When the USMNT take on St. Vincent and the Grenadines Friday afternoon, manager Jurgen Klinsmann will be in a very unique situation. Thanks to injuries and suspensions to many first choice players, as well as the quality of opponent, Klinsmann will have the freedom to select many different players who don’t usually get to start games for the United States.
It seems that whenever the US has been in a big spot over the last two years, Klinsmann has called on his aging veterans to get the job done. Most of that reason is because the younger players simply don’t have experience, especially when it comes to playing tricky CONCACAF away games. This issue came to prominence in March, when Klinsmann shied away from playing DeAndre Yedlin at right back for the World Cup qualifying match in Guatemala because he had never done it in an away match.
Wouldn’t a trip to tiny St. Vincent and the Grenadines be the perfect chance for young players to get valuable experience playing in an important game in a tricky atmosphere? Of course it would. And that’s why you, me, and likely every USMNT fan would like to see Klinsmann show a different lineup then what we’re used to.
I’m sure most USMNT would like to see 17-year-old Christian Pulisic and Darlington Nagbe enter the starting XI but frankly that’s not the most important area for Klinsmann to address. The most important thing Klinsmann can do is start 21-year-old Kellyn Acosta at left back.
Acosta plays as a holding midfielder for FC Dallas but has spent his entire national team career playing left back and started there for the MLS All Stars this summer. Besides, it’s not like Klinsmann cares what your natural position is anyway.
Playing Acosta at left back is vital for the US as that position has been a black hole for the United States for years. Of all the players, the US has thrown back there over the years, Acosta is the only one who looks like he could make the position his for the future. Again, the US is playing St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a team that will likely pack in the midfield and pick their spots to attack. If ever there was a game to break in a new left back this would be it.
The most important part of finding a left back is that it would allow the US to push Fabian Johnson further up the field to the wing position he excelled at for Borussia Monchengladbach last season. Johnson is the United States’ best outfield player, and it was painfully obvious how much the US missed his creativity on the wing in their two losses to Colombia at last summer’s Copa America.
The next most important position is at striker. It’s time for Jozy Altidore to go and to let the future begin now. Altidore fans will tell you that playing Jozy is important in a game like this because he has experience playing in tricky CONCACAF climates. However, just because he has experience doesn’t mean he’s good at it.
Jozy Altidore: 11 goals in 15 home WCQ matches. 2 goals in 15 away WCQ matches: Spare me the whole "he has experience" narrative #USMNT
— Pauly Kwestel (@pkwestelWFAN) August 31, 2016
It’s time to turn things over to Bobby Wood and Jordan Morris, the US strike pair of the future. Are the two inexperienced in away World Cup qualifiers? Yes, and they don’t have much experience playing together either. But as far as I remember they do have some experience playing with each other.
I think they’ll be fine.
Of course at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you or I want. All that matters is what Jurgen Klinsmann wants. For as much as Klinsmann changes and tinkers with his lineup he’s actually become fairly predictable with what he’s going to do in these types of games.
As much as you or I may want him to take a chance, Klinsmann is going to go with experience. Fabian Johnson is going to start at left back. Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron, and DeAndre Yedlin will round out the back four. Up front it’s already been announced that Jozy Altidore will captain the squad, so he’ll likely start alongside Bobby Wood, relegating Jordan Morris to the bench.
In the middle of the field we’ll likely see Alejandro Bedoya on one wing with Graham Zusi on the other. Kyle Beckerman is a lock to start in the middle of the field as Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones are both unavailable.
The final central midfield spot is the only question mark left on the field where Klinsmann really does have options. He could give Darlington Nagbe his first start, and have a nice creative option in the middle of the field. However, if I were a betting man I’d bet that Klinsmann instead opts to go with Sacha Kljestan, a player who wasn’t even on the initial roster. After all, he does still need some form of unpredictability.