By IVES GALARCEP
SEATTLE- Just when Jurgen Klinsmann had finally settled on a regular starting lineup for the first time in his tenure as U.S. Men’s National Team head coach, the U.S. boss has to make some new decisions.
Jermaine Jones (concussion) and Graham Zusi (yellow card suspension) will miss Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier vs. Panama and Klinsmann has a myriad of options to replace them. With Jones’ central midfield spot, he could turn to Geoff Cameron, as he did in the win vs. Jamaica, or he could call on Sacha Kljestan or even Stuart Holden.
Replacing Zusi could be a bit tougher, though he has some wing options to turn to. He could start Eddie Johnson on the left, and go with either Fabian Johnson or Joe Corona (or even Sacha Kljestan) on the right, or he could just insert Corona or Kljestan on the right, with Fabian Johnson staying on the left.
Klinsmann has to know Panama will come to CenturyLink Field playing for a draw, and with the Canaleros expected to pack numbers back, figuring out the right combination of wingers will be very important.
With that in mind, here is the lineup we see Klinsmann turning to against Panama on Tuesday night:
PROJECTED USMNT LINEUP vs. PANAMA
E. Johnson——-Dempsey———F. Johnson
Fabian Johnson didn’t have his best game against Jamaica, but he’s still a quick winger who is naturally right footed so playing on the right shouldn’t be a problem for him.
Stuart Holden isn’t likely to be 90 minutes fit just yet so it’s tough to see him as a starting option to replace Jones, even though long-term a Holden-Bradley combo is one we could see down the road when Holden is completely healthy and fully fit.
Joe Corona is a popular option to play on the right wing as well and Klinsmann could go with him against Panama, which would likely mean the bench for Fabian Johnson.
In case you hadn’t figured it out, all of these variations include Eddie Johnson in the starting lineup. I just can’t see him not starting in Seattle. He has played well when given minutes and Johnson would surely be up for the challenge of playing in front of his home fans.
Geoff Cameron seems the safe bet to start in central midfield after his solid showing off the bench vs. Jamaica, but you have to wonder if he’ll be able to keep up with the shifty and technical Panamanian midfield. The fact that Blas Perez won’t play is going to severely limit Panama’s attack, which might make Cameron a bit of a safer play. He looks like a good bet to start over Kljestan.
Here is a lineup I am sure USMNT fans would love to see, but isn’t likely to be seen just yet:
Who would I start vs. Panama if I were head coach? I’d probably go with this combination (I would normally always pencil in Fabian Johnson, but his shaky showing vs. Jamaica has me wondering if Corona isn’t the better option):
What do you think of our projected lineup? Who would you start vs. Panama in place of Jones and Zusi?
Share your thoughts below.