Jürgen Klinsmann and his kids hit the road for their last tour of the year starting this week with friendlies against France and Slovenia, the latter a rematch from a disappointing (and controversial) draw from the 2010 World Cup group stages.
But first the red, white and blue take on Les Bleus, and with captain Landon Donovan back in the game and Klinsi's German-born prospects now eligible for play, the lineup will see a few changes, but it will likely be a similar one to the squad that faced Ecuador in the last friendly. Except this time, the weakest links against Ecuador—defensive subs Jonathan Spector and Tim Ream—were both left off the squad, likely to the relief of fans.
Here is one prediction for the USMNT's starting XI against France, assuming no injuries before matchday and a standard 4-4-2 formation. If you have your own projected lineups you'd like to share, as always, have at it in the comments.
Goalkeeper and Back Four: Tim Howard, Timmy Chandler, Carlos Bocanegra, Oguchi Onyewu and Steve Cherundolo
In an evening marred by defensive mistakes, Timmy Chandler and Oguchi Onyewu both gave Man of the Match-caliber performances against Ecuador. Chandler dominated the wing with great speed and control and worked hard to pick up the defensive slack, while Onyewu has been on a general resurgence and showed leadership in the last friendly. The two will hopefully work well again together.
Steve Cherundolo will likely be Klinsi's first choice at right back, and some fans are probably a bit perplexed to see his name on the roster at all. 'Dolo did well against Honduras, but his sluggish performance in the first half against Ecuador means he will have to work harder to restore fans' confidence in him.
Midfield: Clint Dempsey, Kyle Beckerman, Maurice Edu, Brek Shea
Little surprise for the midfield. Clint Dempsey has been impressive in this round of friendlies, and now that his services are not needed as a striker thanks to the return of Donovan, he will supplement the attack in more of a playmaking role. A tenacious player and effective communicator, Dempsey will do well to orchestrate the attack.
Joining him in an attacking role will be the promising Brek Shea, whose stock has risen exponentially over the past couple of months. Shea will be particularly under the microscope as some of Europe's top clubs are watching him for possible transfer bids.
Kyle Beckerman has a lot on his plate right now as Real Salt Lake gears up for the MLS Cup playoffs, so the inclusion of him in the squad is a bit strange, and perhaps upsetting to Real fans who want a focused captain.
That being said, Beckerman is Klinsmann's first choice in the holding midfielder role and he is good at engaging fans, but his past few performances for the national team have been less than impressive. As long as he's not put in with Michael Bradley, though, he should be alright.
Newcomer Danny Williams impressed in midfield in his debut against Ecuador, as he made some great attempts toward the goal and was able to maintain control of the ball well. With Dempsey back in an attacking role, however, and Shea's stock quite a bit higher, Williams will likely be put in an impact sub role.
TSG Hoffenheim's Fabian Johnson, a player in whom Klinsmann seems to have quite a lot of confidence, was also on the squad for this round of friendlies, and now that all his FIFA allegiance-switching paperwork is in, he should be able to play. With Beckerman the likelier choice to start in DM, expect him to make his debut in an impact sub role as well.
Strikers: Landon Donovan, Jozy Altidore
Clint Dempsey did quite well in Donovan's absence, but it's fair to say if Donovan is back in the lineup, he'll be starting, even though the Galaxy sit at the top of the MLS table and he has a cup to worry about.
One surprising omission was promising New York Red Bulls striker Juan Agudelo, who was starting to really show some promise in the USMNT's last match against Ecuador, getting into the game and showing resilience toward the end. He has seen quite a bit of time on the bench at his MLS club as of late, which could likely have had some impact on Klinsmann's decision.
Projected Starting XI (4-4-2): Howard; Chandler, Bocanegra, Onyewu, Cherundolo; Dempsey, Beckerman, Edu, Shea; Altidore, Donovan
Subs: Williams, Bradley, Beasley, Buddle, Johnson, Goodson, Orozco-Fiscal