Picking a Perfect Lineup for the USMNT with Landon Donovan
The United States men's national team will have plenty on the line this summer as they take on two difficult opponents in friendlies and three continental foes in crucial CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying matches.
One player who will back in the United States fold will be Landon Donovan of the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Since he returned from his self-imposed sabbatical in March, Donovan has shown signs of his past self by scoring one goal and producing an assist in four matches this season with the Galaxy.
With Donovan potentially returning to the United States setup for the first time since October 12, here is a potential starting 11 that would fit the 31-year-old the best.
GK: Tim Howard
Until Tim Howard retires from international football, he will be the starting keeper for the United States when healthy.
Howard was out for the crucial clashes against Costa Rica and Mexico in March, but he should be set to return to the United States lineup on May 29 against Belgium in Cleveland.
RB: Steve Cherundolo
As it has been for the last year or so, who plays in the back four for the United States will be a huge question mark this summer.
Veteran right-back Steve Cherundolo could be one of the answers to the always mystifying dilemma that manager Jurgen Klinsmann faces in defense.
Cherundolo returned from his knee injury in April to play for Hannover in the Bundesliga, and he should be in line to be recalled to the United States camp this summer.
The 34-year-old has been a model of consistency in the American back four for years now and he should be selected ahead of Geoff Cameron and the now-injured Timothy Chandler (via Sports Illustrated) this summer.
CB: Omar Gonzalez
Omar Gonzalez cemented himself as a starter in the United States back four with his outstanding performance at Azteca in March against Mexico.
Gonzalez has impressed in every match he has played this season with the Los Angeles Galaxy, and it is only a matter of time before he moves overseas or becomes the third Galaxy designated player (MLSSoccer.com).
With the 24-year-old in the form of his life, there is no way Klinsmann would keep Gonzalez out of his starting 11.
CB: Carlos Bocanegra
It will be hard to imagine a United States squad without Carlos Bocanegra for the second consecutive set of matches.
Bocanegra, 33, was not involved in the matches against Costa Rica and Mexico in March, but he has to be handed a spot on the 23-man roster when the summer comes around to provide the U.S. squad with experience.
Despite the job that Matt Besler did against Mexico, the United States will need an experienced defender to help them through the rigors of the June World Cup qualifying schedule.
LB: Fabian Johnson
Despite being close to relegation with Hoffenheim at the club level, Fabian Johnson should get a chance at success on the international level this summer.
Johnson has played 26 matches at left-back for Hoffenheim this season, and he is likely to be playing at the same position for the United States this summer.
Johnson will face some competition at left-back from DaMarcus Beasley, who surprised some people with his display at the position back in March.
Beasley will be a valuable backup to Johnson, who is likely to be the starter if healthy.
DM: Michael Bradley
There is one sure thing about the United States lineup right now and that is the presence of Michael Bradley in the midfield.
Bradley is arguably the best American playing the sport right now and he will be a part of the American midfield for quite some time.
The 25-year-old is most likely to play in the defensive midfield to provide the always shaky back four with some much-needed cover.
When Bradley gets a chance, he will be able to move forward in attack, a role in which he has provided plenty of firepower to the United States lineup at times.
DM: Maurice Edu
The spot alongside Bradley in the defensive midfield is certainly up for grabs this summer.
Maurice Edu and Kyle Beckerman should have a chance to duel for a starting spot after Danny Williams was sidelined with a shoulder injury that will not allow him to compete in the World Cup qualifiers (via Sporting News).
Edu is the more experienced of the two players, but Beckerman has been one of Jurgen Klinsmann's preferred options in midfield since his tenure began.
Even with that going against him, Edu should get the nod since he is finally match fit and playing on a consistent basis with Bursaspor in Turkey.
With Edu playing in a more defensive role in front of the back four, he should be able to give Bradley the opportunity to move forward in attack more.
RM: Graham Zusi
Most people are billing the summer United States camp as the one to see the past battle the future on the right wing with Graham Zusi challenging the lineup spot of Landon Donovan.
Based on the current form of Zusi, there is no way that he will concede his spot in the United States starting 11.
Zusi's star has continued to shine this season with Sporting Kansas City where he has made himself a front-runner for the MLS MVP award after nine matches.
With Zusi roaming the right wing and Donovan on the left wing, the American wingers should be a matchup nightmare for most of their opponents this summer.
LM: Landon Donovan
With Zusi in spectacular form at the moment, the versatile Donovan should be moved over to the left side of the pitch to give Klinsmann his best possible starting lineup.
Donovan has had a very successful international career by becoming the all-time leader in goals and assists for the United States.
The 31-year-old is still capable of coming out of nowhere to provide moments of absolute brilliance in the most important of moments.
Having an in-form Donovan sitting on the bench in favor of Zusi would be a waste, and Klinsmann must realize that he has to play Donovan and Zusi together to get the best results.
CAM: Clint Dempsey
Clint Dempsey has had a rough first season at Tottenham, but he has a chance to erase his out-of-form play at the club level by starring for the United States this summer.
Starting Dempsey and Donovan together in the past has seen mixed results, but it is the best option that Klinsmann has.
Dempsey should sit behind the forward to start, and then he could be given the freedom to roam back into the midfield to start the attack or move further forward to play as a second forward.
FW: Jozy Altidore
Jozy Altidore has been on fire at the club level with AZ Alkmaar in the Eredivisie, and hopefully the 23-year-old can finally find some form at the national team level as well.
Altidore's struggles for the United States have been well-documented, and with a high-powered midfield trio behind him, there is no doubt that his form will finally change for the better.
Altidore has not scored for the United States since November 15, 2011 against Slovenia, and everyone who follows the United States national team are hoping and praying that his drought does not continue much longer.
What do you think is the best starting 11 to use with Landon Donovan back?
Comment below or leave me a comment on Twitter, @JTansey90.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!