We knew there would be attrition; that was inevitable. Far too many USMNT regulars were all but guaranteed to be suspended for the trip to Columbus thanks to CONCACAF’s cruel yellow card suspension rules. In the end it was Geoff Cameron, Matt Besler and the free-scoring Jozy Altidore who suffered the cruel flaxen fate of the referees ire. Of course, only Cameron went about it in a more traditional way.
Altidore decided to waste the best offense the United States has by getting a feisty late in a game that had already been decided. He may be maturing as goal scorer, but he reminded everyone that he is still barely past college-age. Besler, well, he got done wrong. All the defender — the stalwart of the past few months — did was provide a temporary podium for Joel Campbell to accept his Academy Award.
Now, with three points needed for World Cup qualification and utter domination of Mexico needed for the sake of pride, Jürgen Klinsmann will be forced to demonstrate his ability as a patchwork quilter. As we have pointed out in recent weeks, depth is now one of the strengths of the pool, and that depth will certainly be tested. Klinsi called four new players into camp to provide more options, but anytime Brad Davis and “calling in the cavalry” are in the same sentence, it’s a hard pill to swallow, especially when you look past the yellows and realize that Michael Bradley finds himself injured as well.
But alas, there will be 11 players on the field donning the Stars and Stripes in Columbus on Tuesday and I’ll be damned if they don’t get up to send Mexico deeper into the winter of their discontent. Just who will those 11 guys be? Come on, that’s what we’re here for!
Dan Popko: Tim Howard was not at his best last Friday. Far from it. Bad angle on the second goal and I spent the entire buildup to the Ticos third waiting for Howard to come flying into the screen for a clearance. Brad Guzan has been waiting in the wings for some time. But now, before the biggest game of the cycle, it is not the time to rock the boat. I almost hate to say it at this point, but it should be Timmy.
Steve Fogarty: I could not have analyzed it any better myself. Howard gets the start, but needs to be looking over his shoulder.
Fogarty: There are numerous moments as a soccer fan that make you shake your head, throw up your hands and admit, “that’s life.” Then there are the moments that just straight up piss you off. What happened to Matt Besler, courtesy of Arsenal’s loan magnet Joel Campbell was a down right travesty. That being said, in a game this important, experience wins the day. Clarence Goodson needs to start alongside Omar Gonzalez in the middle. Despite an off-night in Costa Rica, DaMarcus Beasley is still the best option at left back. At right back, I still want to see Michael Parkhurst. Orozco was beaten on several occasions Friday night and although no damage was done on the scoreboard, it was not a good sign of things to come.
Popko: There really is no combination of players that would inspire confidence at this point. Orozco keeps getting called in and will probably start. Again. It’s that bad. Best hope is that he’ll recapture his Azteca friendly magic. That said, I wouldn’t start him. At this point the only locks are Beasley (never thought I’d say that) and Gonzalez. He was shaky leading up to this round of fixtures, but he was immense in Mexico, so he’s locked in. Klinsmann clearly doesn’t value Goodson, but I do, so he gets my nod. At right back that leaves Parkhurst and Orozco. I flipped a coin. No, really. Congratulations Michael… Orozco!
Popko: Unfortunately, it’s another Michael — Bradley this time — who is still set to miss out with an injury. Ironically, with all the damage yellow cards did to the squad, Jermaine Jones is left standing. He’ll probably miss one of the next two games for his pugnacious attitude, but he’s entrenched now. As his parter, the logic dictates Kyle Beckerman, but I am nothing if not illogical. Beckerman would give the USMNT like and like, two No. 6’s and no real replacement for Bradley. That’s why I’d draft in Mix Diskerud to add a little creativity. If it doesn’t work out — or if Klinsmann wants to protect a lead — by all means switch it up. But to start? Let’s Mix it up.
Fogarty: Jones starts by default. He also owes the USMNT a monster game after his recent lackluster performances. I also agree with the decision to start Diskerud. No one player can replace Bradley’s combination of toughness and creativity. Diskerud, who is a willing defender with flashes of brilliance offensively comes the closest.
Fogarty: Klinsmann clearly favors Fabian Johnson and Graham Zusi as the attacking wingers in the 4-2-3-1. That being said, I am worried about Zusi’s effectiveness playing in crosses without a big target in Altidore up top. I really want to put Joe Corona as the right winger, but cannot bring myself to do it, solely based on the fact that team chemistry is already out of whack enough. Clint Dempsey once again proved that he is not suited to be a lone striker. Deuce comes back to his comfort zone, roving around the attacking third. If the offense stalls early, expect him to compliment as a striker.
Popko: Consistency! At least these guys will remain the same. I tried, I really did, to pull Landon Donovan back and unleash the Ice Man up top, but it’s highly unlikely that happens and I’m hesitant to make it happen even here thanks to those same concerns about an already tenuous sense of team chemistry. Instead, the Zusi-Dempsey-Johnson line will probably return, with the hope that they can produce a bit of magic. Not the most exciting call, but I’m ok with it.
Popko: It really should be Jozy Altidore here, but he did something stupid. Really stupid. I guess resting his injury is probably not the worst thing, but he is a difference maker. Thankfully, Landon Donovan is the most prolific goalscorer in program history. A target forward he is not, however. Aron Jóhannsson is more suited for the role, but I don’t really want too much messing with new combinations in this game. Get the win. Go for style later.
Fogarty: Jozy Altidore’s knucklehead yellow card leaves a number of attacking options that do not particularly inspire a lot of confidence. As Popko stated, Donovan is the greatest goal scorer in U.S. history. Eddie Johnson has never scored against Mexico and throwing Jóhannsson into this rivalry makes very little sense. I would not be surprised if Eddie starts and Landon is moved in the midfield, but I’ll take my chances with Donovan up top.
Dan Popko’s Preferred Starting XI
—————— Howard ——————
Orozco — Gonzalez — Goodson — Beasley
———– Diskerud —– Jones ———–
Zusi ———– Dempsey ——– F. Johnson
—————— Donovan ——————
Steve Fogarty’s Preferred Starting XI
—————— Howard ——————
Parkhurst — Gonzalez — Goodson — Beasley
———— Diskerud —– Jones ————
Zusi ————Dempsey ———- F. Johnson
—————— Donovan ——————