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Projecting the USMNT Starting XI vs. Mexico

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As we approach the USA vs. Mexico match on Friday, we wanted to have a fun exercise and project the US Men’s National Team starting XI. A Jurgen Klinsmann starting lineup is one of the more difficult things to predict in sports, but we will take a crack at it anyway. Hopefully you can learn a little more about your US Men’s National Team in the process.

Roster:

ao_usmnt_hex_roster_image

LA Galaxy Forward Alan Gordon has replaced Seattle Sounder Forward Jordan Morris

Starting XI:

Brad Weigel : 4-4-2 (Diamond)/4-1-3-2

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click to enlarge – americansoccernow.com

If Jermaine Jones is healthy I think the personnel is pretty much set in Klinsmann’s mind. What is left to be seen is the formation he trots out. I’d prefer to see a 4-4-2/4-1-3-2 with Jones at CAM and Bradley at CDM in a diamond shape. A relationship is growing between Christian Pulisic and Fabian Johnson out on the left. The partnership of Wood and Jozy up top has been solid so what remains is the back four.

Johnson and Brooks are locks on the left side of the defense. Omar Gonzalez deserves to start for the injured Geoff Cameron because of his stellar form at Pachuca. Deandre Yedlin has earned his spot at RB with his play at  Newcastle where Rafa Benitez looks to have moved him in front of veteran Vernon Anita for their RB spot.

Tim Howard regains his spot as the starting goalkeeper and the last spot could go to Bedoya out on the right wing because of his work rate and ability to track back and help on defense.

Bryan Weigel : 4-4-2

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click to enlarge – americansoccernow.com

In the first game of the HEX, I would go with most of my experienced players. There is no partnership better on the field than what is between Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley. Jones has only recently returned to the field for his club (Colorado Rapids) but Klinsmann has always had a preference for the veteran.

During Klinsmann’s roster announcement Facebook interview he commented that Jones will be a key part on Friday but that another partnership needing work will be on the left. Midfielder/Defender Fabian Johnson and 18 year old winger Christian Pulisic will be critical on the attack while interchanging on the left. These two players play at the highest levels abroad and could be a threat to the Mexican defense.

This formation is also adaptable into a 4-3-3 with Pulisic moving up top with Bedoya, Bradley and Jones staying home in the midfield. Bedoya will be key in my formation as he provides good defensive cover when Yedlin bombs forward. I agree with Brad with my back four. Playing the hot hands of Gonzalez and Yedlin seems like a good idea, especially when you can pair them with veterans Brooks and Johnson.

The biggest weakness I see with this US team however is the defense. I get nervous with Yedlin and Gonzalez on the right side of the defense because they have not played together much. Brooks will need to also dictate play from the back with his good passing, but we could also see Bradley dropping deep to release any pressure.

There is an expression that “the best defense is a good offense”. Klinsmann must rely on Bradley, Jones and Bedoya to hold possession and not allow the potent Mexico attack much time to bomb forward.

Michael Walker : 4-2-3-1

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click to enlarge – americansoccernow.com

Klinsmann will start just one striker up top, giving respect to Mexico’s potent attack with some memory of  El Tri putting three goals past the US in the Gold Cup last October. I love me some Bobby Wood, but Jozy Altidore is on fire right now with three goals and two assists in his three playoff matches for Toronto FC. That combined with his big game experience make him my choice up front. Bobby Wood is a great card to be able to play later in the match if we need a goal.

Wonderboy Christian Pulisic is obviously a must start and he’s been effective on the left as the Weigel’s mention. I like him there with Sasha Kljestan in the middle and Deandre Yedlin on the right. Kljestan is MLS’ Mr. Assist and Yedlin is frankly a better attacker than defender. I want him on the pitch to stretch Mexico but not as a defender.

Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones will anchor the team as the two midfielders in front of the back line. Having two midfielders who’s first responsibility is to think about protection is wise against Mexico. Both will still take opportunities to push forward, make runs from deep and interchange with the front four.

Fabian Johnson and John Brooks are locks on the left side of the back line. Since Yedlin starts in midfield, Timmy Chandler then slots in at right back as the next best option. I’d like to see Steve Birnbaum get a start as the right center back rather than Omar Gonzalez. Gonzalez has done well at Pachuca who currently sit 2nd in Liga MX. He will be more familiar with the opposition. But Omar’s had a lot of chances to secure a starting center back position and he’s never really taken it. Birnbaum had a great year for DC United, is excellent in the air, and can score goals on set pieces. I’m hoping he can prove himself as the go-forward partner for Brooks in the Hex. While I’m campaigning for Birnbaum, Klinsmann will still probably opt for Gonzalez.

Howard in goal. Tim says no.

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