With the dust finally settling after the shocking announcement of the U.S. World Cup roster, it is time to start thinking about just what Jurgen Klinsmann’s starting lineup will look like when the U.S. takes the field in Brazil next month.
The opening match against Ghana is a must-win for the Americans, and you can rest assured Klinsmann is working tirelessly to figure out his best starting lineup possible to beat the African team that has eliminated the U.S. from the past two World Cups.
Now that we know which 23 players Klinsmann is taking to Brazil we can start thinking about the lineup, but before we talk lineup, consider the potential formations we could see.
Plenty of U.S. fans fell in love with the 4-4-2 diamond midfield formation deployed against Mexico in April’s 2-2 tie, and will the formation created chances, the reality is that formation wouldn’t hold up well against Ghana’s tough midfield.
The formation Klinsmann is more likely to use against Ghana is the tried and true 4-2-3-1 formation we saw so much during World Cup qualifying. That formation puts Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley in good position to support the defense, which has the most question marks heading into the World Cup.
Once you settle on the formation, it’s time to talk starters, and several of them are no-brainers. Tim Howard, Matt Besler, Fabian Johnson, Jones, Bradley and Clint Dempsey are basically locks to start, with Jozy Altidore as close to a lock as you can be without actually being a lock.
That leaves four position up for grabs. The first of those is right back, where a new favorite has emerged in camp and it’s none other than Tim Chandler. The German-American fullback has not played for the United States in 16 months, but a strong season in the Bundesliga, and renewed commitment to the U.S. team, has pushed Chandler back into Klinsmann’s good graces and it sounds as though Chandler is having an outstanding camp.
The other spot is center back, where Geoff Cameron is now competing with Omar Gonzalez for the starting spot alongside Besler. Cameron should have the edge as the better passer and quicker player, though Gonzalez is stronger in the air.
This brings us to the wing positions, where we could see any number of combinations. We will go with Fabian Johnson on left wing, and Graham Zusi narrowly edging out Alejandro Bedoya on the right wing. Johnson’s speed, and experience playing with Beasley on the left side should give him the edge in the race to start in that spot. As for the Zusi-Bedoya battle on the right wing, Zusi’s superior service should give him the edge in one of the toughest position battles on the team.
Put that group together and you just might have a team capable of doing what no U.S. World Cup team has been able to do before, beat Ghana.
Ives Galarcep is an American soccer journalist with 17 years experience covering the beautiful game. Originally a newspaper reporter and ESPN.com soccer columnist, Ives made the full-time jump to the internet age by launching his own soccer news website, www.soccerbyives.net, in 2008. His Twitter account, @soccerbyives, has been selected to Sports Illustrated’s Twitter 100 (the top Twitter accounts in American sports) for three straight years.