It has been an up and down week for the Americans heading into World Cup qualifying. Following the demolition of Scotland last weekend in a 5-1 victory, the Americans were soundly beaten 4-1 by Brazil only three days later.
In its latest friendly, the United States Men’s National Team tied Canada 0-0 in a rather poor offensive showing from the Nats.
Here’s the best eleven American players Jurgen Klinsmann can put on the field for the game against Antigua and Barbuda on Friday.
Goalkeeper – Tim Howard
There could be an argument to start Brad Guzan, not because Howard has been playing poorly, but simply to get Guzan a game with the Nats.
However, if Guzan were to make a mistake that cost the team points, Klinsmann would be severely criticized and with the merry-go-round of center backs the USMNT has had of late, consistency anywhere in the back will help.
Right back – Steve Cherundolo
Cherundolo has not had the greatest three-game span, but considering how poorly Michael Parkhurst has performed in his limited minutes and with Eric Lichaj not on the roster, Cherundolo is clearly the team’s best choice.
Center back – Clarence Goodson
Goodson was the lone bright spot in the USMNT’s poor 0-0 draw with Canada Sunday night, with several key tackles and clearances. Plus, Goodson provides the U.S. with a serious attacking weapon on set pieces.
Goodson has quietly been improving in recent years and was also key to the U.S.’s victory over Italy in February.
Center back – Carlos Bocanegra
Bocanegra is another American who hasn’t been great over this week’s three-game span for the Americans, but considering the American’s other options, he is the best choice.
Bocanegra is the team’s captain, provides solid leadership in the back and is more comfortable with the other players along the back-line than anyone else on the roster.
In future friendlies, Klinsmann can take a further look at Geoff Cameron, or even bring in Zak Whitbread who enjoyed a solid league in the English Premier League, but now is not the time.
Left back – Fabian Johnson
Assuming Johnson’s calf injury is healed enough to allow him to play, he is clearly the best option.
Edgar Castillo, who took Johnson’s place against Canada, was too inconsistent in that game. Castillo did well at times defensively, working the ball out of the back and providing good service into the box, but also had several bad giveaways deep in the American end, one that resulted in a Canadian goal that was ruled out.
As with the lack of American depth at right back, many USMNT are wishing Klinsmann had saw fit to roster Eric Lichaj.
Holding mid – Maurice Edu
The best the United States has looked during this entire three-game span, was when the team lined up in a 4-1-2-3 with Maurice Edu as the holding mid.
With Edu providing cover for the backline, Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones, operating at the other two center midfield positions, were given plenty of space to get forward and create havoc.
Center midfield – Michael Bradley
Bradley has been a solid player for the Nats for years now, even though some fans incorrectly attributed his inclusion to the fact that his father was the manager.
However, in the last year, Bradley has gone from a solid player to a true world-class talent. His distribution has continued to improve and has added another dimension to his ability to score, his amazing work-rate and his physical prowess.
Center midfield – Jose Torres
Over the last three games, Torres has been deployed as a winger, the same position he was ineffective at under Bob Bradley.
However, in Klinsmann’s first three friendlies against Mexico, Costa Rica and Belgium, Torres was played centrally, where he was much more effective.
If Klinsmann puts him back in the middle where he belongs, expect the U.S. offense to come to life.
Right Wing – Landon Donovan
Donovan has had an up-and-down week, much like the rest of the squad.
Following a hat trick against Scotland, he struggled to impact the matches against Brazil or Canada.
However, once deployed back in a 4-3-3, with Torres in the middle as the maestro, Donovan can once again be an offensive sparkplug for the team.
Left wing – Clint Dempsey
One of Dempsey’s greatest strengths is his versatility as he can play as an attacking midfielder, a wide player, underneath the forwards and up top.
Against Canada, with the U.S.’s overly conservative two defensive midfielder set-up, Dempsey was forced to come deep for the ball and then struggled to connect with his teammates.
Deployed as a wing, Dempsey will be closer to the goal and able to connect better with the overlapping center midfielders and the center forward.
Center forward – Jozy Altidore
For everyone who didn’t notice, Altidore had one helluva season in the Eredivisie this year scoring 19 goals in all competitions.
Altidore is only 22 years old for those who forget and has already amassed an impressive 13 goals for the national team.
John D. Halloran