Preferred formation – 4-2-3-1
Goalkeeper – Tim Howard
Although Howard certainly did not have his best game against Mexico in the Gold Cup Final, he is still clearly the best American goalkeeper.
Left back – Eric Lichaj
Even though he is a natural right back, our lack of options on the left and his solid Gold Cup performance mean the spot is his to lose. Bocanegra is another option here, but our defense is much more settled with him in the middle and he lacks the pace and service to be a true force out wide. Another interesting proposal I recently read about is Heath Pearce. With our lack of depth at the position, he might be worth another look in the year to come.
Center backs – Carlos Bocanegra and Michael Parkhurst
Admittedly, this is the most difficult part of the lineup to choose and for all my criticism of Bob Bradley, I don’t envy his lack of obvious choices here. During the Gold Cup our defense looked much more settled once Boca was moved to the center back spot. Tim Ream, despite his composure on the ball looked very vulnerable here against Panama in particular. I like Clarence Goodson a lot, especially his presence in the air and his ability to score from corners, but he has slow feet and doesn’t seem to recognize diagonal runs in behind him. Omar Gonzalez could be another interesting choice, but I still think he is a year or two away from being able to play at this level. It seems that Gooch has still not hit top form since injuring his knee prior to the World Cup, although I hope his transfer to Sporting Lisbon will help him come back to full fitness. Jay Demerit, while a warrior, simply is too slow to keep up with top notch strikers. I chose Parkhurst because I liked what I saw out of him in our October friendlies last year and I think he deserves another look with the first team.
Right back – Timothy Chandler
With all due respect to Steve Cherundolo, who I still think is our #1 right back, I’d like to see how Chandler handles playing against El Tri’s quick and cheeky attackers. Hopefully, it will also solidify his intention to play with the U.S. team, as he is still eligible to switch his national team affiliation because he has not competed in an official competition with the U.S. team.
Holding midfielders – Michael Bradley and Maurice Edu
Again, all my criticism of Bob Bradley aside, anyone who cries nepotism about Michael Bradley’s selection to the lineup is crazy. Bradley is clearly the best American holding midfielder. He works harder than any player on the pitch, tackles well and constantly comes back to get the ball from our backline to start our attack. He has also proven time and again, despite his holding position that he can go forward and score. For Edu, his lack of selection is mindboggling. One has to wonder what this guy has to do to get more playing time. He is consistently in good form for Rangers, one of the mid-level teams in Europe, he can tackle, distribute and score. While there is no doubt of the quality of Jermaine Jones, who has been starting in front in Edu, Jones can be lazy in defending, petulant in his tackling and does not display the fighting American spirit that our team needs to compete against more skilled competition. Furthermore, this is no longer 1998. We don’t need any David Regis’ is our program who have only come to our team because they are no longer wanted by their own.
Right midfield – Landon Donovan
An obvious choice.
Left midfield – Freddy Adu
While I have never been a huge Freddy Adu fan and have often laughed off comments on websites excoriating Bob Bradley for not calling him up, Adu, after multiple loans and tryouts around Europe, is finally starting to show some of the promise he has shown since he was 14. I think Bob Bradley got this one right, waiting for Adu to finally get settled with a club, albeit a second-division team in Turkey, before calling him back into the national team fold. Adu’s play in the Gold Cup was solid and his ability to hold the ball in tight spaces, create and distribute is just what the U.S. team needs right now.
Withdrawn forward – Clint Dempsey
Supremely technical, able to play physical and win balls in the air and our most consistent threat to score, this is another easy choice.
Striker – Jozy Altidore
Assuming his hamstring has recovered, Jozy, despite his inconsistencies, is still our #1 option up top. He is strong, has good pace, can go at people and is still developing.
Toughest person to leave out of the first 11 – Alejandro Bedoya
Bedoya had a solid Gold Cup despite initially being left off the roster and could come in to sub for any of the front four. If Jozy is still injured, Dempsey could go up to with Adu or Donovan playing in the withdrawn forward role and Bedoya slotting in out wide.
Injured – Stuart Holden
Other thoughts: I’m still not sure what the purpose of this friendly is, other than a money maker for the USSF. It’s on the FIFA calendar, so I suppose they have to take advantage of it, but it’s such an odd date with the European leagues just kicking off. Our international players will have to take the long flight across the Atlantic to play the game and then immediately return to their clubs. There will also be little to no training opportunities to evaluate talent, other than the game itself.
Who would you like to see in the starting lineup?
John D. Halloran