Welcome to the conclusion of Camp Cupcake, one that is starting to feel slightly overdue as the days between the disappointing loss to Chile and the less-than-inspiring finale against Panama dragged on. We were left with a Eurocentric Jürgen Klinsmann, news of tactical changes and an injury to the brightest spot from the last game, Steve Birnbaum, to sustain us. Not exactly building the anticipation. But now that the game is upon us, we can’t wait.
Carson was a friendly home for the Yanks early last year against South Korea and again provides an opportunity to stamp the first camp of the year with the always exciting label, “Moderate Success.” A loss to Panama, however, would firmly land it all in the failure bin. Not to mention it would turn the irrational, way too early panic meter up to about an 11.5. That’s what we’re here to prevent. We can’t say for sure Jürgen will stave off disaster, but if we were Jürgen, we know just who to send out to do the job.
Steve Fogarty: Nick Rimando has already been confirmed to get the start against Panama.
Dan Popko: That doesn’t mean we have to put him here, this is if WE were Jürgen! But yeah, still going with Rimando
Popko: Already things are going to get a little bizarre. First, let me go on record with my thoughts on the 3-5-2: I am just not a fan. It’s the hot thing in tactics right now, but just because it’s taking off in Europe is no reason we HAVE to do it here (ahem, Jürgen…). That said, I’m pulling it back from what seemed like an early grave against Chile for two reasons. For one, if you spend a vitally important training camp working on it and then scrap it after 45 minutes, that seems like a waste. Stick with and see if it actually can be a valuable tool. Secondly, despite my reservations, I think it might actually work for the players in the USMNT pool. It all comes down to if Jermaine Jones can get comfortable as the vitally important center man in the back three, because DeAndre Yedlin and Fabian Johnson are tailor-made wingbacks. The way those positions were labeled in the formation by US Soccer means I’ll get to that later, so lets start with the three. Starved for options after the impressive Steve Birnbaum had to pull out, we’ll have to stick with Jones in the middle and Matt Besler on one side of him. I’ll doll out another first cap to Matt Hedges on the other.
Fogarty: Much has been made of Klinsmann’s tactical formations, and the three-man back line had its shaky moments against Chile. This match might be the most important “must win” friendly of the Klinsmann era. I’m going with a four man defense. I think Birnbaum was the best defender on the field against Chile, but has been ruled out against Panama. I have Shane O’Neill starting at one of the central defense sports. Matt Besler and Jermaine Jones both struggled against Chile, and O’Neill deserves a shot to see if he’s capable of being an option at the international level. Next to O’Neill I’ll take the more experienced defender in Besler. Yedlin gets the start at right back. At left back I have Perry Kitchen. It is a complete shot in the dark, but Klinsmann has had success putting players out of position and watching them succeed.
Fogarty: I am utilizing a three-man midfield. Michael Bradley’s job is to run the show as the box to box midfielder. At the left midfield spot I have Jones, who played well in that role in Brazil, and whose defensive prowess will be needed with the inexperienced Kitchen at left back.
Popko: I kind of want to see Wil Trapp alongside Bradley from the outset in this one, but Mix Diskerud needs to be on the field and in my formation I don’t see Clint Dempsey taking a seat. In that case I’ll go with the vanilla Bradley-Diskerud combo here.
Popko: Now we get to the wingbacks. And the closest thing to a No. 10. Odd, but hey, we’ll roll with it. I’ve already established that Dempsey will line up in the middle here. I want to be wild on the wings here (Dillon Serna!) but don’t think I can do it. Brek Shea is NOT a left back, but as a wingback who doesn’t have to spend too much time truly defending, he’s not the worst thing I’ve ever seen don a USMNT jersey, though his hair might be. On the other side it’s Yedlin. Today, tomorrow and forever.
Fogarty: I have Diskerud as the right midfielder, and he will be expected to team with Yedlin to reek havoc offensively on that side of the field.
Fogarty: I have Jozy Altidore as the lone striker up top. He will be complimented by Clint Dempsey and Gyasi Zardes as the left and right wingers. Dempsey will be allowed to attack from the wing, without having to do much defending. Zardes can compliment Diskerud and Yedlin’s runs by drifting inside, or he can use his athleticism to attack defenders one v. one out wide.
Popko: The two up top saw Bobby Wood get the start last time. I hope we don’t have to live through that again. Altidore can have one spot and Zardes can have the other.
Steve Fogarty’s Preferred XI
—————- Rimando —————-
Yedlin — O’Neill — Besler — Kitchen
— Diskerud —- Bradley —- Jones —
Zardes ——- Altidore ——- Dempsey
Dan Popko’s Preferred XI
—————- Rimando —————-
—— Hedges — Jones — Besler ——
———- Diskerud — Bradley ———-
Yedlin ——— Dempsey ——— Shea
———- Altidore —— Zardes ———-