U.S. Men's National Team

Who should the USMNT start vs. Serbia?

Photo by Trevor Ruszkowski /USA Today Sports

Photo by Trevor Ruszkowski /USA Today Sports

On Sunday, for the first time in decade, Bruce Arena will submit a U.S. Men’s National Team lineup, and he has a few decisions to make as his team prepares for the first friendly of the new era.

Arena and the U.S. take on Serbia on Sunday, signaling the first match of Arena’s tenure and the first friendly of January camp. The annual friendlies are generally seen as a chance for newcomers to break into the main group, and that remains the case to some extent, but there’s an added level of pressure knowing what’s to come.

March qualifiers loom, and Arena has just over a month-and-a-half to find answers as to how to navigate the USMNT’s World Cup qualifying hole. From the moment he was hired, Arena has targeted success in those matches, and Sunday’s match will likely offer several answers as the USMNT pushes on to a pair of monumental games.

Here’s a look at a potential USMNT lineup for Sunday:


Some thoughts:

While the idea of introducing new faces remains a key part of January camp, Arena could also use the upcoming match against Serbia as a way to develop chemistry between players familiar to the USMNT setup. \

Jozy Altidore and Jordan Morris have limited minutes together, and the two join Bobby Wood as the USMNT’s premier forward options. It would be wise to play the two next to each other at some point, even if it isn’t necessarily in the opening game. The U.S. will hoping Altidore will continue his hot form from the end of last season as he remains teh team’s go-to forward heading towards March.

The wings are a weak spot considering the notable absences but with the lineup listed above, there are options. Gyasi Zardes is likely to start out wide, and Darlington Nagbe could start on the other side of him in a position Caleb Porter says is Nagbe’s best. Alejandro Bedoya is also an option, while someone like Jordan Morris could swap in on the outside like he did with the Sounders early in the MLS season.

Michael Bradley remains the mainstay in the middle and Arena is much more likely to play Bradley in that deeper role that has become his go-to position. Bradley has shown chemistry with Sacha Kljestan since the New York Red Bulls midfielder’s reintroduction to the national team, but there’s always room for more reps with big games looming.

Jermaine Jones has had a strong camp in Arena’s eyes and is more than likely set to be a major part of the team as things continue. With Bradley sitting deeper, Kljestan and Jones can do their thing going forward, giving the U.S. a dynamic attacking presence from the midfield. Someone like Benny Feilhaber should be tested alongside Bradley at some point as well, giving him a chance to prove himself as a legitimate contributor going forward.

Defensively, the U.S. is far from full strength, and it will be interesting to see how Arena navigates several positions of interest. First, there’s the left back position, one that is a point of contention heading towards March. Greg Garza, DaMarcus Beasley, Taylor Kemp and Jorge Villafana are all in the mix, although the latter is unlikely to feature in the first match after joining camp so late. Generally, the U.S. knows what it has in Beasley, so it would be wide to get looks at a recovered Garza and a new face in Kemp as soon as possible.

That leaves right back. Arena says Graham Zusi will get a look there, as the Sporting KC star plays in defense after featuring their briefly on the club level. It’s an interesting experiment, but not one that should last too long with Keegan Rosenberry waiting in the wings. They may split time, but expect Zusi and Rosenberry to both get lengthy looks during the two friendlies.

Overall, the U.S. features a roster with a unique of familiar faces, newcomers and players back after an extended period in the wilderness. The task is now blending it all together in the best way possible while analyzing one or two new wrinkles that could be added come March.

  • Quit Whining About Soccer in the US

    Play Morris on the right over Zardes.

    Morris is the man. 12 goals his rookie season, while playing a lot of right wing. He can get it done and has already shown this internationally too.


    • johnnyrazor

      Almost all of his goals came from the center position though, I saw an article during the playoffs, but of course I can’t find it now. I want to say one during the regular season.

      Zardes averaged almost the same in goals per game last year as Morris 6 in 19 to 12 in 34, and has 6 goals in 31 caps to Morris’s 1 in 12 caps (yes Gyasi tends to get more minutes per appearance).

      I just hope we see guys get real minutes, don’t give Rosenbury or Zimmerman 10 minutes, give them 30 to 45 and lets see what they can do. If we lose to Serbia in a friendly who cares.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Quit Whining About Soccer in the US

        Yeah I saw and-or attended every game he played…..I know

        I like him better centrally, but he got much better wide as the season progressed. The Sounders rotated/switched during game too.

        I still say he is the man we will ride, get him time.


  • Old School

    I’m keeping an open mind and interested to see Arena put his “stamp” on the team, but I’d really prefer to see Altidore have someone playing up top with him.


    • Two Cents

      Altidore is not a very good lone striker, at least in my opinion. However, I do like the concept of using a 4-3-3 more often (depending on the competition) as we were doing pretty well with it until injuries and yellow card accumulation hurt us (that and player choices/positioning). So, for me, a 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 works, but not a 4-2-3-1 or anything that isolates Jozy.

      They can go about the lineup in many ways. They can play mainly younger players or those often left out of JK’s rosters, so it is difficult to foresee what direction will be taken. My assumption is that it will be the older/veteran guys getting the nod, but I’d like to see something along these lines, with the potential to mix and match here and there (Bradley, Feilhaber, Zusi, Manneh, Agudelo, Bedoya, Acosta, etc.)




      A potential veteran Lineup: Jozy–Zardes, Zusi–Jones–Bradley–Bedoya, Garza–Marshall–Birnbaum–Evans, Rimando

      A potential young gun lineup: Zardes–Jozy–Morris, Nagbe–Acosta–Lleget, Garza–Hedges–Zimmerman–Rosenberry, Bingham


      • I scored three goals in one game

        Hedges left camp with an injury the other day


      • Two Cents

        @I scored three goals in one game. Thanks for the info. Was not aware of that. I suppose you can use Marshall or Zimmerman in his stead.


  • beto

    i like this lineup.

    i was assuming that Bruce would run with a 4-4-2 and Beas at LB but imo this 4-3-3 is the way to go.


  • antonnynoronha

    did not like! Zusi right back? It’s never been a big
    deal as half is going to be on the sideline with all
    this slowness, zardes is no better than Morris and
    Jones and kljestan should not go to the cup so they
    do not need to be tested because we already know
    what they can do, Time to put players who could be
    prepared for the future, my team: bingham,
    rosenberry, birnbaum, zimmerman, garza; Bradley,
    nagbe; Lletget, bedoya; Morris, altidore


    • whammmm

      We have to qualify for the cup before you can tell us who should and should not go to the cup. As for your religious Zusi bashing, at least give him 45 minutes on the field before you start acting like rob.


      • whammmm

        Problem? All MLS roster, Zusi works hard and tracks back, wingers turned outside back isn’t unheard of. Is he going to beat out Johnson, yedlin or someone along those lines no. Is he capable of being a versatile option off the bench? I’d like to at least see. Surely he is, especially in scenarios such as this. He had nagging injuries last year and has come through in some important games in the past. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


      • I scored three goals in one game

        How come Arena has gotten a pass with trying someone out of position but JK got destroyed? Zusi has played what one or two games at right back.

        Liked by 1 person

      • whammmm

        @I scored three goals.. I assume that was directed at me. I guess I will start by saying, I never destroyed JK for trying people out of position, at times I didn’t agree internally but I am not the coach and usually my only qualm was MB as it was glaringly obvious, to me anyway. Secondly I was against Arenas hire but here we are and lastly Zusi isn’t our bread and butter, hes not a major player why not tinker in January and just see what you have? Can’t hurt. You could have ended your post with something you would suggest…


      • jb

        Lack of service from wide has been a huge problem over the last couple of years, so I really like the idea of trying Zusi at right back. Zusi is one of the few players we have that can consistently send in a decent ball. When healthy his work rate is really good. Is he fast enough to track back against the world’s best strikers, probably not but besides Yedlin who can? Besides the current team goal is to beat Honduras and Panama(?) in March, and Zusi should be fine defensively against them.


      • Old School

        On the contrary.

        Sounds like he’s one that’s watched enough matches to understand they don’t play together and, likely, one of those within the tandem shouldn’t be on the pitch (starting at least).


      • whammmm

        Old school, never said those two pair well or should/shouldn’t be starting. I will watch and support every US game regardless of who is on the field. Maybe our personal definition of “fan” is different. I’d never turn a game off because of who was on the field. Or possibly you incorrectly assumed what I meant by that post.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Old School

        No, you’re absolutely right wham on the supporting mentality (or lack thereof). To clarify, I don’t specifically agree with that general sentiment, but I do understand the frustration and the source of it.

        I know it won’t be an overnight overhaul, but if we’re changing the managers we should also be changing the overall dynamic. Bradley has been a blatant liability more than an asset, and I’m with Bryan in being tired of his name being written in with ink.

        I don’t, for a moment, question Bradley’s heart but since he had children his ability has drastically declined and his performances have been extremely erratic. We know what we’re getting from Jones each match. Bradley? Either arguable man of the match performances of he’s the worst player on the pitch.

        None of that is hyperbole (or intended to be).

        Liked by 1 person

      • whammmm

        I agree on the Bradley sentiment. As someone who was opposed to the Arena hire I hope it somehow revives MB, at least for a little while. Nobody has challenged him for his spot and until someone does he’s our guy. I hope someone comes in and can send him to the bench, I keep thinking maybe Danny Williams is the guy. Only the time will tell, so far not the case.
        As for now we have to qualify and I don’t care who is on the field in order to do that.
        Jones, he’s gotta be close to 50. I’d love to see someone beat him out as well but I don’t see that happening yet either. I’d kill to have a youngster step up and play with JJs heart, tenacity and engine. Jones still plays with the same fire as he did at Schalke and before. Its and uneasy feeling right now, things haven’t been great as of late. Hopefully Sunday starts to swing some momentum.



    Did JK phone this one in? Jozy as a lone forward has worked when? Bradley and Jones together in middle? When has that worked? Nagbe and Zardes?

    This is no different than a Klinsmann lineup… We’re doomed


  • Lost in Space

    My issues/concerns regarding the team continue to be our reliance on aging stars (Beasley, Jones, Dempsey, etc….). I can understand the concern of the coaches/fans due to the fact we are in desperate need of points towards qualification….but seriously how much longer can we expect to ride the older generation of players? It’s for this very reason that I actually hope that none of these types of players start any of these friendlies. These are the known qualities of the player pool and should for this camp be viewed as mentors during practice and subs during the games.
    As for Kljestan, I had high hopes for him back in the 2008-09 time-frame, but have not been impressed since before the Confederations Cup. He’s another player who seems to lack the ability to effectively defend, and cannot seem to maintain possession. I’d much rather see Feilhaber, Nagbe or Lletget play the attacking CM role.
    I would have liked to see Mennah & Acosta but both left camp early.

    The starting XI I’d like to see (but know we won’t) would be something along the following:


    Subs: Morris for Jozy, Bedoya for Zardes, Agudelo for Lletget, Jones for Bradley,
    Garza for Villafana

    Players like Marshall, Beasley, Wondo, Evans, & Rimando hopefully won’t see the field or make the game-day roster.


  • Chris the LSU tiger

    I really look forward to these articles, but a typo in the first sentence? Come on guys, I proofread my comments here more than y’all proofread your articles sometimes.

    Liked by 2 people

  • bizzy

    We already know what Bradley, Nagbe, Klestan, Altidore and Jones can do. We need to see something different, in the second half at least.





    SECOND HALF (Something different)






    • johnnyrazor

      Don’t we have a much better idea what Benny can do he has like 40 caps? I’d much rather see Nagbe after he’s been given some direction. I do like your wholesale changes at half, not sure how many subs are allowed. And for once we agree no need to trot Jozy out there, unless you are planning on starting him and Morris together in March.


  • recoveredamishman

    These friendlies will be the tell on whether Arena was serious about players such as Feilhaber, McCarty, and other MLSers who weren’t rated by JK, especially the older ones. If we don’t see them get long runouts in these two friendlies they are done. Same probably goes for Wondo and Zusi. If Beasley is on the field, it probably means that Garza and Villafana are no where close to being able to outplay him and that will be that for them for some time. It’s too bad this chance is coming at a time in their careers when they aren’t in form.


  • Chris

    I had a couple changes:

    A couple notes
    -I have rimando in goal and would honestly like to see him get both games, if howards still out and guzans riding the bench for borough i want rimando to start in those qualifiers.
    -I had hedges starting but with his injury I think marshall steps in as zimmerman usually plays the right cb
    -I think the main competitions in this camp are at lb (garza/villafana), cm (bedoya, jones) and lm (zardes, morris). I would like all those guys to get decent minutes in these 2 games to figure out who plays there in the qualifiers.
    -I’d also like to see zusi, feilhaber and maybe a little agudelo off the bench


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