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Who should the USA start vs. Cuba?


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The U.S. men’s national team is set for a historic trip to Cuba this weekend when it travels to Havana for a World Cup qualifier against the Cubans. There will be plenty of political storylines thrown around regarding the game, the U.S. team’s first in Cuba since 1947, but when you stick to the soccer you realize that this game means a lot more than just an excuse for some Americans to travel to the land of Mojitos.

A win on the road would give the Americans six points from two road matches, leaving them in a dream position with four matches remaining. Three of the next four would be home matches, meaning any concerns about a stumble in this round of qualifying would be minimal.

First things first, the U.S. team has to go to Havana and actually win. The uncertainty about the environment and atmosphere the team will be playing in makes it difficult to gauge just how difficult the task will be. What we do know is that Trinidad & Tobago went to Cuba two weeks ago and recorded a 3-1 win there. That makes the chances of the U.S. team sound promising, assuming the Americans can put together a good performance.

With that in mind, here is the starting lineup you should expect to see when the U.S. national team takes the field in Havana:






No, there are no surprises in that group. The biggest question mark is the health of DaMarcus Beasley, who did not dress in Rangers’ win against Celtic last Sunday. If he were healthy enough to start I could definitely see Beasley deployed on the right wing, with Donovan going up top and Dempsey going to the bench. Dempsey has struggled mightily and could use some time out of the lineup. Frankie Hejduk should get the nod at right back over Olympic standout Marvell Wynne.

Now it’s your turn. Using the players who were actually called up, what starting lineup would you like to see take the field against Cuba? Give us your suggestions below.


  1. Everyone seems to agree that Onyewu and Boca should anchor the defense. Considering this is just Cuba, I’d start Demerit in one of those slots: the defense always seems scary to me, and I’d like to see Demerit attempt to wrest a starting position away from the incumbents.

  2. Who let out the BS whiners, i thought Ives was free of that? I personally just don’t see the doom and gloom here.

    Granted players who aren’t playing well, EJ, Dempsey or have never shown skill, Heydude, I wish wouldn’t get call ups. Guys like Lewis, prior to the guatamala game was one of our better players this year. I don’t see the hate.

    Would I love more kids in these games. You betcha. But I would rather let some them get their time at their new clubs. Now i don’t see any reason to not trot out Cooper, give him a few shots, couldn’t be any worse the dempsey has been playing, and i’m sure he would do better than EJ.

    We win this game. We have 4 games to trot out the kids, let them play, build a balanced roster. Enhance the player pool. If we lost this game with the kids (not saying its likely) i bet ives’ interweb would explode with flip floppers.

  3. the only think I can think of is Bob is trying to secure qualification and then try all kinds of line ups with 3 games reamining, since 3 of the next 4 will be at home

  4. BB spent the bulk of his tenure giving LOADS of guys caps, and he’s spent the whole of 08 preparing for WCQ’ers…

    he selected a core group of guys and brings introduces players as the games go on…this core group may not play flashy football, but they can get the job done… and THAT is what bradley is doing… he’s getting the job done, whether you like his lineups, his rosters, him personally…

    i see b*tching and complaining non-stop about BB… yet he was able to get more wins in europe then Arena has ever done (i think), managed to get our only win in africa, won the gold getting us into confeds, and won in guatemala despite not winning there in over 20 years…

    you may not like his method, but it gets the results, and in the end thats all i want…

    Jozy, adu, kljestan, rogers, cooper, etc… they’ll get their chance….

  5. It seems to me we all need to settle down a bit. Once we are in position to move out of this group and into the hex AND once Adu, Altidore, et al. have gotten grounded with their teams, THAT is when I’ll expect Bob B. to pull the talent in. If he STILL leaves out these younger players then I’ll be concerned about his ability to select players. Let’s give the guy a break until we complete this second away match and the immediately following home match.

  6. I’m fairly sick of Bradley’s roster selection. It seems he has a lot of different standards for different players. If you’re playing well for you club and he likes you, you’re in. If you’re not playing well (or not playing) for your club, and he likes you, club form doesn’t mean anything. (Califf, Bocanegra, Johnson, Dempsey, Orozco) If you’re playing well for your club, and he doesn’t like you, then all of a sudden club form doesn’t matter. (Cooper, Demerit, Buddle, Jeremiah White (playing 90 mins. for a team bringing Benny F. off the bench)) And then, most of all, if you played for Chivas, you’re most definitely in. It’s like bringing in some of these guys, or even playing them once their in camp, or changing tactics, would be admitting a mistake, and Bradley’s more concerned with maintaining the illusion that he’s completely in command than he is with putting the best, most talented, in-form team out there. I know Klinsmann is a stupid suggestion, but surely there’s someone better than Bradley who can come in and shake things up. Mexico got Sven, for God’s sake. The idea that Bradley and Sven are on the same level is absolutely crazy.

  7. I am American. My wife is Brazilian. Our son (2 years old) holds both passports. We have agreed he will play for USA.

    If Bradley is still coach I’m advising him to play for Brazil.

  8. mig- very good point… it all relies on PT… but i still say we bring them in later on… they are good enough to compete with the CONCACAF, even better, so why subject them to hackfest teams??

  9. @Posted by: Louis | September 02, 2008 at 02:46 PM

    took the words out of my mouth re: the missing players who should be there.

    If Bradley uses a 2 d-mid set up again he needs to be fired on the spot. Playing such a conservative defensive minded formation plays directly into Cuba’s game plan. The longer the game is scoreless the better it is for Cuba because their confidence will just increase leaps and bounds with every passing minute. The US needs to bomb the hell out of Cuba’s goal the first 20 minutes and leave no doubt about the result ASAP.

    IF we lose or tie to Cuba every player on that squad should have their passports ripped up and be left in Cuba. This game should be no problem to win no matter what the politics involved are.

  10. Ives,

    Why you ask the same question when we all know what bradley is going to do. Is the same lineup of always,same people with few changes, come on people like if we don’t know what bradley is all about. I bet soon Mexico and the other Teams will know the samething that we know already. “Look is ouchie, bocanegra, the Dempsey kid, and those two guys that think they are good striker, ummm what are they name. OOh yeah Brian Ching and Eddie Jonhson, hey is the coach son too. Don’t they have other players rather that the same.” said Mexico.

  11. Ives,

    Why you ask that question when we all know what bradley is joing to do. is the same people that he always call and is the same lineup of always, come on people like if we don’t know. I bet soon Mexico and the other Teams will know the samething that we know already.

  12. Question for those who think it is fine to play the vets due to this ‘hackfest’ we could see. How do players get better or used to playing in them unless they get thrown into the fire? They will eventually play in a ‘hackfest’ so why not now? The best players should play.

  13. @Mig

    I think you are being a bit naive to think “it’s a forgone conclusion that we will qualify for WC 2010”. I agree that we should qualify since our region is not very strong however and given matchday anything can happen. I do feel better with the fact that Group 2 is going to eliminate 2 good teams from the final 6.

    This will continue to be a very hotly debated topic as we press forward with qualification.


  14. @CDeeps: this game is far easier than the last one at Guat.

    @Wispy: I disagree with your take on the Hexagonal — it is no place for experimentation. There will be no gimmes in the next round.

    I can understand trying to take maximum points from the first three games. And I understand that friendlies are the place for experimental lineups. But if we win these two games, then the final three are basically friendlies, and WE DAMN WELL BETTER SEE SOME OF THE NEW BLOOD. I love Hejduk and Lewis and appreciate what they’ve given to the National Team, but they will not be useful in 2010. It’s time to build for the future. I’ve been very patient and slow to judge Bob Bradley, but if we don’t see a different lineup by October 11 at RFK, then it might be time for a change at the top.

  15. All i know is that Maurice Edu is the only person i can think of at this point that looks like he could score against Cuba. He almost did against Guatemala. I just hope that not seeing the field against Celtic and a 4-2 victory(nice call ‘gers) doesnt damage his confidence.

  16. @CDeeps: this game is far easier than the last one at Guat.

    @Wispy: I disagree with your take on the Hexagonal — it is no place for experimentation. There will be no gimmes in the next round.

    I can understand trying to take maximum points from the first three games. And I understand that friendlies are the place for experimental lineups. But if we win these two games, then the final three are basically friendlies, and WE DAMN WELL BETTER SEE SOME OF THE NEW BLOOD. I love Hejduk and Lewis and appreciate what they’ve given to the National Team, but they will not be useful in 2010. It’s time to build for the future. I’ve been very patient and slow to judge Bob Bradley, but if we don’t see a different lineup by October 11 at RFK, then it might be time for a change at the top.

  17. What about the young talent ON the roster? Of anything im Psyched about Maurice Edu. He may not have gotten a chance at weeks end but i think he’ll really be a plus. I just hope that Bradley doesn’t get back to playing Rico clark as our central midfielder

  18. Ok, people. Stop making interesting points…I want to go out.

    @jh…well said.

    Unfortunately, we (via Ives and others like him) are the soccer media. 🙂

  19. im not a BB fan or hater, and while id like to see wholescale major changes, id settle for some small things. what i don’t understand is why bobby can’t call in atleast 4-5 new players each time, he tends to only play 11-14 guys, so these new players dont need to be starters, but why not just bring them in to the camp. people justify his recent picks saying he picked “experienced” players, but how can any other players gain experience if they arent called in? just a few minor picks, bring in cooper to a camp maybe? he doesnt have to play, but it would help him get “experience”

    for now though, i would settle with bobby not playing 2 defensive midfielders. while i think we have some problems in the back (see gooch + boca) and upfront (dempsey is not a forward and EJ should only be partnered with a target), i think our biggest problem is the lack of possession. this is caused by 2 d mids who cant hold possession, and because of this our other problems get exposed further (for ex if we cant hold possession people can hammer our defense and at some pooint break through due to our weaknesses).

    here’s the lineup i would be very happy with, but still not my ideal by any means

    ching – EJ

    beasley – edu – donovan – dempsey

    bornstein – onyweu – boca – wynne

    for EJ haters, id be happy to see donovan move up as long as hes not replaced with a d mid. id like to see dempsey playing a deep role, so he could slide into that ACM and kljestan out right

  20. Alright, I’m going to take a different angle at this.

    All of this questioning of BB’s rosters and lineups only exists because his decisions have never been questioned or addressed by the soccer media in this country. It makes no sense that the soccer media wouldn’t question him, but indeed they haven’t.

    He’d never be able to get away with such non-disclosure in any other country in the world. Our media should demand some answers.

    At this point I wouldn’t even care what the answer is to the question of why Kenny Cooper isn’t getting called up. He could simply say, “I don’t think KC is that good” and that would be enough to satisfy me. I just want something…anything from BB in the way of an explanation or his thinking on certain items and issues.

  21. Noted Brett….good points. That presumes they are going to GET any playing time this year. From the (admittedly very early) evidence, it doesn’t look like it.

    There’s a scotch with my name on it. Night all.

  22. @Gilly and Tim: I agree that there is time and while not panicking, I am a bit concerned. Also, Gilly, BB is NOT using the players that will be on the roster for 2010. Let’s be honest, we’re talking about Ching, EJ, Lewis, Mastro. And he has been STARTING these players. Having them on the roster (lewis, mastro) is good, I agree.

    Lastly, I think at this point that we have to agree that qualifying is virtually a foregone conclusion. This is not the UEFA group, or even S. America. This is the first WC qualifier since we have established dominance over Mexico. I had no problems with being a bit cautious for the Guatemala game…that was going to be dicey. But we now have a road win under our belt vs. probably the next toughest in the group, getting to the Hexagonal is a done deal.

    Patience I can do. But the simple depression that sets in watching the way this team plays is draining it.

    Cheers, time for drinks and dinner.

  23. John

    I’ve never looked at it that way. Freddy Kenny and Jozy arent going to have a sudden burst in form by beating up on South American guppies. I think everyone here that wants them on the roster for ‘development’ just wants to see the USA play football with more zest. I don’t really blame you. Zest is what its going to take in 2010. but right now, just get the easy wins, qualify and worry about the young talent later.

  24. mig- i dunno, but Adu did better against Holland then he did against Japan…. Japan was in by no means a hack fest but they did take him on very physical…. im merely saying we should not bother bringing them in till the group of 6…. there they are more control and less hackfesty….

    i think their club is where they will get the vast majority of their experience… and i wont mind bringing them up, but while they are fresh at new euro clubs i think we could avoid them when we dont necessarily need them…

  25. Guys remember that we are in the Copa America and Gold Cup in 09.

    I think that all the young players can get accustomed to the system and each other in those two tourny’s. And the club teams won’t care because our team now is made mostly of european based players.

    The youngsters should be given some playing time in the qaulifiers just not until we have locked our place in advancement and eventual qaulification into the world cup

  26. @Mig: BB is using players who will be on the roster for WC 2010 (provided we qualify)












    (and I’m sure I’m missing quite a few so no need to add)

    I just wanted to make the point that qualifying is the most important reason why BB continues to select the players he picks. Whether you want to call it team chemistry, consistency or leadership it all comes down to making it to the final 6.

    The players who will be on the roster for WC 2010 will be in the mix once we secure our spot in the final round of qualification. If not I will be right with you in questioning BB’s reasoning.

  27. Personally, I would love Klejstan to get a good amount of playing especially if the game looks like it is going to be an easy victory. I love watching him play. Looking at the comments I don’t think im the only one.

  28. @Wispy, ok, that makes sense. But I don’t think they’re getting many minutes this year anyway. Just a different outlook there.

    @Alex: I don’t necessarily feature Cooper as that wonderful but at this phase of their careers, if you’re going to take a big, slow target forward, why not take the one that has been performing well for two seasons? I think it’s OK to use current form as a metric for inclusion in the squad.

    @Gilly, and @Alex: I don’t see that team chemistry is particularly important when you’re establishing it with players that probably won’t be involved in WC2010.

    Hey, I’m no screamer that the sky is falling but I must admit, I’ve fallen into the camp that are questioning BB’s fitness as a coach of this team. No assault on his character or his ability to coach an MLS team…just not a national team that wants to accomplish something. Hell, I hope he proves me wrong.

    Regards to all,

  29. “And as much as everyone knows Jozy and Freddy will be on the field in SA in 2010”

    We know this? Really? I’ll eat my left shoe if BB actualy starts one of them in our first game in SA.

    I think a lot of the disillusionment with the team is that the players who WERE the young and talented up-and-comers a few years ago really have not progressed. Dempsey and EJ and Convey and Clark are probably all worse right now than they were in, say, 2005. Whose fault that is, I dunno – their own? injuries? the program? But if those players – the guys who (together with Landon, DMB, Timmy & Gooch) should be the backbone of the program – aren’t improving, and guys like Lewis and Mastro are going to be too old in 2010, I don’t see how our performance in 2010 is going to better than in 2006 without a HEAVY dose of younsters like Jozy, Freddie, Cooper, Wynne, Klejsten, Feilhaber, etc.

  30. I think the number one thing BB is doing is esthablishing consistency. This team needs time and games to gel together, that has always been the case. I don’t understand why on earth you guys want guys who have never played in this type of enviornment to just be thrown into the game. I think bringing them up two and three at a time is crucial, Kenny will have another chance. At the next camp he must prove he’s ready. When Ej was killing MLS competition you guys cried that it was just MLS, now Kenny is doing the samething and he’s supposed to now be the second coming? don’t think so in this instance these types of games you’ve got to go with the vets.

  31. Seems to me like we go through the same banter each time the USMNT plays.

    I think BB continues to select these player pools with one thought in mind – team chemistry. BB wants to ensure we go through before messing with a lineup which has proven in the past to be good enough for qualification. I also believe once we have secured a spot in the final six you will see some of the youth called in for the remaining 1 or 2 semi-final matches. Once we qualify for the final 6 it will be interesting to see who BB decides will be part of WC 2010.

  32. Mig — good points but Jozy and Freddy are not going to earn more minutes by missing a week of training with their clubs to play in Havanna and Chicago this week. They need to be over there for now.

  33. I would say…

    GK: Howard

    DF: (R-L) Hejduk-Onyewu-Bocanegra-Pearce

    MF: (R-L) Dempsey-Bradley-Edu-Donovan

    FW: Johnson-Ching

    I’d like to see Kljestan get a place as well, but I’m thinking Coach Bradley will want to ensure a win and not play him on the road.

  34. John, I see your logic regarding our two young prospects. However, playing 6 minutes for Monaco or riding the pine at an under-strength Villareal team is not helping them. Jozy will NOT get many minutes in Spain this year barring catastrophic injury problems there. Adu will get his minutes but apparently, from the first couple examples, not that many. We left him out for Guatemala and he was clearly rested from the Olympics since he only played two games.

    Just some thoughts.

  35. OK, we all need to calm down a bit. Everyone loved BB when he surprised us all by winning most of his games the first year (except the Copa) by bringing in a butt-load of fresh faces. He’s spent the last 2 years weeding out those he doesn’t like…face it, Cooper is one of these…and now he’s going with the group he’s come up with. Let’s face it, Hejduk and Lewis are stop-gap solutions for depth until Beasely, Convey, Simek, Spector, et al. can stay consistently healthy. And as much as everyone knows Jozy and Freddy will be on the field in SA in 2010, the Hack-fest in Havana is not the right time to bring them in, especially considering they need PT at their clubs. I’m certain that once we get to the Hexagonal (when there are 10 games with plenty of room for experimenting) we’ll see a lot of the younger guys. Patience, people.

  36. ————ching——-







  37. So, we should experiment on the road in the semi-final round, because it’s definitely not tricky?

    Clearly most of you aren’t old enough to remember with any clarity the last two qualifying cycles. Both cycles pitted very strong US teams in week groups. Both very nearly were disasterous.

    After a rough start on the road, we needed a victory at Barbados in 2000, and it took us 70 some odd minutes to get a goal.

    In 2004 Cobi Jones, of all people, came on as a late sub to deliver a cross to Brian Ching to earn a draw in Jamaica.

    And do you remember the game in Panama? Bruce Arena elected to start Clint Mathis as a pure attacking midfielder to the delight of Big Soccer Nation. Finally…creativity! And what happened? In front of jungle heat and humidity, on a water-logged pitch with an awful ref and machine gun toting guards keeping back a crowd filled with signs about Osama Bin Laden, we got absolutely overrun. Panama was up 1-0 in the second half, and were pushing for a second goal. Who came in and saved the point? Cobi freakin’ Jones, who every Big Soccer genius said was too old to be near the pitch.

    Thanks to the veterans, yes the veterans, we got our road points, and came back home to drill Panama 6-0 and move on to the Final Round. And who scored that day, you ask? I need not answer, but what is relevant is that he was an untested 20 year old.

    And once we qualified…there were more deubts. Oguchi Onyewu made his first start in the last semi-final round. Jonathon Spector got his first cap, as did Clint Dempsey.

    I swear, most of you out there flipping out about this are either teenagers or have deliberately short memories. If our young talent doesn’t start to get integrated by the middle of next round, then I would start to get worried.

  38. hey NASL dude;

    how about this line up for Cuba

    Shep Messing

    Werner Roth Jeff Durgan

    Bobby Smith Santiago Formoso

    Ricky Davis Fred Grgurev

    Boris Bandov

    Steve Wegerle Mark Liveric

    Giorgio Chinaglia

  39. I have absolutely no excitement about seeing Ching or EJ or Lewis or Hejduk on the field. That said….

    1. Yes, we should be absolutely developing young players like Adu and Altidore. Which is why they absolutely should NOT be on this roster and not in this game.

    Anyone who thinks that playing either of those guys in this game is going to jumpstart their careers is being silly. We started EJ in a bunch of Concacaaf games, he caught on fire and that led to him doing what? Um….dreck. My point is, the single most important thing we can do to get Adu and Altidore ready for 2010 is to try and get them starting for their clubs (or playing major minutes) in 2008. Which means you call them in as little as possible for WCQs. We’ve got a gazillion qualifiers and friendlies before the WC, we always do.

    2. I’m not excited about Lewis, Hejduk, Ching, EJ, etc. But this is a good match for those guys to play in. It will be chippy, a hostile crowd. More importantly, probably a crap field. And given Concacaf refs, an unevenly called game. Better to put a bunch of pros who will know how to pull out a 1-0 win so we can get this stage over with as soon as possible. Once we’re at the point where we’ve clinched, you’ve got some WCQs to put youngsters in with no pressure. And then we get to the Hex. Or friendlies against countries like Germany. And if Adu and Altidore have earned serious minutes with their clubs, those are great matches to play them in.

    But the problem of young americans going to Europe is that unless they’re either guaranteed to start (see: Howard, Tim–Everton) or nailed to the bench (ala Feilhaber with Derby), playing more than a few matches in the summer is going to kill their chances of getting minutes with a good team. And right now, Adu and Altidore need 15-25 first team matches (as starters or reserves) more than they need a game in Cuba and another against T&T.


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