Photo by John Todd/ISIPhotos.com
By IVES GALARCEP
COMMERCE CITY, Colo.– The U.S. Men’s National Team is set to travel to Mexico City today and one of the things head coach Jurgen Klinsmann will be pondering on the charter flight south is which 11 players he will turn to in order to try and deliver the first U.S. World Cup qualifying victory at Estadio Azteca in history.
The memories of Friday’s snow-covered triumph are still fresh, and while it was one of the more impressive group performances in recent memory for the U.S., it is difficult to envision Klinsmann staying with the same starting lineup.
Tuesday’s match against a desperate Mexico team will present far different challenges than Costa Rica presented in the snow here on Friday. There won’t be snow to slow down the ‘El Tri’ attack and Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez will present a much tougher defensive problem than anyone on Costa Rica.
So if you are Klinsmann, do you keep your back four together and tinker with the midfield, or do you reconstruct the defense with personnel better equipped to deal with Mexico’s dynamic attack?
Klinsmann also has to deal with how to construct his team without Jermaine Jones, who is now out with an ankle injury.
Here is the U.S. lineup we could see face Mexico at Estadio Azteca on Tuesday:
PROJECTED USMNT LINEUP vs. MEXICO
—————Jozy Altidore———Herculez Gomez————–
—————Sacha Kljestan——-Michael Bradley—————-
DaMarcus Beasley———————————Geoff Cameron
—————Clarence Goodson—-Omar Gonzalez————–
The injury to Jermaine Jones severely limits Klinsmann’s options because it means if he does want to tinker with his defense and start Maurice Edu at centerback then he would most likely be starting Kyle Beckerman as a pure defensive midfielder. If Klinsmann keeps the back four the same, then Edu should start in that deep-lying midfield role, though he could start in a more advanced position in order to make way for Beckerman.
Why is Beckerman an option? Mexico is a very dangerous team, and and Klinsmann will look to try and frustrated ‘El Tri’ with a strong defensive wall, and the fact is he rates Beckerman (much higher than most U.S. fans do). Consider the lineup that started in the U.S. win in Azteca in August, which included Jones, Beckerman, Danny Williams and Jose Torres playing behind just two pure attackers (in Landon Donovan and Herculez Gomez).
Does that mean I think Beckerman starts? Not necessarily. I think we could see Kljestan get the nod ahead of him. Kljestan has qualifying experience, has played next to Bradley before, and brings an attacking element to central midfield. Kljestan also has experience playing at Azteca (he started in the 2-1 loss to Mexico in the 2009 qualifier at Azteca).
So why not Zusi? He didn’t fair all too well in the snow and while Klinsmann could theoretically give him another look, he seems more likely to be a bench option.
Clarence Goodson and Omar Gonzalez were excellent on Friday, but the snow left Costa Rica settling for aerial balls that the tall tandem could cope with easily. Mexico’s attack is built around speed and timing, which could leave a Goodson-Gonzalez tandem vulnerable. With that in mind, we could see Edu deputized into a centerback role, but with Goodson and Gonzalez having played so well on Friday do you sit one of them or do you deploy Edu in front of the centerbacks to provide some protection, and look to patrol the area Giovani Dos Santos likes to roam in?
One name I’m hearing plenty of people recommend is Joe Corona. He’s a very talented young player, but asking him to make his first start against Mexico at Azteca in a qualifier seems like a bit much. An appearance off the bench seems like a much more likely option.
The only player who started Friday that isn’t on this projected lineup is Graham Zusi, who struggled to make an impact in the snow. Edu should step into the lineup to provide a defensive boost, while Zusi could give the team an option off the bench.
Eddie Johnson could earn the start on the left wing in a 4-3-3 if Klinsmann decides not to play a pure defensive midfielder as a shield in front of the back-line. At the very least, Johnson should be an early second-half substitute.
So who would I start against Mexico? I would give this lineup a look:
Eddie Johnson———–Sacha Kljestan———Herculez Gomez
DaMarcus Beasley———————————Geoff Cameron
————–Maurice Edu————Omar Gonzalez————–
Why do I like this lineup?
Edu’s speed and athleticism gives the back-line better balance against Mexico’s quick attackers.
While Michael Bradley is one of the best passers and more than capable of playing a more advanced role, there isn’t a better option to ask to police the area in front of the back four than Bradley. Klinsmann needs to have Bradley harrass Gio Dos Santos and force him out of his comfort zone.
Kljestan can be a good central fulcrum. He hasn’t had the best cameos lately but he has experience in matches like these and has the quality. If not Kljestan in that spot, then Zusi in the role, with Dempsey pushed forward a bit more. Why no Corona? This isn’t the game to throw him into as a starter.
Johnson and Gomez can do the dirty work on the wings, and put pressure on Mexican fullbacks in order to keep them from flooding the flanks.
What do you think of this projected lineup? What changes would you make to it? Would you consider starting the same lineup that beat Costa Rica?
Share your thoughts below.