Photo by ISIphotos.com
U.S. men's national team head coach Bob Bradley has had some tough decisions to make regarding his starting lineup during the Confederations Cup, but his decisions heading into Sunday's final can be boiled down to one.
Who will replace Michael Bradley?
When thinking about the starting lineup for the rematch with Brazil, you can't really argue against coach Bradley keeping the same group that has defeated Egypt and Spain by a combined score of 5-0. What Bradley must do is decide on how to replace his son, who is missing the final after being issued a highly questionable red card vs. Spain (and no, there will be no appeal or overturning of that red card so forget that idea).
Bradley has a variety of options to choose from, but one player has earned the right to start.
That player is Benny Feilhaber.
While he certainly didn't have the best game in his lone start of the tournament, Feilhaber has been very good in his appearances since, capped by his sharp ball movements leading to Clint Dempsey's goal in the win vs. Spain. Sure, the image of seeing him stripped by Giuseppe Rossi leading up to Italy's first goal in the U.S. team's 3-1 loss, but Feilhaber has played well since and merits the start.
Bradley's other options? Sacha Kljestan is regarded as the leading contender, but his foolish red card vs. Brazil capped a forgettable performance by the Chivas USA midfielder. Jose Francisco Torres is a good option off the bench, but he has yet to play in this tournament so starting him in the final wouldn't make much sense.
That leaves Feilhaber, the Brazilian-born midfielder failed to impress the last time he started against his native country (Brazil's 4-2 friendly win in Chicago in 2007). On that day Feilhaber was clearly out of form and facing the effects of not playing for Derby County. Now, Feilhaber has slowly worked his way into the national team mix and has played well as a substitute (including an impressive showing vs. Brazil). On Sunday, the U.S. team will need him to play well as a starter.
With Feilhaber in the lineup, here is what we should see vs. Brazil:
One lineup variation I'm hearing a lot of is having Dempsey start up top and Davies on the wing. The reason that isn't ideal is because Davies is best-suited up top, where his speed can cause trouble and he can keep pressure on opposing centerbacks, but more importantly, because Dempsey brings better defensive work, possession and passing to the table on the right flank, where it is needed the most. Now, if there were a natural right midfielder in the U.S. pool who could provide the work rate, possession, passing and ability to beat defenders that Dempsey does, I think we would see Dempsey up top. Unfortunately, that player doesn't exist right now.
What do you think of this lineup? Would you stick with the same group that got you to the final? Would you go with Feilhaber over the other midfield options? Are you confident that the Americans can put together another strong performance and exact some revenge against Brazil on its way to the Confederations Cup title?
Share your thoughts below.