If We Were Jürgen… Our Preferred XI for a Stressful Final Group Stage Match Against Germany

So raise your hand if you’ve ever been more nervous for a USMNT game? Anybody? What about Ghana in 2010? STILL NO?? Wow. At least I agree with you. Something about this World Cup, this team, this game feels so different.

USMNT
Will the team be able to come together and recover from the heartbreak in Manaus? (Photo Credit: Elsa/Getty Images)

At one point the United States stood just 30 seconds away from a place in the Round of 16. Now, 90 minutes and some potentially crazy scenarios stand between the stressful moment of now and either success or failure. Success has many faces, as a loss alone does not knock out the United States; goal difference does. But why wait for vagaries or drawn lots? Let’s just win the damn game.

That’s what Jürgen Klinsmann says he’ll try to do in the apparently driving rain of Recife. It’s conditions that call for a scoreless draw of the gentlemanly variety, though you feel the California German and his protegé Jogi Löw both want to take it to one another. In all likelihood, the two teams will be at each other’s throats for 60 minutes or so. If nothing happens by then the impetus to do more may just be tamed.

But let’s focus on what it takes to win this game, because while we’ll take a draw, that’s never what we’re looking for. Should the same lineup that dominated Portugal for much of the match get another shot or should the tactical requirements of defending Germany and the physical and mental recovery after in Manaus with 27 hours less rest bring about a few changes. We still don’t know what Jürgen will do, but if we were coaching the American team, you better believe we would have some ideas.

Goalkeeper

Steve Fogarty: You already know.

Dan Popko: I mean, I think Brad Guzan could really step in and… Stop it, Fogarty. I’m just joking around. We’re not in the Amazon anymore. PUT DOWN THE MACHETTE.

Defense

Dan Popko: Now that Fogarty settled down, it’s time to figure out who should play in front of Howard. Matt Besler has been the most consistent defender for a while now, so he’s not going anywhere. Geoff Cameron has not been, but he was great against Ghana and Klinsmann’s depth chart means if he comes out, Omar Gonzalez comes in. No thank you. Fabian Johnson can continue to do his thing on the right as far as I’m concerned but the left, well I think it might be time for a change. DaMarcus Beasley probably cannot go 90 minutes after that game in Manaus, so he might get set aside in favor of Timmy Chandler, but I’m not ready for that yet.

Steve Fogarty: Three members of the back four played well against Portugal. Johnson, Besler and Beasley retain their starting spots. Cameron’s performance was, not good (had to keep it PG). He was great in the Ghana game, so duplicating that effort would be nice.

Defensive Midfield

Steve Fogarty: Kyle Beckerman continues his role in acting as an extension of the back line. Jermaine Jones joins him as the box to box midfielder. Both have considerably exceeded expectations so far in Brazil.

Dan Popko: Both of those players are vital to the defensive midfield. Yet, I think it might be time to move Michael Bradley back from his more elevated position to a traditional No. 8 role in the heart of the midfield. Jones will be on the left and willing to come in to help out.

jermaine Jones
Jermaine Jones remains a key man in the midfield, especially with Michael Bradley struggling (Photo Credit: Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images)

Attacking Midfield

Dan Popko: As I already noted, Jones will be on the left, nominally slotted into this section purely for formation integrity. On the right, we’ll stick with the tireless pace of Alejandro Bedoya, though if he is too gassed from Manaus, it could just as easily be Zusi. Bedoya just gives more cover for Fabian Johnson, so he gets my not. Now what about filling the hole in the middle of the pitch? We could pull back Clint Dempsey and go with a true target striker like Chris Wondolowski up top? I thought about it, but no. Instead, I think it’s time for some more fresh legs. To that order, I’d like some Mix Diskerud.

Steve Fogarty: Bradley was one awful turnover away from getting the critics off his back. He has another chance Thursday. Zusi and Bedoya are the best options on the wing. Bedoya in particular needs to step up his game. If Klinsmann makes a change, expect it to be here.

Forward

Steve Fogarty: Clint Dempsey was able to find plenty of room to work as the lone striker. He looked very comfortable and I have no issue with him as the solo option up front.

Dan Popko: If Dempsey doesn’t step back into his freeform creator role, he will do just fine as a false No. 9 type against a team that runs that to perfection.

Steve Fogarty’s Preferred XI

—————– Howard —————–

Johnson — Cameron — Besler — Beasley

———- Beckerman — Jones ———-

Bedoya ———- Bradley ———- Zusi

—————– Dempsey —————–

Dan Popko’s Preferred XI

—————– Howard —————–

Johnson — Cameron — Besler — Beasley

——— Beckerman — Bradley ———

Bedoya ——— Diskerud ——— Jones

—————– Dempsey —————–

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