Creating a Starting XI with America's Best Athletes

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistJuly 19, 2012

Creating a Starting XI with America's Best Athletes

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    Despite plenty of increased interest and awareness in men's football in US over the past couple of decades, the national team has yet to find real glory on the global scale.

    With Jurgen Klinsmann at the helm of the senior side now, who has prior tournament experience with Germany, the nation will be hoping for better fortunes going into the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

    The USMNT has plenty of top quality players plying their trade around Europe and the American continent right now.

    What they occasionally lack in technique, the players make up for in effort and endeavour. Some of the best players the country has produced have excelled physically more than tactically sometimes.

    Here is a starting XI based on the best athletes, combined with footballing ability, that the US can offer right now. The team will line up in a 3-5-2 formation—not that Klinsmann is likely to utilise this system, but if offers flexibility and the ability to showcase that physical prowess to its fullest extent.

Goalkeeper: Tim Howard

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    Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard is the first choice stopper for the USMNT and with good reason. Capped 78 times so far, Howard still has years ahead of him and could go close to reaching a century of caps if he retains form and fitness.

    Good reflexes, solid handling and a fearlessness in taking high balls, Howard is a good all-round goalkeeper.

Right Sided Centre-Back: Steve Cherundolo

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    Steve Cherundolo is an experienced campaigner and the first choice right-back for Hannover in Germany, where he has played out his entire career at club level.

    Usually a full-back, Cherundolo will get the first centre-back slot of the team.

    His positional sense and general ability will see to it that he is not embarrassed at playing slightly further infield than usual. Indeed, in a three-man back line it is imperative that the wide central defenders are capable of filling in at full-back as the line-up tilts according to the opposition's attack.

    With an engine to get him up and down the field all day, the Hannover captain also fits the bill for power and stamina.

Central Defender: Oguchi Oyewu

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    Nobody fulfils the title "athlete" like "Gooch".

    The former Standard Liege defender is tall, powerful, physical and brave; all essential attributes in a defender.

    As the central defender in this team he would be expected to make the best use of his aerial dominance and reading of the game.

Left Sided Centre-Back: Carlos Bocanegra

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    Left side of the three at the back: Carlos Bocanegra.

    The former Fulham and Rennes man is a fierce competitor who borders on the dirty at times.

    And at other times, far surpasses the border into the land of dreadful challenges.

    Even so, he's a workhorse, has a strong left foot and has experience of playing full-back. He helps comprise a steady, reliable and experienced back-line.

Right Midfield: Clint Dempsey

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    Another experienced player who is closing in on his century, Fulham midfielder Clint Dempsey has 87 caps to date.

    Though he usually operates further up the pitch as an attacking midfielder, he has the tactical awareness, defensive responsibility and stamina to perform a wide midfield role, helping back in defence as needed and supporting in attack when his team have the ball.

    Dempsey is one of the most talented on-the-ball players in the US team and he would be invaluable in the final third; breaking infield from this wide area necessitates playing two disciplined midfielders in the centre to act as cover.

    Which brings us to...

Central Midfield: Jose Francisco Torres

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    Tough tackling, never-ending running and a fine first touch, Jose Francisco Torres is the first of two central midfield players who can steady the ship in the centre of the park, win the ball back and distribute it to the more attack-minded players.

    Torres has 18 caps so far, but can add to this over the coming seasons, being just 24 years of age.

    Torres plays for Pachuco in the Mexican league, which is of a good standard both technically and with the pace of the game.

Central Midfield: Maurice Edu

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    Accompanying Torres in the centre of the park would be the no-nonsense attitude and hard work of Maurice Edu.

    With surprisingly only 37 caps to his name to date, Edu is a talented player on the ball who can play both attacking and defensive roles in midfield.

    His box-to-box energy perfectly balances out the more full-on attacking players of the team, whilst he can pass the ball well and is a threat in the air too.

Central Midfield: Michael Bradley

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    The third centre midfielder of the side will be Michael Bradley, newly of AS Roma in Italy.

    Capped 69 times for his nation despite being just 24 years old, Bradley is already a veteran of the international scene and could dominate the USMNT midfield for years to come yet.

    He is aggressive and positive in the final third, breaking late into the box and always offering himself to receive the ball in space.

    Despite his obvious attacking talents he is also a hard-worker and a non-stop worker.

Left Midfield: Brek Shea

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    Onto another talented player, one who still has the potential to become the one of the finest footballers the States have produced.

    Brek Shea has mustered 12 caps by age 22 but hasn't quite yet nailed down a regular starting spot.

    His ability to cause havoc from a wide area should see him instilled as one of the match-winners for the side over the coming seasons.

    Shea has pace and skill, stamina and a good attitude towards the game, showcased by his coaching of local youngsters in his free time.

Second Forward: Landon Donovan

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    Landon Donovan is a living legend of the USMNT. The top goalscorer of all time, he is currently just one goal shy of hitting the 50 mark and has almost 150 caps.

    Not only is he technically sound and capable of playing right the way across the front line in different formations, Donovan is also a leader of his team, a hard worker and a natural born winner.

    He brings a good deal of technique and ability to the centre of this team without sacrificing the athleticism which is prevalent throughout.

Striker: Jozy Altidore

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    At 22 years of age and almost 50 caps to his name, Jozy Altidore has long been the upcoming hope of the USMNT.

    He has the natural attributes to be a massive goal threat in every game he plays but has so far lacked the consistency in his game to become the matchwinner he could be.

    Nonetheless as he gains more experience in his play his massive power and speed can help him become a feared player.

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