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U.S. Men's National Team

Who should the USMNT start vs. Cuba?

Photo by Logan Bowles/USA Today Sports

Photo by Logan Bowles/USA Today Sports

With just one month between the U.S. Men’s National Team and a clash with arch-rivals Mexico, the upcoming pair of friendlies are of the utmost importance. Several new faces will look to stake their claim on the final spots on the Hexagonal squad, while first team regulars will look to fight off competition from up-and-comers, along with developing relationships with those around them.

The U.S. opens the October friendly slate on Friday with a visit to Cuba. The island nation is far from a soccer powerhouse, giving the U.S. a chance to mix and match options ahead of the Hexagonal. With that in mind, Jurgen Klinsmann has opted to bring a roster boasting a mix of veterans, prospects and players looking to return to the fold following absences.

Headlining the squad are a trio of young goalkeepers, each of whom will look to lock down a spot in the absence of Tim Howard and Brad Guzan. Newcomer Lynden Gooch is the lone completely new faces to the squad, while young star Christian Pulisic headlines a talented group of young wing options.

Here’s a closer look at a possible lineup the USMNT could use against Cuba:

projected-usa-xi-vs-cuba

Starting from the back, the USMNT obviously features a new trio of goalkeepers heading into the pair of friendlies: Ethan Horvath, Davind Bingham and William Yarbrough. One would expect each of the three to be given some form of game action, and Horvath remains likely to get an extended look. The young Molde goalkeeper has been with the program several times, but has yet to earn a much-deserved senior cap. Look for him to get some extended minutes throughout the two matches as Klinsmann and co. assess his jump from the youth teams to the senior squad.

In front of him, John Brooks is all but a certainty to start. The centerback is reportedly set to head back to Germany following the Cuba match, and Klinsmann wouldn’t have dragged him away from Hertha Berlin just to glue him to the bench. With that in mind, it makes sense to give Geoff Cameron the spot next to him, as the two look to reconnect for the first time since the Copa America. With Mexico looming, the USMNT would benefit from the two building together once again as the duo remains the first-choice central pairing. The U.S. can then leave Steve Birnbaum for a start in his home stadium in Tuesday’s match against New Zealand.

Out wide, one would expect Timmy Chandler to get some sort of look, but Klinsmann may want to take full advantage of his one chance at deploying his first-choice backline. With Brooks reportedly set to leave, placing DeAndre Yedlin and Fabian Johnson out wide gives the first team one final rep with one another before November’s qualifiers.

The midfield picture isn’t as straight forward. Regulars like Kyle Beckerman, Alejandro Bedoya and Jermaine Jones are out of the picture, opening the door for several new faces. Sacha Kljestan improved his stock in a major way last time out, and it will now be up to him to replicate it and lock down a permanent place. Playing him next to Michael Bradley makes sense, giving the two a chance to develop a rapport following Kljestan’s long-term absence. Both Danny Williams and Perry Kitchen remain in the mix for spots in the defensive midfield, so look for one of the two to replace Bradley at some point to give Klinsmann an idea of who should claim the role going forward.

Out wide lies a pair of youngsters in Christian Pulisic and Paul Arriola. At this point, Pulisic should be penciled in as a starter for the Mexico match, and giving him a chance to work with Johnson behind him is a good idea. No matter how good he is, though, Pulisic is still adjusting to his USMNT teammates and the international game, and more minutes equal more comfort for the young star.

On the other side is Paul Arriola, who is looking to cement a more regular spot with the senior team. Arriola continuously cracks the Tijuana squad and has always shown well in his brief USMNT appearances. So far, Arriola has done nothing to show that he isn’t ready to make the leap, so one more big-time performance should all but solidify his spot heading towards the Hex.

If Klinsmann opts to go with Pulisic and Arriola, both Lynden Gooch and Julian Green remain as options off the bench. The two will almost certainly get game time as the coaching staff looks to see how far they’ve come since their most recent youth team appearances.

That leaves the forward position. The U.S. has gotten several looks at the partnership between Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood, a duo that likely remains first choice. However, Friday’s match may present a chance to reward a player like Jordan Morris for sterling club form. The Morris-Altidore partnership is still a very fresh one, one that could be beneficial entering the Hexagonal. Look for Klinsmann to shuffle the trio throughout the two games, giving his three top strikers a chance to duke it out for spots on the field against Mexico.

31 comments
  • Dennis

    That is pretty close to my expected lineup (I did not pick Ariola, else the same).

    One other wild thought after JK was put on the defensive regarding selecting Wondo, he might just give Wondo the start.

    I am sure lots of people will have negative comments on the 2nd paragraph.

    Like

  • johnnyrazor

    I don’t really see JK starting anything, but this lineup as I think it is what we will likely see next month in Columbus, minus Bedoya for Arriola in the Hex.

    For fun I wouldn’t mind
    ———————–Altidore—————————
    Pulisc——-Kljestan—–Williams———Arriola—
    ———————–Bradley————————–
    Johnson—–Brooks———Cameron——Yedlin
    ———————–Horvath————————–

    Off the bench Wood for Jozy 45, Chandler for Arriola 45 (FJ to wing) Gooch for Williams 65, Green for FJ 65, Kitchen for Bradley 75, Birnbaum for Brooks 75

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gary Page

      If I read you correctly, you are saying this is also the same lineup we will see for Mexico. I think it is almost certain we will start 2 forwards vs. Mexico, but only 1 vs. Costa Rica.

      Like

    • johnnyrazor

      Sorry Gary I guess I wasn’t clear. I think the lineup provided by Ryan Tolmich of SBI will be what we see with Bedoya starting in Arriola’s place. As I said my lineup I listed would be fun to see in Havana, but unlikely.

      Like

  • Two Cents

    I think it would be nice to see Green in action at LW. But, he apparently is considered a striker by Bayern Munich, so it may require that he doesn’t start and is subbed in for either Altidore or Wood.

    ————–Altidore———Wood——————
    Green———-—-Kljestan—–————Pulisic
    ———————–Bradley————————–
    Johnson—–Brooks——Cameron——Yedlin
    ———————–Horvath————————–

    I’d prefer to see Gooch in the middle of the field as a sub for Klestjan, Williams for Bradley, and Morris for Wood/Altidore. Those are the main 3 subs, but since we will have more, Arriola can come in for Green/Pulisic and Chandler for FJ.

    Question is whether we give Chandler a shot at LB again and move FJ into midfield, from the start or later on, whatever works.

    Like

    • johnnyrazor

      I don’t think JK cares where players play for their club, my money is still on Green as a wing player not a striker.

      Like

      • Two Cents

        Based on past experience, we definitely know that to be true haha. I suppose I was thinking more from my perspective and not JK’s. Not sure what’s going on in his head most of the time. At the very least, his player selection and lineups have been moving in the right direction as of late.

        Like

  • Helium-3

    No need to start MB90 over these 2 games; he’s a known commodity. Why not see if Williams or Kitchen can synch with the others expected to start? Obvious MB90 will start against Mexico, but for these 2 games, we need to see what others can do in his place.

    Like

    • johnnyrazor

      No need to see him for the full 90, but I think its pretty safe that we will see him start both games. He is the captain after all, and if you aren’t going to play the captain you don’t bring him along.

      Like

    • brett

      He’ll start if anything to keep up team chemistry heading into the WCQ. I would be all for him being subbed off at half or the 65th min area to give Williams a shot.

      Or perhaps not start him against Cuba, but then start him against NZ. Either way I don’t see JK not playing MB as we already have a potential of 3 relatively new midfielders potentially starting (arriola, pulisic and Klejstan… even possible to see Green in there). While we would still be successful playing Williams and having a green midfield, I suspect JK is wanting the team to gel before Mexico.

      Like

      • Helium-3

        Nothing really to benefit MB90 starting this match. Cosmos beat Cuba last year 4-1 in a friendly.

        Is Cuba better than MLS competition? TFC should should be resting him for the playoffs because this is a make it or break year for them to be successful in the playoffs.

        Is anyone being fooled that our starters are going to gain anything from this? It’s why we need to use it to see the young blood, and not guys like Wondo and MB90.

        Like

    • Dennis

      Bradley starts, not because the US needs him to beat Cuba, but because the midfield (especially Pulisic and Klejstan) needs to have more time together, of course, missing Bedoya who is likely the 4th mid hurts that effort. I think Green and Pulisic should be the 2 wide mids.

      The importance of matches like this one is to see how the pieces fit together. None of these players are unknown commodities, but how well they work together is something that is hard to find out except in games played together. None of these players is anything less than very good and it is beginning to look like Pulisic is special, but you don’t need national team games to learn that.

      Like

  • bryan

    i love everything about that lineup for this first game. spot on. i hope that exact lineup is what goes out there.

    Like

  • Lost in Space

    I think SBI has nailed the starting XI. I think he’ll go with what is closest to his best XI in order to continue building the team Chemistry, and to put a strangle hold on the game from the start.
    However, I could also see Chandler getting the start at LB with Fabian starting at RM….but this is more my wishful thinking.

    I’m much more interested in how JK uses the subs. What I’d like to see…..
    Gooch for Arriola
    Morris for Wood/Jozy
    Chandler for Fabian/Yedlin
    Kitchen for Bradley
    Williams for Kljestan
    One of the other keepers.

    Like

    • johnnyrazor

      No where near Havana, might change flight plans getting out of Miami, and it’s projected to curve back out into the Atlantic before reaching DC for next weeks match.

      Like

  • Luxo

    Wood is already proven at this level, placing green with Jozy could be a good alternative.

    ———Altidore————Green–—————
    Pulisc———–Kljestan—––——Arriola—
    ———————–Bradley————————–
    Johnson—–Brooks———Cameron——Yedlin
    ———————–Horvath————————–

    Like

    • Lost in Space

      Jozy is the proven element having spent 2 cycles with the team. Wood has shown well this year but hasn’t proven that he can do it over the long term. The reason that most line-ups have been pairing Jozy & Wood together is to build the Chemistry that they’ll need to make a statement in the November qualifiers and though the hex.

      Like

  • Chris Weidner

    I have a bit different lineup
    —————Altidore——————
    Gooch———Kljestan——-Pulisic
    ———Bradley—-Cameron——–
    F. Johnson–Birnbaum–Gonzo–Yedlin
    —————-Horvath———————-

    Like

    • SoccerDadinCali

      Green does need minutes, but at who’s expense? Would be very beneficial for him to get some significant minutes in a somewhat meaningless friendly vs Cuba, but that would cut into the minutes for Pulisic & Arriola who have earned spots ahead of Green and Gooch right now.

      A bit of an uphill climb for Green to overtake the current crop USMNT wingers and prospects.

      Green is still young and progressing.

      Like

    • SoccerDadinCali

      Is Green really that much faster than Arriola? Green doesn’t strike me as having elite Yedlin-like foot speed and Arriola is certainly not slow.

      If Green gets in versus Cuba, he really needs to play well to maintain his place within the fringes of the USMNT.

      Like

  • Bradley LaPlante

    No matter where you are a fanboy will pop up and want absolute unproven youth and in this case nothing would be more suitable but its also about building continuity as well. Which is why i could see the same back 4 for cuba as we always see. I then see Bradley at DM, Pulisic at RM, Kljestan at AM. Jozy and wood up top, and surprisingly green at RM.

    Like

    • johnnyrazor

      Yes sir, it seems if JK has learned anything this Summer it is that continuity is important. I think RM is really the only place we might see a surprise, whether that’s Williams, Arriola, Green, or FJ w/ Chandler at LB.

      Like

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