If We Were Jürgen… Our Preferred XI for the Cypriot Friendly Against the Ukraine

Let’s be honest with each other: this might be one of the strangest USMNT friendlies in recent memories. We’re not here to riff on geopolitics, but damn, that’s what soccer ends up playing around with some of the time anyway. So let’s keep it simple and relevant to the reasons you read this blog. It’s time for the Jürgen Klinsmann to find some World Cup answers, and that starts with beating Ukraine. Even if it means we’re playing in Cyprus.

usmnt-ukraine
Jürgen Klinsmann probably learned more about his players during training than he will during a strange game in Cyprus, but he still needs to play 11 players (Photo Credit: Boris Roessler/AP Photo)

An almost entirely European-based squad will take to the field on March 5th — even Clint Dempsey didn’t have a chance to go back stateside before joining up with the squad following his disappointing loan at Fulham — with plenty of questions in need of answer. It’s not all the first teamers, but enough are here to form a skeleton of the squad likely to be in Brazil. That benefits everyone, especially the fringe players and relative newbies in the camp.

At this point, if Klinsmann is going to pull an old-fashioned duct tape and WD40 quick fix of the many MANY problems still surrounding the USMNT, this is probably one of the places it will come from. Oguchi Onyewu, Jonathan Spector bring blasts from the past and might just be answers for the present. Will Packwood and Julian Green might be the future, but their presence marks a real desire to see what they can offer sooner rather than later. Heck, despite being only 21 years old, it seems like Juan Agudelo has disappeared, but he makes an appearance here.

It’s a group that comes from many different angles and eras but must play as one. What answers will Klinsmann glean from these few days? Who knows. All we can tell you are what questions the American Soccer Junkies want answered on the field on Wednesday. Trust me, there are a fair few.
Goalkeeper

Dan Popko: If you’re vetting fringe players at the back to see how they fit into the top team, you need to have your vocal alpha dog in the lineup. That’s why you start Tim Howard.

Steve Fogarty: Now that we’re getting closer to Brazil, it’s time to stop messing around. This is Tim Howard’s team. He’ll be need to organize the troops and provide the necessary kicks in the ass that the American back four need.

Defense

Steve Fogarty: I know Klinsmann wants Geoff Cameron to succeed at center back. However, in 31 appearances for Stoke he’s played right back 30 times this season. I want to see him at right back long-term for the USA. For that to happen, he needs to start at right back on Wednesday. My first central defender is Oguchi Onyewu. Gooch has been playing his best soccer in years, and deserves this opportunity to show what he can do. Next to him is John Anthony Brooks, who I start every time he’s available. At left back the options are Edgar Castillo and Fabian Johnson. I like Johnson in the midfield, but he needs to play LB to give the USMNT the best chance to win this game.

jonathan spector
Jonathan Spector came in from the cold and could be in line to earn a start, if Dan Popko has his way (Photo Credit: Scott Bales/YCJ/Icon SMI)

Dan Popko: Wait, Steve Fogarty wants to start John Anthony Brooks? What a surprise. Oh wait, I’m also down with JAB. Nevermind. I really want to start Will Packwood — who’s even younger than Brooks by nearly five months — alongside the German-American, but I have to let Klinsmann try his Cameron experiment. To be honest, that’s mostly because I want right back to go to… wait for it… Jonathan Spector. Has everyone forgotten his crosses were a serious weapon in the 2009 Confederations Cup? Did you know he’s only 28? LET THE MAN PLAY! Oh yeah, I guess we need a left back. Fabian Johnson. Everyone cool with that? Good.

Defensive Midfield

Dan Popko: It’s a weird midfield group, I can’t lie. I have to put Jermaine Jones in, at least for a half. He’s too important to this team going forward. In front of him is with Sacha Kjlestan or Danny Williams. Neither can seem to find their best position in the USMNT, but if Williams plays it might make Jones think he can roam a little freer up the pitch. Nobody wants that. Sacha plays and WIlliams probably gets the second half in Jones’ spot.

Steve Fogarty: Jones is in. Unfortunately, his running mate Michael Bradley is ruled out. To add to the frustration, Mix Diskerud was retained by Rosenborg who are prepping for the start of the Norwegian season. I’m going with  Kljestan as my box-to-box midfielder as well. He’s had a great season for Anderlecht, and as a player firmly on the World Cup bubble, needs to show Klinsmann he can get the job done.

Attacking Midfield

Steve Fogarty: This is much less complicated. Alejandro Bedoya starts on the right and Clint Dempsey eases into his preferred hybrid attacking midfield, second striker role in the center. Since Fabian Johnson is deputizing at left back, I’m going with Aron Jóhannsson. He’s more renowned for his ability at striker, but he has played on the wing in the past. In fact, before he started going bonkers at AZ, he was considered more of a wing option for the USMNT. I still don’t trust Brek Shea starting.

Dan Popko: It does seem like there is a lot more A-team talent up on the attacking front in this squad. I can’t argue with Dempsey and Bedoya, but I’m struggling to see Jóhannsson on the wing — at least out of the gate. I want him to see the field, but I can’t see him starting there. I wish we could start Julian Green, but alas, I’m forced to continue to put my trust in Brek Shea. God help us all.

Aron-Johannsson-AZ-Alkmaar
It’s getting harder and harder to find excuses to leave Aron Jóhannsson on the bench (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Striker

Dan Popko: Can Terrence Boyd get a damn game!?!? No. No he can’t. Get Jozy Altidore on the field and hope beyond hope he can finally find the net.

Steve Fogarty: I was going to find a spot for Jóhannsson in my XI one way or the other. Since, I put him on the wing that leaves the striker role open for Jozy Altidore. Altidore needs a goal in the worst way. Hopefully he can break his scoring drought in Cyprus.

Steve Fogarty’s Preferred XI

—————— Howard ——————

Cameron — Onyewu — Brooks — Johnson

———— Kljestan —– Jones ————

Bedoya —— Dempsey —— Jóhannsson

—————— Altidore ——————

Dan Popko’s Preferred XI

—————— Howard ——————

Spector — Cameron — Brooks — Johnson

———— Kljestan —– Jones ————

Bedoya ———- Dempsey ———- Shea

—————— Altidore ——————

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