USMNT v Antigua: Picking the Best Team USA Lineup For World Cup 2014 Qualifier

June 3, 2012

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

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3 Responses to USMNT v Antigua: Picking the Best Team USA Lineup For World Cup 2014 Qualifier

  1. DE Dupuis on June 3, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    What a discouraging showing against a not very good team.
    Castillo was better and scarier.
    Edu and Jones have no 1st touch and no ideas. One of these guys might have a role on a team hoping to make it out of the WC group stage, but having both of them on the field at the same time is stiffing to creative, quick, fluid football.
    Although Torres gets caught too much he at least had the right idea, once he left the field Deuce had to start coming way, way back to get the ball – he looked clearly frustrated at the general level of US play.
    The team goes backwards even when they don’t need to or its even ill advised – a lot.
    The roster problem aside (and its a really really big problem) I agree with your line up with the possible exception of Gomez over Altidore.
    And, I’d line up the team differently. I’d play a Barca 4-3-3 wherein the responsibility for the wings rests on overlapping fullbacks and winger/strikers – thus keeping the midfield players mostly in the middle of the park. I’d play Jones as the holder, with Torres and Bradley advanced. I’d play Deuce as a media punta (false 9) with Donovan as a fixed winger (switching sides) and Gomez as an opportunity striker who plays wide when needed.
    I think this would be our best chance without: Whitbread, Ream, Lichaj, Holden, Gatt, Diskerud etc…
    I’ve never noticed you mentioning being AO before.

    • John D. Halloran on June 4, 2012 at 5:00 am

      I was pretty impressed with Castillo for about 20 minutes. Then the giveaways started. I have no idea why Klinsmann tinkered so much with the midfield alignment after the Scotland game. I could understand going 4-4-2 against Brazil, but not Canada. The U.S. was much more fluid with Edu holding and Bradley and Jones going forward. But, I would still prefer to see Torres play centrally with Bradley and either Jones or Edu in the holding/destroyer role.

      Completely agree about the amount of negative and/or east/west passing. It has its place, but good Lord, can we really not open it up against Canada?

      False 9 idea with Deuce is interesting, but not sure Gomez/Altidore would be effective wide on the opposite side of Donovan. Plus, who would your sub be out wide if needed? The roster is short on pure wingers. Corona might be able to do it, Gatt too, but that’s a different story.

      I’m not an official AO, just love their spirit at matches. How ironic was it that at an away game, our fans were louder than theirs? I’ve been to about 10 USMNT games in the last five years and every time the visiting team dominated the crowd.

      • DE Dupuis on June 5, 2012 at 11:36 pm

        In the system I’m advocating, only one striker plays wide at any one time – Donovan at least used to be a good choice for that, width on the other side is provided by an overlapping fullback – Johnson in this case (Johnson and Lichaj ideally). Gomez would roam and be a target for the wide guys, e.g. against Brazil. If we need a wide playing sub, then with the current roster Shea would be fine – although Gatt is faster and has more quality – but that’s for another day. Gomez would also be available to play off Deuce who would usually get the ball a bit deeper – albeit not nearly as deep as we was dropping in the Canada game.

        The whole idea of possession based football is to develop local overloads – man up advantages – and then take advantage of this by penetrating and fatally unbalancing the defense – the hallmark of the JK age is that only a few players seem to understand this, the rest just want to get the ball to someone else – fast.

        I agree Altidore has had a fantastic season, so I would not hesitate to play with Gomez, Altidore, and Deuce up front with those three switching between roles, wide, media punta, and roaming. If nothing else, at least these 3 guys play defense, unlike that other guy.

        It might be hard to tell unless you were watching a game with me, but I’m an official American Outlaw, and it just kills me that the USMNT is not as good as it could be at the senior level – I think 75% of knowledgeable US soccer fans would agree within 1 or 2 players what our best possible roster would be, and yet they are never called. Beyond that, the development system is just terrible, given all the talented kids that play soccer we should be producing 10 Dempseys a year, not 1 every 10 years.

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