Predicting Starting XI for USMNT vs. Canada
The United States men’s national team's January camp is now in its second week as the team prepares for a friendly against Canada on Jan. 29.
The camp and the friendly against Canada which concludes the camp are expected to help U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann fill anywhere from six to nine spots on the U.S. roster as it heads into its World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica on Feb. 6.
Here’s the starting XI Klinsmann is most likely to go with against Canada.
Goalkeeper: Bill Hamid
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Despite more than his fair share of shaky moments in the net, Jurgen Klinsmann still continues to give Bill Hamid the benefit of the doubt and continues to call Hamid into U.S. national team camps.
When Klinsmann first took over the national team in the fall of 2011, he even went so far as to declare Hamid the No. 1 backup to Tim Howard over more experienced keepers like Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando.
In 2012, Hamid continued to have shaky moments for DC United, scoring an own goal in the first leg of their playoff series against the New York Red Bulls before being sent off in the second leg of the series.
Still, Klinsmann continues to call Hamid into the U.S. camp, this time over Steve Clark and Dan Kennedy, both of whom seemed like more logical choices.
Tally Hall, who had an excellent playoff run with the Houston Dynamo in 2012 and has helped the Dynamo to back-to-back MLS Cups would be the safe choice, and probably the sane one as well, but Klinsmann’s love affair with Hamid is not likely to end, no matter how poorly Hamid plays.
Right-Back: Steve Beitashour
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Update: January 22, 2013
According to U.S. Soccer, Steve Beitashour has left the U.S.' training camp due to injury.
Steve Beitashour enjoyed a nice campaign in 2012, being selected to the MLS All-Star game and playing 90 minutes in the win over Chelsea.
Beitashour also received a call-up for the U.S.’ friendly win over Mexico in August, but did not get into the match. In the upcoming game against Canada, Beitashour should see his first action for the USMNT.
However, if Klinsmann opts for a Matt Besler-Omar Gonzalez combination at center-back, A.J. DeLaGarza may get pushed out to the right, taking Beitashour’s place in the lineup.
Center-Back: Omar Gonzalez
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Even considering Jurgen Klinsmann’s history of confounding decisions as coach of the USMNT, it’s hard to imagine Omar Gonzalez doesn’t get the start against Canada.
Gonzalez was the MLS Defender of the Year in 2012 and earned his way into the 2012 January camp before leaving the camp early for his ill-fated training spell with Nurnberg. After Gonzalez recovered from the ACL injury he received in his first training session with Nurnberg (at the hands of fellow USMNT player Timmy Chandler), Gonzalez worked his way back to fitness and helped guide the L.A. Galaxy to their second straight MLS Cup.
In the final, Gonzalez was justifiably the game’s MVP and has been tipped by many U.S. fans to win the starting job in the heart of the U.S. defense in 2013.
If Gonzalez doesn’t start the match, Jurgen Klinsmann with face an inquisition from U.S. fans.
Center-Back: Matt Besler
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Assuming Omar Gonzalez gets the start at one of the center-back spots, picking his partner is substantially trickier.
Klinsmann could go with 2011 and 2012 Seattle Sounders Defender of the Year Jeff Parke, 2012 MLS Defender of the Year Matt Besler or L.A. Galaxy center-back A.J. DeLaGarza.
While a Gonzalez-DeLaGarza partnership would enable the U.S. to have instant chemistry because the two often play side by side for the L.A. Galaxy, Besler has to be the favorite to get the nod because of his higher potential value for the U.S. as the team heads into the final round of World Cup qualifying in 2013.
Left-Back: Justin Morrow
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Although Connor Lade has played left-back at times for the New York Red Bulls, the two most experienced left-backs in the USMNT camp are Real Salt Lake’s Tony Beltran and the San Jose Earthquakes’ Justin Morrow.
The battle between Beltran and Morrow is probably a crap shoot, but based on Jurgen Klinsmann’s recent comments about Morrow and his Earthquakes teammate Steve Beitashour, it seems more likely Morrow gets the nod.
Holding Midfielder: Kyle Beckerman
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Despite more than a few underwhelming performances in his 11 USMNT appearances under Klinsmann, Kyle Beckerman continues to receive call-ups from the head coach.
With only two players who are naturally holding midfielders (the other being Alfredo Morales) on the roster, and other potential choices like Dax McCarty and Conor O’Brien left off the roster entirely, Beckerman is almost a surefire starter in this match.
Attacking Midfielder: Mix Diskerud
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Coming in as the attacking midfielder against Canada could be either Mix Diskerud or Benny Feilhaber. While there’s no doubt about Feilhaber’s talent, he has suffered through a number of so-so club seasons since his solid performance in the 2010 World Cup under former USMNT manager Bob Bradley.
Assuming Diskerud doesn’t hurt his chances with his performances in the training camp and considering he recently worked his way into the squad in the friendly against Russia, Diskerud is the favorite here.
Right Midfielder: Graham Zusi
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Graham Zusi along with Michael Parkhurst and Geoff Cameron are great examples of why the U.S.’ January camp—an anomaly in world football that is even jokingly called “Camp Cupcake” by USMNT fans—is important to the U.S. program.
Zusi turned a solid 2012 January camp and a great 2012 MLS season with Sporting Kansas City into a call-up for the September World Cup qualifiers. Zusi played well in the Sept. 11 home game against Jamaica and then started and played well again in the October qualifiers.
Zusi is now the favorite to get the start, not only in the friendly against Canada, but also against Costa Rica when the U.S. kicks off the hexagonal on Feb. 6.
The only way Zusi wouldn’t start is if Klinsmann decides he’d rather take the opportunity to look at a less proven player, or if Zusi gets injured.
Left Midfielder: Josh Gatt
Determining who starts out on the wings against Canada has a lot to do with what Jurgen Klinsmann decides to do with Eddie Johnson.
While Johnson is a natural forward, he played quite well on the wing in the U.S.’ last two World Cup qualifiers in October.
If Johnson starts up top, the battle for the other wing (assuming Zusi starts) will be between Alejandro Bedoya, Josh Gatt and Brad Davis.
Davis’ strong play in the MLS playoffs was impressive as was Bedoya’s strong season with Helsingborg this past fall.
However, Josh Gatt, who started the U.S.’ recent friendly against Russia has the inside track to start against Canada.
Forward: Juan Agudelo
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Despite a disappointing campaign with Chivas USA in 2012, Juan Agudelo was chosen by Jurgen Klinsmann for the November friendly against Russia and, in a 27-minute cameo, even assisted on a goal in the match.
Agudelo has much more potential than the other forwards brought in for this match and should earn the start as the U.S. looks forward to 2014 and beyond.
Forward: Eddie Johnson
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Eddie Johnson, coming off a 15-goal season with the Seattle Sounders in 2012, is the easy selection up top for Jurgen Klinsmann.
That is, of course, assuming Klinsmann doesn’t decide to use Johnson out on the wing as was done in the October World Cup qualifiers. Since Johnson is more likely to feature out on the wings once the full contingent of strikers is brought in in February, that is a distinct possibility.
If Johnson starts on the wing, Will Bruin or Chris Wondolowski will slot in up top.
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