On Wednesday, the United States men’s national team will take on Mexico in the final international friendly before the team convenes its pre-World Cup camp in May.
With a roster comprised almost entirely of players from Major League Soccer (Bayern Munich’s Julian Green is the lone exception), the game represents a last chance for players to impress head coach Jurgen Klinsmann before the World Cup training camp roster is selected.
Here’s how the U.S. is likely to line up.
At goalkeeper, the decision is an easy one—Nick Rimando. Rimando is clearly the U.S.’s No. 3 behind Tim Howard and Brad Guzan. The other keepers, Sean Johnson and Bill Hamid are simply there for training and to get a little more experience in the USMNT set-up before the 2018 cycle begins.
In The Back
With Brad Evans out injured, Puebla refusing to release Michael Orozco and DaMarcus Beasley and the Tijuana contingent of Edgar Castillo and possibly Greg Garza not called in due to the CONCACAF Champions League, Klinsmann is a bit hamstrung in picking a back line.
At center-back, the obvious choices are Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler—the pair likely to start for the U.S. in Brazil.
At outside back, however, the choices are complicated due to the lack of options. Michael Parkhurst, DeAndre Yedlin and Tony Beltran are the only outside backs on the roster and all are natural right-backs.
Parkhurst has played on the left before for the USMNT, including this February against Korea, and he seems the “natural” choice there. Yedlin will likely get the call on the right—a big opportunity for the 20-year-old who only recently entered the national team picture.
In The Midfield
Assuming Klinsmann continues to go with the 4-2-3-1 that he has used primarily in qualifying, one lock at holding midfielder will be Michael Bradley. His partner there will likely be Kyle Beckerman, who has performed well for club and country as of late. There is a chance Maurice Edu could slide into the lineup, but it's doubtful Klinsmann will take the chance away from Beckerman at this point.
Who Klinsmann plays in the attacking-midfield position will certainly be of interest to U.S. fans. He's typically preferred Clint Dempsey, but a growing contingent of fans seem to want to see Landon Donovan in the role and Donovan is clearly in better form at the moment.
It's a good bet that Klinsmann will stick with Dempsey, though, at least from the start, with Donovan wide on the left. That will leave Graham Zusi to man the right wing. U.S. fans will be hoping for a glimpse of Green, but it probably won't happen until the second half.
Up top, Klinsmann will have the choice between Eddie Johnson and Chris Wondolowski. Johnson seems to be a sure-fire choice to make the World Cup roster at the moment because of his performances in World Cup qualifying and this summer's Gold Cup.
Wondolowski is a different matter. Competing against Jozy Altidore, Aron Johannsson, Johnson and perhaps even a few others, he's unlikely to make the roster. Whether that makes it more likely or less likely he gets the start against Mexico is anyone's guess.
Klinsmann could give him one last look to see if he can replicate the strong performances he's had with the U.S. against weaker squads, but it seems more plausible that the coach will field Johnson as the team's lone striker.
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