As Jurgen Klinsmann prepares for the Gold Cup, he will be without most of his key players from the recent World Cup qualifiers.
The European-based players from the qualifiers are not even listed on the preliminary Gold Cup roster. They will take a little a time off before reporting to their respective club teams for preseason training.
The MLS players who played a role in the recent string of qualifier victories are on the preliminary roster. With the MLS season in full swing, however, it is unlikely that their MLS clubs will want to release them for another three-week tour of national team duty.
Take these names off of the Gold Cup roster and you’re left with a mix of young European-based players, some new MLS faces, a few MLS players still hanging on to hope and a trio of World Cup veterans looking to show Klinsmann and his staff that they deserve to play in another World Cup final.
The friendly against Guatemala on July 5 will be our first chance to see whom Klinsmann is most keen to see play from this group.
Keeping in mind Klinsmann’s tendency to baffle USMNT observers with his lineup choices, here is a projected starting XI for the Guatemala match (4-2-3-1 formation).
Who starts in Clint Dempsey's spot at attacking mid?
Carlos Bocanegra will get the start at center back for no other reason than his years of service and continuing commitment to U.S. Soccer. Carlos apparently heard Klinsmann’s comments that he needs to be playing regular first-team minutes, because the rumors of an MLS transfer are heating up, with ESPN's Taylor Twellman alluding to an impending move for Bocanegra (via Yahoo! Sports).
Clarence Goodson pairs with Bocanegra. With 35 caps in his pocket and a nice performance in the snow against Costa Rica, Goodson could wind up being the veteran presence the Nats need on their final World Cup roster.
Tony Beltran will be back for his second call-up of the year and will get the start at right back. He is an excellent defender, but the full-backs in the 4-2-3-1 formation are expected to play offense as well and this will be Beltran’s chance.
Edgar Castillo just spent four weeks with the national team, and it will be up to his club team whether or not he stays for three more. If he is available, Klinsmann will start him against Guatemala.
Landon Donovan will line up as the attacking midfielder for the Gold Cup. That position is currently Clint Dempsey’s, and we all know how Klinsmann likes to push his players. Pushing is one thing, however, and Donovan will be on the wing when the full team comes back together.
Looking at the options for holding midfield, Kyle Beckerman will get one more chance to show if he is capable at playing at the international level.
However, there is no clear holding mid to pair with him in front of the defense, and Klinsmann may elect to invert his midfield like he did when Danny Williams played behind Bradley and Jones in a 4-1-4-1.
Stuart Holden would be a fan favorite to link the back to the front, but we don’t know if he is match fit yet. Smart money is on either Benny Feilhaber or Jose Torres getting another chance to work their way back on to the first team, but I’m going with Mix Diskerud to start against Guatemala as Klinsmann gives him a full-game run-out.
USMNT fans would like to see what Josh Gatt can do on the wing, and Klinsmann will agree with them just this once. Then Klinsmann will reignite the great MLS debate by starting Brad Davis on the other wing.
Many consider Davis too slow to play at the international level, but Klinsmann seems to like him. Plus, MLS fans are his staunchest supporters, and they’ll be buying the tickets.
With Chris Wondolowski missing a recent game due to injury , he probably won’t get the start against Guatemala, but don’t be surprised if he gets into the starting XI once the tournament starts.
Herculez Gomez is on the preliminary roster, but an injury kept him out of the recent qualifiers. If he’s fit, and the coach sees some utility in slotting a different style of forward into this friendly match, Gomez could find himself at the top of the 4-2-3-1.
The most likely player to start up top is Will Bruin. Of all the target forwards on the preliminary roster, Bruin is having the most comprehensive season (four goals, four assists). He is known for his big motor and passing skills in addition to his finishing ability, and at only 23 he continues to earn the title “next Brian McBride.”