielder and a strong tackler who covers a lot of territory with tireless running, he has always been a skilled passer and smooth on the ball, and over time, his technical ability has improved to the point that he himself can link the more defensive midfielders to the attacking midfielders.

In many ways, this ability to link up the defense and the deeper midfielders to players like Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan made many people including Klinsmann think that the United States didn’t need a playmaker, but Bradley could still greatly benefit from a playmaker to give him a link between himself and Dempsey and Donovan downfield.

Jürgen Klinsmann chose to not call up Joe Benny Corona, and he chose to not use Mix Diskerud who he did call up. Both of these players could have helped to maintain more possession in the midfield, and the use of Clint Dempsey as a first striker was a truly poor decision. Only Spain plays without a striker at times, but Spain also uses three playmakers at the same time: Xavi, Andrés Iniesta, and Cesc Fàbregas.

With Jóhannsson playing well for AZ Alkmaar and given the fact that he proved his international abilities against Bosnia and Herzegovina, not starting him at first striker with Jozy Altidore still returning to 100% fitness was very misguided.

These problems outlined above are more of the reasons that the United States lost to Costa Rica 3-1 than the play of Michael Orozco at right back, as Orozco was frequently left with no support from Graham Zusi who allowed midfielders to simply run past him and feed passes into space behind Orozco.

Orozco wasn’t even responsible for a single Costa Rican goal. Costa Rica roamed free in the midfield and bossed the game, and this allowed them to put the United States on their heels for the entire game.

One way to look at this game is that when the United States faced the CONCACAF team that was the closest to them in the World Cup qualifying standings, Klinsmann’s makeshift defensive back fours and players like Graham Zusi simply didn’t cut it.

The loss of Michael Bradley before the game was a big loss, but having Cameron, Jones, Donovan, Diskerud, Dempsey, and Jóhannsson as a Front Six could have been enough to still play well even without the Roma defensive midfielder.

Cameron filled in for one of the defensive midfield roles, but Klinsman did nothing to address the problem, which was obvious before the game started: Who is going to connect my defensive midfielders to my attacking players?

The beginning of Jürgen Klinsmann’s tenure as coach of the United States was a time when Klinsmann emphasized how every player in a Starting XI had a unique role to play and that each of his first-choice players needed a quality second-choice option to not only give them competition but also to cover for them if injuries occurred.

An injury to Bradley occurred, and Klinsmann lacked the good sense to either use Dempsey and Donovan to connect the defensive midfielders to a striker like Jóhannsson or Eddie Johnson or to use Diskerud to provide the link to the U.S.’ best attackers.

It was just one loss, but Jürgen Klinmann’s Jericho Walls and his false sense of security have come tumbling down. Klinsmann needs to rethink his tactics, his player selections, and his opinion of playmakers, especially when Michael Bradley goes down injured.

Klinsmann and the United States can still defeat Mexico on Tuesday if Klinsmann selects a more balanced and a better line-up to face Mexico than the one he selected to face Costa Rica, and someone with Klinsmann’s playing resume has to already know that he needs someone to help the American midfield enjoy more possession than it did against Costa Rica.


Who Should the USMNT Start vs. Costa Rica?


The Starting XI that Jürgen Klinsmann would use and the Starting XI that the USMNT should use are two different things.

Just because Klinsmann was an outstanding player doesn’t mean that all of his coaching preferences and decisions are correct. Much of the improvement of the overall play of the United States is due to the continuing improvement of players like Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, and Jozy Altidore.

Nevertheless, it is possible to make an educated guess about the Starting XI that Klinsmann will use. Tim Howard is the first-choice American goalkeeper, and Klinsmann has essentially stated that he will be using DaMarcus Beasley as a left back.

Predicting the other three members of the Back Four is harder to do because Klinsmann used Geoff Cameron and John Anthony Brooks as center backs against Bosnia and Herzegovina, but before he was starting Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler.

Klinsmann’s first-choice right back has been Brad Evans, but Evans was replaced by Michael Parkhurst due to injury. Even though Parkhurst was given Evans’ roster spot, Klinsmann could start Geoff Cameron or Michael Orozco at right back.

As the United States is looking to cap-tie John Anthony Brooks to the United States, Brooks could either start at center back or be used as a substitute. Either way, it’s hard to guess which two center backs will start.

Assuming Klinsmann continues to use the 4-2-3-1 formation, Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley will be used as the defensive midfield tandem, and the assumption has to be that Klinsmann starts Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, and Fabian Johnson as a line of three attacking midfielders behind Jozy Altidore (unless he is still injured).

Klinsmann’s line of three attacking midfielders is set-up to use second strikers and free-roaming attacking midfielders as playmakers, as opposed to starting a playmaker like Mix Diskerud in between Donovan and Dempsey.

There is an additional possibility to consider, which is that Klinsmann could possibly not start Donovan as a right attacking midfielder because he wants to use Graham Zusi who was playing in that position when Donovan was away from the national team.

All of these guesses and assumptions paint the picture of a Starting XI made up of Tim Howard, Michael Parkhurst, Geoff Cameron or Omar Gonzalez, John Anthony Brooks or Matt Besler, DaMarcus Beasley, Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Fabian Johnson, and Jozy Altidore or Aron Jóhannsson or Eddie Johnson.

Keeping in mind that Klinsmann could decide to use Cameron or Orozco at right back and that Klinsmann could use a different center back combination, the players above are a safe bet to line-up in a 4-2-3-1 against Costa Rica.

Klinsmann Likely Starting XI is the one below:


On the other hand, it’s worth exploring whether or not Klinsmann’s likely XI is really the best one for the USMNT to use.

Firstly, Klinsmann’s likely line-up relies on Dempsey and Donovan, who are free-roaming attacking midfielders or second strikers, to be playmakers, which is not really their strength.

Both players can deliver final balls and set-up goals, but Donovan and Dempsey are best used when played off a playmaker where they are free to look to make runs to get into scoring positions.

In short, both players excel more at getting into position to be on the receiving end of final balls than on actually delivering the final balls.

The problem with the Jones and Bradley pairing is that when one player goes forward, the other player won’t immediately drop back to allow the other player to go forward by himself.

The best policy would be for both players to pick their openings to go forward and as soon as the other one saw that his counterpart was going forward to then drop back to protect the area in front of the defensive back four.

When Geoff Cameron and Michael Bradley were the defensive midfield duo, Cameron simply told Bradley that he would play the deeper and more defensive role so that Bradley could be more involved in the attack.

Cameron seemed to flourish in this set-up because it allowed him to be more involved in the passing play of the United States, and it allowed him to use his athleticism to cover a lot of ground in the midfield.

Cameron was more involved in the game as a midfield destroyer than he was a center back where he was often left with both Bradley and Jones too far up field to provide him with any protection from the opposition’s attackers.

A very strong argument can be made that using Geoff Cameron and Michael Bradley together as the defensive midfielders allows for a more balanced USMNT that also keeps possession better than when both Bradley and Jones are fighting to be more involved in the attack.

Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler have given many people a false sense of security about the strength of the center of the American defense, when in fact neither center back has really proved themselves against higher-level competition.

Much of the praise of both center backs comes from the United States’ tie with Mexico, but many people seem to forget that both Michael Bradley and Maurice Edu were playing very deep to protect Besler and Gonzalez. It almost looked like the United States was using four center backs against Mexico.

The problems with Klinsmann’s Starting XIs don’t stop with the center backs or the defensive midfielders, there are also a lot of question marks about the preferred outside backs and the preferred line of three attacking midfielders.

Whereas Klinsmann will probably start Donovan, Dempsey, and Fabian Johnson as a line of three attacking midfielders, the USMNT might be better off to start Diskerud as a playmaker to provide the link between the defensive midfielders and players like Donovan, Dempsey, and Altidore who are focused on scoring or getting into the penalty box to disrupt the defense.

Despite the United States’ winning streak, Klinsmann might be wise to make some adjustments to his preferred Starting XI, and these adjustments are all things that Klinsmann has already used with success. Klinsmann has used Cameron and Bradley together with success. Klinsmann has used Fabian Johnson over DaMarcus Beasley as a left back with success, and Klinsmann has seen the missing creative element that Diskerud brings to the national team.

The coach of the United States has made it clear that Beasley is his first-choice left back and that Fabian Johnson is his first-choice left winger, but a left back is just as much a left winger as he is a defender covering the left flank.

Starting Fabian Johnson at left back allows him to provide better defense that Beasley can provide, and it also allows him to provide better attacking play out wide than Beasley can provide. It is the job of the defensive midfielders to cover for outside backs when they make marauding runs into the attack.

The United States can enjoy Fabian Johnson’s attacking skills even when he is used as a left back, and this is in fact the way that the best teams in the world implement width into their attacks.

World Soccer Source views the right back situation as problematic because both Michael Orozco and Geoff Cameron are likely more useful in positions other than the right back position, but both players are faster and more technically-skilled than Parkhurst. Both players are also better defenders.

Furthermore, Cameron’s best position is the midfield destroyer role, as opposed to the center back role because he can use his technical ability and athleticism more in the midfield than he can having to back pedal as a center back where he is at the mercy of through balls and chips being played past him with little to no defensive support.

Taking all of these factors into consideration, World Soccer Source would like to see the USMNT use the following Starting XI below:



USMNT Positional Depth Charts: Center Back



Gale Agbossoumonde. (Source: Toronto F.C.)
Gale Agbossoumonde. (Source: Toronto F.C.)


It’s a mystery why  Jürgen Klinsmann doesn’t always put Geoff Cameron, Omar Gonzalez, and George John on the United States Men’s National Team roster as three of the four center backs. In the list below, World Soccer Source ranks George John fourth in the USMNT center back depth chart (below Gale Agbossoumonde). Both Soccer America and Soccer By Ives have ranked American center backs, but World Soccer Source believes those rankings don’t include many of the center backs with the athleticism and skill to help the United States improve as a national team on the international level.

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