The U.S. men's national team returns to action on Friday with a match-up against France, a match that should tell us plenty about the current state of Jurgen Klinsmann's team.
Klinsmann will have a strong group to choose from for Friday's match. Both Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey will be available, and German-born Fabian Johnson is set to make his national team debut.
Here is the team Klinsmann will have to choose from against France:
GOALKEEPERS- Bill Hamid (D.C.United), Tim Howard (Everton)
DEFENDERS- Carlos Bocanegra (Rangers), Timmy Chandler (Nürnberg), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Alfredo Morales (Hertha Berlin), Michael Orozco Fiscal (San Luis), Oguchi Onyewu (Sporting Lisbon)
MIDFIELDERS– Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Chievo Verona), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew), Brek Shea (FC Dallas), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim)
FORWARDS– Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar), DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Edson Buddle (Ingolstadt), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy)
So what lineup could we see on Friday? Here is a squad we could see Klinsmann turn to, as well as the lineup I think would be the best one to go with against France:
PROJECTED USMNT lineup vs. FRANCE
The above lineup is the squad I can see Klinsmann giving a look to. As much as I think we will see Fabian Johnson get a look, I don't see him breaking into the starting lineup for this one.
(UPDATE- with Landon Donovan skipping the match, the lineup has been adjusted to move Danny Williams to the right flank, and sliding Michael Bradley into the starting lineup. If the USA was playing a weaker opponent, I could see Fabian Johnson starting and just one defensive midfielder in the lineup, but with all the problems France can pose, you can expected to see a lineup similar to this one.)
The back four seems to be all but set, though you would wonder if Klinsmann would try out newcomer Alfredo Morales at right back. It seems more likely we would see changes to the back-line in the friendly against Slovenia on Tuesday.
The biggest question mark is in defensive midfield, where Klinsmann's affinity for Beckerman is well documented. With Danny Williams playing in his more natural central midfield role, this squad will have the tenacious bulldog who can do the dirty work while Beckerman distributes from deep in midfield. It isn't the tandem I would start, but it seems to be a good bet for Klinsmann, who could also go with Jermaine Jones in place of Williams.
So what lineup would I go with against France? It's not much different, save for the two defensive midfield slots:
(UPDATE- Landon Donovan's absence leads to a shifting of Clint Dempsey to the right wing and Fabian Johnson in the starting lineup. Why? Johnson is a natural playmaker so seeing him work the midfield is an intriguing proposition.)
Klinsmann has stayed away from the Edu-Bradley pairing since taking over as head coach, and there seems to be a belief from him that these two are too similar, and that Bradley can't handle a heavily defensive role. This is far from accurate. While Bradley has certainly always taken on a more attack-minded role in his time with the national team, he can certainly handle being a deeper-lying option. In fact, with Serie A side Chievo that is exactly what he is doing. I'm aware that Edu hasn't exactly stood out during his appearances under Klinsmann, but we also haven't seen him paired with Bradley.
I also wouldn't mind seeing another run of the Bradley-Jermaine Jones tandem. Before you go with the "We saw Bradley and Jones in Gold Cup and it didn't work" argument, I would argue that both players can work well in this set-up when they are on form and both are now playing regular and playing well in some of the top leagues in the world.
What lineup would you like to see the USA play against France? Which of the above lineups do you see having the best chance of beating the French?
Share your thoughts below.