Ahh, another friendly marks the first of the 2018 cycle. Normally any friendlies between September-December are meant to largely be ignored. This year however, it’s different. Fresh off a World Cup that brought about a mini youth movement, it’s time to see what the USMNT has in store for the next four years. It’s too early to talk about Russia 2018 of course, but it’s never too early to talk about Russia 2018.
We’ve already broken down who we think might take the field in four years’ time on our last podcast, but this is the first stop on that journey. Against a strong Czech Republic squad, Jurgen Klinsmann brought in a mix of European-based veterans and lightly-tested youngsters who could play a role as this cycle really gets moving. No questions will be answered, but you have to look forward to the new ones these players will make us ask. Whether they start or not, some new, exciting talent will take the field in Prague.
This match-day squad could go either way. So much really depends on how Klinsmann wants to play things — go with your best, or lead with the future. This isn’t about what the coach wants to, it’s what we, the American Soccer Junkies want. As you can see, it’s all about the W. For the first half that is…
Steve Fogarty: Klinsmann already stated that Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando will split time. Give Guzan the start, he’s earned it.
Dan Popko: Will Guzan gain the same “no questions asked” treatment of this section as Tim Howard? That’s really the only question to be answered.
Dan Popko: First two names on the team sheet for this defense have to be Fabian Johnson (unless we’re dredging up the winger experiment again) and World Cup hero John Brooks. I’m willing to give Michael Orozco one more chance in the middle, which just leaves a fullback spot open. It might seem like Timmy Chandler’s spot for now, but I’m not going for that. His long-term future with this team may lie in the middle of the park, but lets see what Tim Ream can do at left back. Can’t be worse than some other stopgap attempts…
Steve Fogarty: Based on the way the World Cup played out, three of these spots are virtual locks in my book. Chandler at left back, Johnson on the right, and Brooks in the middle. Based on process of elimination it’s down to Orozco or Ream for the final central defense spot. I like both players, but am more intrigued by what Ream can do coming off his best club season.
Steve Fogarty: I’m not sure Klinsmann has the personnel to pull off the diamond midfield, unless he’s incredibly confident in Orozco or Alfredo Morales in the destroyer role. I’m going to use two holding midfielders. Morales earns the start here, with Mix Diskerud sliding into the role that Michael Bradley occupied for much of 2014 World Cup cycle.
Dan Popko: I almost — ALMOST! — want to put young Emerson Hyndman into the No. 8 role, but alas, it might be too soon and unfair to Mix. Morales might be the only option at true defensive midfield, so I’m… wait for it… ditching the formation! The 4-3-3 has been bandied about in the youth teams for a while, so dare I say, give it a shot here? As a guess there is some layering necessary in the midfield, I’ll also end up naming the same two players, Mix and Morales, here.
Dan Popko: That of course leaves a central, mostly attacking role to be filled. This isn’t the Clint Dempsey spot behind the striker in a 4-3-3, however. There is plenty of defensive responsibility and positional awareness needed. For that reason, this squad makes it plenty tough, but I’m going to trot out Alejandro Bedoya. I’m pot committed, but I’m starting to get worried this could all go horribly wrong.
Steve Fogarty: I’m going with a central attacking midfielder and two wingers. I really want to see how Bedoya performs in his natural CAM role as well, and am giving him the nod over a whole host of options. I want Julian Green to start at left wing, as his role will expand greatly moving forward. On the right wing, I’m giving Joe Corona a chance to perform against quality European competition. How he performs in this game may answer questions as to his future with the USMNT. I expect Brek Shea to get a half hour off the bench.
Steve Fogarty: Only one forward called into camp is a proven international goal scorer. That man is Jozy Altidore, who will be captaining the side for this game.
Dan Popko: The difference between the wingers in my 4-3-3 and Fogarty’s 4-2-3-1 is minimal much of the time, but still, these guys are forwards. For that reason, I’m giving Julian Green a spot on the left while turning the right wing over to a player I did not envision starting a few hundred words ago: the lightning fast Joe Gyau. In the middle we have the captain and a man in need of a goal-scoring lift as usual, Jozy Altidore.
Steve Fogarty’s Preferred Starting XI
——————– Guzan ——————–
Johnson — Brooks — Ream — Chandler
———— Morales — Diskerud ————
Corona ———– Bedoya ———- Green
Dam Popko’s Preferred Starting XI
——————– Guzan ——————–
Johnson — Brooks — Orozco — Ream
———— Morales — Diskerud ————
——————- Bedoya ——————–
Gyau ———— Altidore ———– Green