By IVES GALARCEP
When the new U.S. Men’s National Team roster was announced earlier today, the initial reaction was one of shock at the dearth of defensive options on the 23-man roster, but you only needed to look a little closer to find that there aren’t as few defensive options as you might think.
The sudden rash of injuries to players like Fabian Johnson, Edgar Castillo and Timmy Chandler have left the ranks thin at the fullback positions, but it is a safe bet that Klinsmann will turn to some players to give him minutes at fullback who don’t normally play the position.
That isn’t meant as a knock on players like Tony Beltran and Justin Morrow, who both started in the team’s 0-0 draw vs. Canada in January, but the reality is neither of those players has World Cup qualifying experience.
So who does? DaMarcus Beasley has plenty of it, and his stints at fullback with the national team haven’t been covered in glory, his recent good form in Mexico with Puebla, and his experience playing in big matches make him a real possibility at left back. Conversely, Geoff Cameron has seen his share of playing time at right back for Stoke City so a run there in qualifying wouldn’t be a big shock for him either.
With those things in mind, here is a look at the starting lineup we could see Jurgen Klinsmann trot out against Costa Rica on Friday:
PROJECTED USMNT XI vs. COSTA RICA
As I wrote about last week, Jurgen Klinsmann has made it clear that he is open to playing a midfield where Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley are alone in the middle of the park, with no pure defensive midfielder between them and the defense. The Costa Rica match would be a good opportunity for him to try that system out.
The wealth of in-form forwards makes this projected lineup make plenty of sense. Eddie Johnson has had success as a left forward before, and Herculez Gomez has been playing on the right for Santos Laguna this year. Throw in Jozy Altidore’s improved play as a target forward and you have the potential for a strong attack.
Getting back to the defense. While Beasley and Cameron aren’t shutdown fullbacks, both can give you quite a bit going forward, which fits in well with this group of players. Johnson and Beasley are no strangers to each other’s game. The same could be said for Cameron and Gomez.
Plenty is made of Beasley’s past failure at fullback, which came in a 2009 World Cup qualifier in Costa Rica. Yes, he was shocking that day, but so were plenty other Americans. Also, Beasley put in a short stint at left back against Mexico last August and held his own there. That cameo just might be what gives Klinsmann confidence to play him there.
Could we see Matt Besler in the starting lineup? It’s possible, but I think Klinsmann will want Edu’s experience and athleticism in there as a complement to Gonzalez, who appears to be ahead of Besler in the national team pecking order right now. Given the fact that Clarence Goodson has been playing regularly for Brondby you have to consider him as an option as well.
Ultimately, Edu slots in here at centerback because of his overall ability and given Klinsmann’s recent admission that he’s considering doing away with a pure No. 6 role. If Klinsmann goes back to that, then look for Edu to start in midfield and either Besler or Goodson to start at centerback, with one of the forwards going to the bench (though that would seem a more likely scenario for the Mexico match).
So why no Brek Shea in the starting lineup? He isn’t 90-minutes match fit so throwing him in as a starter would be a bit risky. He will definitely see time, and certainly will be an option against Mexico, but it’s tough to see him starting against Costa Rica given the relatively little playing time he’s received at Stoke City.
What do you think of this projected lineup? Think it can beat Costa Rica? What changes would you make to this lineup?
Share your thoughts below.