U.S. Men's National Team

Who should the USMNT start vs. Italy?

FabianJohnson (ISIPhotos.com)

A rash of injuries and illness have left U.S. men's national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann with a weakened roster ahead of Wednesday's match against Italy, making his decisions on a starting lineup that much tougher.

The loss of Landon Donovan, Timmy Chandler and Jose Torres, coming on the heels of losing Oguchi Onyewu has left Klinsmann with a group that won't quite look like the nearly full-strength side he looked like he would have available in Genoa on Wednesday.

Replacing Donovan won't be easy, and the decision to bring in Brek Shea as an emergency replacement shows just how limited Klinsmann's wing options are for the Italy match.

So who will Klinsmann start against the Italians? Here is the lineup we see him using:








Fabian Johnson plays left back for Hoffenheim and this match is the perfect opportunity to get a look at him at that position, partnering him with Shea to form a fast flank pairing. The right side isn't quite as dynamic, with the defensive-minded Williams teaming with Cherundolo. In fact, with Williams in the lineup in that grouping, the lineup would play more like a 4-3-2-1 than a 4-2-3-1. Having Edu, Bradley and Williams in front of the defense would squeeze Italy's dangerous midfield, but it also wouldn't likely lead to the United States creating many scoring chances.

Klinsmann could put Shea on the right and Johnson on the left, choosing to turn to Jonathan Spector at left back. This would allow him to play Williams in central midfield alongside Bradley. Williams has looked good in that role for Hoffenheim, but he question will be whether Klinsmann is better off with Spector at left back (where he hasn't played this year for Birmingham) or with Johnson at left back and Williams on the right wing. The latter would be a much stronger defensive lineup.

Altidore and Dempsey will work together, either in the 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 shown, or in a straight 4-4-2.

At centerback, Goodson brings experience to the table and should get the nod over Geoff Cameron and Michael Parkhurst.

Sacha Kljestan has been called in for this match, and while he has done very well for Anderlecht, it is tough to envision Klinsmann starting him after not originally planning to call him in at all (yes, the same can be said about Shea, but Shea is an established Klinsmann favorite while Kljestan is about as far from that as you can get).

What do you think of the above lineup? What players would you like to see in the starting XI? Who listed above do you NOT want to see get a start on Wednesday?

Share your thoughts below.

  • biff

    man, you beat me to it. my revised line-up very close to yours. After sleeping on it, have also concluded that might be wise for Shea to begin the game on the bench and come in later as a super-sub. He is a great spark plug, as we saw against Mexico in August. Not starting also would take some of the pressure of his young shoulders. With Donovan and Torres out, I still think Johnson’s ball-handling and great passing skills are needed in in the midfield, so would rather see him as left-winger than left back.

    I am not a fan of Williams on the right wing. But without Donovan and Chandler out, I think Williams (possibly Kljestan) is a better choice as right winger than Michael Bradley. With Beckerman and Jones injured, this is a golden opportunity to give MB the chance to show what he can do as the lone holding midfielder (Number Six). Jones, Beckerman and Edu have all played the lone holding mid in the Klinnsman’s system. Jones was exceptional, Beckerman good, and Edu mostly solid. Time to let MB have his chance in the limelight against his host country and see whether he can jump above those three on Klinsmann’s lone holding midfielder depth chart.

    Buddle hasn’t really convinced me yet. But he did score a nice goal against Slovenia and worked well with Altidore. Plus, his experience on the field among a mostly young USMNT would be helpful. I liked Cameron in January and want to see him get some time against Italy, but Klinsmann might want to start the game with the much more internationally experienced Goodson and sub in Cameron later.





    This line-up would leave Klinsmann the option, if the back-line is having trouble, of moving Johnson to left back and subbing in Shea as left winger. If Bradly or Williams need help, Edu or Kljestan also would be solid subbing options. And when Buddle gets tired, we can take a look at Terrence Boyd. I have a feeling this kid is fearless and if he gets the chance he will not be intimidated by the Italians. Doesn’t mean he would have success in his first USMNT outings, only that he won’t be standing out on the field scared stuff-less for his first cap.

    Even with Donovan, Jones, Torres, Chandler, Onyewu out of this one, I am sooo excited for this match. And Klinsmann somehow seems unusually upbeat and confident for this match.


  • juan

    Ill go further…Edu and Bradley = no goals or even chances for us.

    I was looking forward to this game…now, with the injuries, I dont care too much

    I think Klinsmann might surprise some of the experts with his player selection


  • Vic

    People that are suggesting Spector at left back have forgotten how poorly he played as a defender in the EPL. He was voted worst player on the team at West Ham last year. He’s too slow against top competition. He’s been playing better in the Championship but thats a lower level league and he’s playing in midfield.


  • The Imperative Voice

    Man, just because I say he’s a big guy who’s sloppy on the ball and not real mobile to make runs off the ball doesn’t make it racial. Ernie Stewart used to be a great US attacker who had skill and speed and endurance…..who played in the Eredivisie…..and happens to be black. It’s about body type and fitness, as well as skill level (and those attributes can link up, a big guy with marginal fitness can have touch problems). I just believe that players built like Landon have it easier at being elite soccer players, if they can stay healthy. They’re built like endurance runners and they can skitter all over the field, and they don’t have the muscle mass to deal with for skills and endurance purposes. You can overcome that and there are plenty of big-legged examples, but it takes a lot of work.

    In terms of the rest, I am a Houston Dynamo fan, I think I can tell whether a player can hack it back to goal or not. All we do is bang away in a 442. IMO Altidore looks like a center striker in build but is in fact better used on a wing, where he has space to execute skills and build speed and fewer defenders draped on him. He’s one of those T-Mac types who looks like a power forward but should probably play guard, so to speak.

    I just really really think using him alone with his skills set in a 451 is unwise and asking for frustration. I don’t think he sucks, but I think he has limited ball skills and often a heavy touch. If you’re relying on him to be the next McBride, you’re kidding yourself….and at his age I only expect modest change over time.


  • The Imperative Voice

    Jozy’s been playing pro for 6 years now….he’s like Owen and Rooney in that sense….so the notion I should expect some massive burst of further improvement is not necessarily called for. Granted, he’s not been adequately used for a few years, so maybe an uptick there for rust coming off, but he’s been a pro for years, he won’t just change quality overnight. It’s not like he’s a draft pick or academy signing blossoming under pro exposure. He’s a veteran.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think the Eredivisie is a good choice for him and other attacking minded Americans. And he may sharpen somewhat what he has. But it strikes me a bit naive to act like he’s going to obviously “blow up” when his coach’s whole point was, “Where’s the beef?” He’s clearly not seeing it.


  • The Imperative Voice

    Yes, he’s close, I said as much in another post, but I don’t think he keeps possession well enough for the new style, and while travel is a concern, Shea got drafted from Dallas, so it’s hardly the only factor.

    I’m not giving up on him I just think that people who’ve been pro since their teens don’t tend to have much more development to go in their 20s before they plateau and slide back down. Other than playing for Anderlecht in and of itself, I’ve not seen a sign he’s grown. Again, it’s not like he’s playing at Man U and setting the world on fire. It’s the Belgian and Europa leagues.


  • biff

    But Spector has played LB before. Can anyone else on the roster fill in at LB? Klinsmann is facing a major quandary with the absences of Donovan, Torres, and Chandler (who has been starting at right wing the past few games for Nurnberg). If he wants any offense at all, he needs an attacking midfielder who can handle the ball and make good forward passes. Johnson is it. Actually, I just thought, maybe in this emergency situation Klinsmann will put Edu up top as CAM again, as he did in some of the earlier games, when he had Beckerman as the lone holding midfielder and Edu up ahead as CM. Edu did not shine, but at the same time it could have been worse. But this time it would be Bradley in back as the lone DM and Edu up top as CM.


  • paul

    My starter picks with the assembled crew:

    ——- -Altidore——–

    Shea: In a couple of friendlies Shea’s played the winger swap in mid game, I thought it was alright. He knows the role. I think he and Dolo could own the right side, all the way to the attacking corner, together.
    Dempsey: Makes a living here for Fulham
    Williams: Makes a living here for Hoffenheim
    Bradley: Has the motor and d-skills to be the box/box mid
    Kljestan: Is making assists and scoring goals, let him try it here.


  • bryan

    wow, it really isn’t hard to understand what i am saying. so here it is again:

    Sacha deserves to be called up given his recent form, especially with all the injuries.

    i didn’t say he was better than anyone, i didn’t say his club form would carry over. all i’m saying is, based on his club performances for a strong side, he deserves to be called up again. nothing more, nothing less.


  • Tipper Gore

    Don’t really care as long as Dempsey is playing up top and not gassing himself trying to look like he is playing defense.


  • Dennis

    I just don’t get all the love people seem to have for Jones. For the USMNT, he has had good games against Panama and Venezuela, but mostly he has failed to impress me.

    He was once an important part of Schalke’s squad, but injury, then a falling out with the coach, then an 8 game suspension that was deserved (this was not a 20 year-old losing his temper, it was a deliberate attempt to (re)injure the most dangerous player on the opposing team when the ball was not even in play) have limited his effectiveness since 2009 when his injury problems began The only extended bright period was a few month loan to Blackburn where he did play well and only got about 1 yellow card per 2 games. I am afraid he is just always a bad decision away from getting tossed of a game.

    He is more athletic than Beckerman, more skillfull than Edu, dribbles a bit better than Bradley, but in many facets of the game he is not a big improvement, and at 30 years-old he is not so likely to improve a lot.


  • Dennis

    Boca can lay LB, so can Johnson, they are probably both better choices. Of course they may be needed elsewhere.


  • TomG

    Look at Didier Drogba’s career path. Look at Brian McBride’s. Big forwards generally progress slower, but play at a high level longer than smaller speed guys b/c you get stronger as you get into your mid to late 20s and 30s, but you are at your fastest in your late teens/early 20s and get slower afterwards. So the Michael Owen comp is silly. Drogba is the much better comp.

    Guys like Messi, Rooney, Christiano Ronaldo, etc. are the exceptions. Just b/c a guy isn’t Rooney doesn’t mean he can’t be a very, very effective player.


  • TomG

    I would tend to agree, but it’s tough for a manager to leave out a guy who has been a really good player in the Bundesliga and has been a big player on a team that has made deep runs in the CL when none of his other CMs have resumes that come close to JJ’s.


  • Birdman

    I say we play with experience in this one.






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