The United States men’s national team takes on Costa Rica on Friday night in its seventh game of the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying hexagonal.
The match proves to be a tricky one as Costa Rica looks to avenge the now infamous “snow bowl” when the USMNT beat Costa Rica in Denver in March.
Here is how the U.S. will likely line up in the match.
While a growing contingent of U.S. fans have been calling for Brad Guzan to be given the starting job, the U.S. defense is still relatively inexperienced on the international level and head coach Jurgen Klinsmann won’t be taking any chances on Friday night.
Tim Howard gets the start.
Picking the starter at left-back for the USMNT has big implications for the rest of the lineup as Fabian Johnson is both the team’s best left-back and best left-midfielder.
While DaMarcus Beasley still has not convinced some U.S. fans of his ability to play in the back, over the past six months he has put in a number of solid performances, gaining the trust of the bulk of the fanbase and Jurgen Klinsmann.
Matt Besler is the “easy” choice for one half of the U.S. center-back tandem. Since Jurgen Klinsmann started Besler against Mexico last March at the Azteca, Besler has rewarded his manager’s faith by becoming the most consistent performer for the U.S. along the backline.
Picking Besler’s center-back partner is considerably more tricky.
Geoff Cameron and John Anthony Brooks were given the nod against Bosnia last month when Jurgen Klinsmann called in a Eurocentric roster. However, Cameron will likely be needed at right-back on Friday and one would have to believe Brooks is a long-shot considering his international inexperience.
Michael Orozco is also on the roster, but is the biggest long-shot to get the nod.
Despite some shaky moments over the past few months for both club and country, particularly in the last five minutes of games, Omar Gonzalez will get the start.
On a side note, it would be nice for Brooks to get a five-minute stint at the end of the game to cap-tie him to the U.S. Currently, he is still eligible to represent Germany on the international level.
With Brad Evans out due to injury, the right-back spot is up for grabs. And that is saying something considering the U.S. had no obvious depth chart at the position.
Cameron starts at right-back in the English Premier League, but lacks the attacking instinct Jurgen Klinsmann seems to favor from his outside backs. He also looked shaky for the U.S. at right-back earlier this summer. Still, he is simply too good not to start and currently the best option.
Michael Orozco and Michael Parkhurst are other possibilities, but seem unlikely. Klinsmann could have experimented with Orozco at right-back in the Gold Cup after Matt Besler was called in, but instead sent Orozco to the bench and continued to start Parkhurst on the right. If Klinsmann wasn’t willing to try it then, it’s extremely unlikely he’d do it in a World Cup Qualifier.
Love him or hate him, Jermaine Jones will start on Friday night. Jurgen Klinsmann clearly loves the controversial midfielder and Geoff Cameron will be needed at right-back, so U.S. fans who don't like Jones will just have to hope for the best.
This one shouldn’t need any explanation as Michael Bradley is, quite simply, the best American player in the world right now.
There are plenty of USMNT fans who would prefer to see Fabian Johnson in the back line, as they still don’t trust DaMarcus Beasley there. However, Jurgen Klinsmann clearly sees Johnson as a midfielder first, defender second as not only was Beasley called up, but Edgar Castillo was as well.
If Klinsmann was intending to play Johnson as a defender, there would be no need for Castillo to be on the roster. Recently, Yanks Abroad writer Brian Sciaretta published an interesting take on the Johnson/Beasley debate, arguing that the team is better off with Johnson in the midfield.
Landon Donovan’s bright performance in the Gold Cup, as well as his solid performances as of late with the LA Galaxy, have eliminated any lingering doubts of a “sabbatical hangover.” Donovan is back and ready to be an impact player for the U.S. once again.
The one caveat of Donovan and Johnson starting as the outside midfielders is that Graham Zusi, who has been a regular starter for the U.S. this year, moves to the bench.
Clint Dempsey has been manning the attacking midfielder slot for the bulk of the Jurgen Klinsmann era and been the United States' most consistent goalscorer along the way. There’s no need to change that now.
He is still day-to-day, however, and if Jurgen Klinsmann decides to play it safe and leave Altidore on the bench to save him for Mexico next week, all bets are off. In that scenario, Klinsmann could start Eddie Johnson or Aron Johannsson as the lone striker, or put Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan up top and bring Zusi back into the starting XI in the midfield.
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