The United States men’s national team gets its turn to take center stage on the heels of American’s getting swept up in the Women’s national team taking home the World Cup title. Can the men’s side do the same for a second-straight Gold Cup title?
Doing so will mean going through a trickier than usual group stage. While some of the biggest names have been left off the initial roster, other big names are on it and given Jurgen Klinsmann’s tinkering nature things could look really interesting on the roster side throughout group play against Haiti, Honduras and Panama.
The question is, which team blends together best against this group? Here’s our look at what we think is the best looking group to go forward with in Group A play.
Why this lineup? A 4-4-2 formation just makes the most sense given the players on the initial Gold Cup roster. Also, this group gives the USMNT some real flexibility to play a near 4-3-3 formation or even a 4-2-3-1 formation without ever having to make a substitution to change up formations.
So, let’s take a look at the selections position by position.
Goalkeeper: Like Brad Guzan isn’t going to see nearly every minute of play in this tournament. It’s his chance to really solidify his starting role on the national team going forward. Tim Howard is on “hiatus” right now, and that’s a golden opportunity to showcase for Guzan. He had an up and down season for Aston Villa, but he’s been solid so far this year for the national side.
Defenders: Just like at goalkeeper, this group should be a pretty rock solid one. It was especially telling to see how this group played together against Guatemala in Friday night’s friendly. No coincidence that without Matt Besler it was Omar Gonzalez and John Brooks in the center of defense. I like the pairing as they grow together, and without Besler available during group stage play this should be the duo that mans the inside of the defense. Fabian Johnson and Timothy Chandler have looked good as of late on the flanks of defense, and Chandler has a strange knack for finding the back of the net. Give me the group until the knockout stages and then reevaluate if you even need Besler.
Midfield: Michael Bradley, DeAndre Yedlin and Graham Zusi are all no-brainers to make the starting lineup. However, the real question is in what role do you want to play Bradley. Personally, we’ve seen his best work as of late and it has been as a more forward-thinking central midfielder. His link play with the guys up top and ability to create out of thin air is exactly what this group (with or without Dempsey) needs. I like him to be the more forward thinking CM in this lineup, and with that in mind I’m going with the veteran presence of Kyle Beckerman as the more defensive and holding midfielder. It’s tempting to put Mix Diskerud in to the lineup, but he gets forward too much and a partnership with Bradley just isn’t as good in my view. Given Beckerman’s abilities and understanding of the DM role, he should be starting to help protect and link up with the central defenders. I could see Klinsmann going either way during group play honestly though.
Forward: Sorry Jozy Altidore, you haven’t shown me enough in the past few contests to even warrant real consideration here. Clint Dempsey has been on fire for the USMNT as of late, and if he’s allowed to play more of a dropped back role as a forward he is at his best. Putting Aron Johannsson up top as more of a target forward and someone with the ability to link well with a reserved forward makes a whole lot of sense. Will it happen is the question? After all, there was a reason for Klinsmann playing the lineup he did against Guatemala on Friday night. I just didn’t see enough from Altidore to indicate he would make any difference, and at least Johannsson would be better at runs off the ball and creating his own opportunities when needed as well.