POWERED BY

U.S. Men's National Team

Who Should the USMNT Start vs. Jamaica?

Photo by Jerome Miron/USA Today Sports

One final test stands between the U.S. Men’s National Team and a Gold Cup trophy. It’s not the test that many expected, but it is one that will challenge the USMNT throughout Wednesday’s finale.

After toppling Costa Rica in Saturday’s semifinal, the USMNT faces another familiar foe in Wednesday’s final: Jamaica. The Reggae Boyz stunned Mexico on a last-gasp free kick in their own semifinal match, booking their second consecutive Gold Cup final appearance. In the 2015 tournament, Jamaica fell to El Tri in the finale, but they did top the U.S. to get there.

Now, the U.S. has a chance for a bit of revenge, but that’s far from the focus of Wednesday’s match. The team remains unbeaten through 13 games of Bruce Arena’s tenure, and one more win will earn them a second Gold Cup crown in three tournaments.

Arena will face some tough decisions along the way as he looks to rotate and match a lineup to take on a dangerous Jamaica team. Here’s one possible way the USMNT can lineup on Wednesday night:

 

 

Some thoughts:

Wednesday’s Gold Cup final is a balancing act for Bruce Arena. Facing a fourth game in 11 days, he has to ask himself which players are physically ready to take the field for what will certainly be a taxing match against Jamaica. He then needs to weigh his options. Is it better to go with fresh legs or experience?

The good news? The USMNT does have an extra day of rest on Jamaica, who needed a late free kick to topple Mexico on Sunday evening. The USMNT’s clash with Costa Rica was physical, sure, but that extra day to recover certainly doesn’t hurt.

With all of that in mind, there are several virtual guarantees. Michael Bradley should be penciled in along with Tim Howard. Jozy Altidore is likely to be involved as well. Kellyn Acosta and Darlington Nagbe are also definite favorites to start as the two of them have proven vital to establishing midfield dominance throughout the recent run.

The biggest question is how Arena manages defense. The back four of Jorge Villafana, Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez and Graham Zusi put together the USMNT’s best defensive performance of the tournament last time out against what might have been the most dangerous attack the team had faced. The unit is certainly first choice among this group and, on four days rest, all four could certainly be ready to go on Wednesday night.

Wingers are a bit more questionable. Nagbe could certainly start on the left, which is likely his best position, but the right midfield spot is an interesting one. Paul Arriola was substituted early in the second half against Costa Rica despite putting on a lively and energetic performance. Gyasi Zardes is another option to play out wide and his energy and speed could make an impact against a suddenly-solid Jamaica back four.

There’s little doubt that Clint Dempsey will have a part to play at forward, but the question is where that part begins? He’s certainly a starting option after playing only the later portion of Saturday’s match, but it’s hard to look past the impact a substitute appearance made against tired legs. Arena could bet on the same thing happening against a potentially-worn down Jamaica team, but he could also throw Dempsey in from the get-go in an effort to establish something early.

Of the two teams, the USMNT has fresher legs due to the time off and the overall squad rotation, and look for Arena to use that to the USMNT’s advantage in Wednesday’s final.

36 comments
  • Soccering is Fun

    I’d like to see Arena call up Clint Mathis, Brian McBride, Landon Donovan, Eddie Pope, and Claudio Reyna from retirement, just so we can get a flashback to the glory days of 2002. Even if we lose by 10 goals, it would still be good entertainment.

    Like

  • johnnyrazor

    I think we see Zardes for Arriola, for his size. I’m not sure Arena is sold on the super sub idea yet either so probably Dempsey for Morris. Although the way Bruce has been doing it we will probably see 11 new guys that have been practicing some new formation for the last ten days.

    Like

    • Two Cents

      Well, gotta give the guy some credit. Even with all the changes, we are still in the final. I expect Zardes to start as well. I know that Bruce wants to win, so I’m not so sure we see much of the younger/on the fence guys, but I could be wrong.

      —————–Altidore——————
      —————-Dempsey—————–
      Nagbe—Bradley—Acosta—Zardes
      Villafana—Besler—Gonzo—Lichaj
      —————–Howard—————–

      Alternatively, but highly unlikely:

      ———Altidore——Dempsey——-
      —————–Corona—————–
      Nagbe————————–Zardes
      —————–Bradley—————-
      Villafana—Besler—Gonzo—Lichaj
      —————–Howard—————–

      Like

  • Dennis

    I worry about Gonzalez’s ability to stay focused and stop quick counters vs Jaimaca.
    Zusi may be over-matched vs Maddox and I am not sure Omar has shown the awareness to reliably back him up.
    Of the others, Miazga may be the youngster in the group, but I think he would be a better choice than Omar, still I expect Arena will stick with Omar. If nothing else, it might get Miazga a longer look in a pressure situation this fall if Omar falters.

    Liked by 1 person

    • whammmm

      I would like to see Miazga as well. I think Zusi and Lichaj would both be overmatched in the speed and athleticism dept. Who can recover best and avoid the MAJOR blunder?

      Like

      • Andy in Atlanta

        You may not realize it but Luchaj is the fastest fullback we have on the roster. He is not as fast as Yedlin granted but he’s not far off. Yes he made one blender the last time but he also played really well in the second half. He faces Speedy Winger’s in England all the time.

        Like

      • johnnyrazor

        Andy, what is your source for that information? I’m not disagreeing, I am just wondering how you can to such a definitive conclusion.

        Like

  • TheFrenchOne

    Am I the only one that can’t see the diagram with SBI’s proposed lineup?

    Anywho, I’ll just come up with my own:

    Altidore – Morris

    Zardes – Bradley – Acosta – Nagbe

    Villafana – Besler – Gonzalez – Lichaj

    Howard

    I swapped Lichaj for Zusi for the sake of speed and keeping up with Jamaica’s wingers.

    I swapped Zardes for Arriola because he is better suited to deal with the physicality of this game (not to mention his speed).

    I don’t see any problems with bringing Dempsey in at the 60th minute when the Jamaican defense is starting to wear down.

    Like

    • whammmm

      Am I wrong in saying Lichaj isn’t even close to as fast as Zusi? I don’t have anything other than the eye test but Lichaj seems very slow and Zusi actually has a little pace, I have seen him up close many times. I know I always seem like a Zusi homer, I sort of am but I really just want the best options on the field. Don’t care who it is.

      Like

      • TheFrenchOne

        And the reverse for me, I have an admittedly poor attitude about Zusi, so maybe I just perceive him to be slow when, in fact, maybe he’s average. But just based on what I saw from Lichaj, he just seemed to be more mobile. One positive for Zusi: he has better dead ball delivery than Bradley (but then again, so do I…).

        Liked by 1 person

      • whammmm

        I can see why people have an issue with Zusi for sure, especially when he is only seen on the international stage. They’re the same reasons I don’t care for Lichaj, to me the only thing you can say about him is he plays in europe… Neither guy is someone we should be relying on, they are both older and could be surpassed fairly easily, I’d like to think and hope anyway. Lichaj just looks super slow to me. Again, I could be wrong, I have no real statistics or numbers. I’d like to see some.

        Like

      • bottlcaps

        I think Zusi has come into his own as a fullback. I remember in one of his first games at that position and the opponents kept lobbing diagonal balls into the corner in hope that Zusi would miss one, overrun his player or let him get behind of around Zusi. It never happened and after that appearance, and even some shaky ones, Zusi has got my vote for at least #. 2-3 on the depth chart.

        I think Arena is now confident in the Gonzo-Besler paring at centerback. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Besides, Gonzales is far more dominant in the air and in the box which I think will be Jamaica’s point of attack. Zardes on the wing, as he has come to show that without him, the US looses a 90 min 2-way player, especially in his defensive role. The US will need his strength and speed to counter Jamaica’s.

        Dempsey will (should) be a sub, if Jamaica depends on speedy runs and counters, they will tire and having the Duece come on at the 60″, will spark the team if they need it. Then again, Arena is good in pulling fast ones or being a little unpredictable and their may be surprises. Dempsey starting means that Arena wants to score early and have Jamaica chase the game. I did notice that Jamaica does not press as much as Panama or Martinique did, both gave the US trouble.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Gary Page

        To me Lichaj looks pacey, but I have seen several times in England, first with Aston Villa, then more recently with Nottingham Forest, where he regularly got beaten for pace by speedy wingers. So, it’s hard to tell for me. I see Zusi as more reliable and less prone to mistakes.

        Like

      • rbenjamin

        Funny how this works. I missed the Lichaj goal game but saw how he came out way to fast in an instance getting beat and gifting a good opportunity..
        But I saw a lot of him at Villa how many years ago was that? My memory was he was pacey and rangy but not the best positioned of refined touch. I might like him better in this game.
        My take on Zusi is more skilled but more deliberate and probably out ran and out jumped than Lichaj which may be the most important thing in this game.

        Like

      • Andy in Atlanta

        Lichaj is actually considerably faster than Zusi… he is second only to Arriola on the team in speed on this roster… Nagbe is a close third.

        Like

    • the unmistakeable Ronaldinho

      There are really only 3 legitimate possibilities for changes. Dempsey for Morris, Lichaj for Zusi and Zardes for Arriola. I’m not sure if we will see any of these.
      Anything besides these 3 would be a pretty controversial change to the 11. Personally I’d like to see Miazga get tested, but Gonzo seems solidly positioned in his role.

      Liked by 1 person

  • Dennis

    Lichaj made a couple real bone-headed plays in the last game he played in. I don’t think Arena is likely to trust him even though he is probably faster and a better 1v1 defender than Zusi.

    Like

  • Bryan

    I’d like to see Zardes and Nagbe on the wings and Acosta paired with Bradley. Start Dempsey, its a big game, hes going for the record and he should be pretty fresh. If we do need to chase the game its better to have Morris as a sub who is a willing runner.

    The backline is the same as last game. You guys talking Lichaj are nuts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ronniet

      Or maybe your nuts!!!! I don’t know what Zusi has shown you over the last 4-5 years that would lead you to believe he is a shoe in to start, especially considering Bruce has rotated the squad all tourney. It’s amazing that because Lichaj has a few unnervy moments that he is deemed not good enough to play Rb for the USMNT. Zusi has been terrible for years, not debatable, Lichaj is just a better natural defender and he’s shown more going forward than Graham has in those said years. People are also forgetting that Lichaj was coming off of holiday before joining the team, so pretty much preseason mode while 90% of the team was in the miiddle of their seasons with MLS. You get sharper by training and playing games, so Zusi was always going to be a bit sharper but a better player he is not!

      Like

  • AMPhibian

    I want to see Dempsey start for mostly selfish reasons, having decided that however & whenever we do the Morris-Dempsey sub it should be effective.
    No field player on this squad has the skill, creativity, vision, or experience that Dempsey has, and we’re likely going to be playing against a packed-in Jamaican side.
    I don’t want to watch 65 minutes where potentially nobody has any effective enough ideas on how to penetrate their phalanx. (sounds dirty, might not be using that word right.)
    I don’t want a bunch of crosses into Jozy-Morris in a box of Jamaicans. It could work, but it won’t be as fun and neither of those guys are especially dangerous in the air.

    Would Dempsey be more effective coming on late, when their legs are tired and their organization might falter in focus now and then? YES! And he’d be more effective than a fresh Morris in that same situation imo, especially in regard to set pieces…But, well I started off about how these were selfish reasons.

    I don’t know. What would give him the best chance of getting that next, historic goal?
    Because I want him to set the record tomorrow night, along with raising a regional trophy.

    Like

    • Gary Page

      Also, Dempsey is our best striker in the air. He is equal to or better than Brian McBride was. That’s important with a packed in defense.

      Liked by 1 person

    • rbenjamin

      While I agree with you.. I really like the Morris run run run. 60 mins fresh legs Dempsey coming in against mentally tired defenders. Plus Dempsey gets lost for long stretches. Limiting to 30 mins is good for him. Fulham often did it as well.. exhibit 1 v Juventus

      Like

      • johnnyrazor

        The US didn’t have a shot on goal until Jozy’s shot from distance in I believe the 65th minute vs CR. If one of CR’s two or three quality opportunities before that go in, it might have been too late for Dempsey to make a difference. Our only offense before Dempsey came on was down the flanks and the final crosses were poor for most of the night. I think without Pulisic we need Dempsey in there to connect the midfield and forwards, unless Nagbe has worked on moving further inside.

        Like

  • HTM

    Jamaica is going to play compact. I think it’s essential Dempsey plays because he is the only one you can reasonably rely on to make a play to unlock a bunker.

    I’d like to see Lichaj too he is faster than Zusi and a better defender. I think overall he has more quality than Zusi as well.

    Like

  • SBI TroII

    Lichaj is way faster than Grandma Zusi. This should be the lineup:

    _________Jozy_______Morris__________
    Nagbe________________________Zardes
    ___________Acosta___Bradley_________
    Villafana___Besler____Gonzales____Lichaj
    ______________Howard______________

    Like

  • Lance Williams

    If Arena is serious about using 3-5-2 in some matches this is the one. Gonzo has to anchor 3 man back line because of ability in the air. Besler and Miazga join him allowing for midfield of Bradley, Acosta, Arriola, Zardes, Morris. Altidore & Dempsey up top. Pin back Jamaica with possession and Dempsey becomes all time scoring leader with winner.

    Like

    • Dennis

      I wold agree with Lance if I thought Gonzalez was up to it. I don’t, but Bruce might.

      Like

    • johnnyrazor

      While I am not opposed to the 3-5-2, your line up includes three wide players, did you mean Nagbe for one of Zardes, Arriola, and Morris?

      Like

Add your comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

More from SBI Soccer