The United States men’s national team have all but secured qualification for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Thanks to cruising through their most recent string of qualifiers, Jurgen Klinsmann’s side is playing with house money in its upcoming qualifier in Costa Rica on Sept. 6.
That does not mean that this is a match Klinsmann should experiment in though.
For starters, the team is currently riding a 12-game winning streak, the longest in both U.S. men’s soccer history and the current longest winning streak in international football.
Additionally, the U.S. face Mexico in their following match, a game U.S. fans take extremely seriously. Form will be critical before their rivalry match with El Tri so gaining continued sharpness is surely a goal against Costa Rica. Plus, three points on the road is always a beautiful thing in World Cup qualifying.
As a result, here are the 11 players Klinsmann should start in the USMNT’s upcoming match in Costa Rica against the Ticos.
Brad Guzan has been a standout netminder in the English Premier League of late. Nick Rimando showed just how much of an asset he is to the USMNT’s possession-oriented soccer with his exquisite footwork in the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Still, though, this position belongs to the veteran, Tim Howard.
Howard’s been through too many battles, made too many massive saves and has too much invested in this team to consider another option at this time. It is nice to know, however, that the team will be well prepared should anything happen to him.
Goalkeeper might be the team’s strongest position overall.
Klinsmann appears to have his preferred center back pairing established in Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler. Despite the quality showing from physical center back John Anthony Brooks in his debut performance against Bosnia-Herzegovina, too much time has been spent developing chemistry to not stick with the MLS-duo of Besler and Gonzalez.
Determining the wingbacks is slightly more problematic.
Brad Evans and DaMarcus Beasley had been formidable playing out of position on the right and left, respectively. Fabian Johnson and Geoff Cameron have been useful at times as fullbacks in recent games as well.
The prudent move is to go with Johnson on the left and Cameron on the right. Let Johnson continue to work on getting into the attack on the flank and allow Cameron to use his fine distribution and aerial prowess on the right.
The center midfield partnership is nearly set in stone for Klinsmann at this point—and with good reason, too.
Michael Bradley looks like a combination of Claude Makelele and Andrea Pirlo with the amount of ground he covers and his ability to drop a ball on a dime wherever he wants.
Jermaine Jones adds a toughness and allows Bradley to roam about wherever he pleases by providing expert cover of the two center backs.
The right flank belongs to Sporting Kansas City winger Graham Zusi, who works extremely hard on both sides of the ball.
The left should be reserved for the captain, Clint Dempsey, with license to float centrally should Deuce see fit.
The in-form Jozy Altidore is the clear choice to play as a true No. 9. Altidore is playing his best-ever football for the Yanks, scoring goals with efficiency, providing textbook holdup play and offering a glimpse of the spectacular.
Behind Altidore should be another American whose form is similarly scorching—the legendary Landon Donovan.
LD settled in nicely to his role in behind the strikers at the Gold Cup. There is no reason to stifle Donovan with how well he is playing right now. As a second striker, he can create, dribble and score with freedom—all strengths in his game.
Choosing the right lineup is critical for Klinsmann as the clock continues to tick closer towards the ever-important 2014 World Cup Finals in Brazil.
Who do you think should start for the USMNT against Costa Rica?