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Who should the USA start vs. Trinidad & Tobago?

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The U.S. men's national team will face Trinidad & Tobago on Wednesday night in a World Cup qualifier it desperately needs a result from in order to stay in good shape in the super-tight CONCACAF qualifying race.

Who will start in this all-important match? U.S. head coach Bob Bradley has plenty of options to choose from, both in defense and in the midfield. Does he stick with the same midfield that started vs. El Salvador on Saturday? Does he give Jonathan Bornstein another look at left back? Does he give Jonathan Spector another start, or does he turn to veteran Steve Cherundolo at right back.

Here is the lineup we could see Bradley using for Wednesday's qualifier in Port of Spain:






If the above lineup looks familiar, yes, it is the same one in the above photo and the same one that beat Spain in the Confederations Cup. It hasn't been used since.

So why this group? While Benny Feilhaber did relatively well vs. El Salvador, I can see Bob Bradley wanting to control the middle of the field and limit the service the T&T midfield provides, which would mean going with Clark to partner with Michael Bradley. If Davies can't recover from his calf injury I think we would be more likely to see Dempsey up top than Brian Ching, with Holden getting a look.

Defensively, Bradley could go with Spector at left back and Cherundolo at right back, especially if Jay DeMerit can't go, but if DeMerit can start, look for Bocanegra to get the nod on the left. Even though he had his struggles vs. El Salvador, Spector stays in ahead of Cherundolo for his impeccable service, which should have produced a few goals on Saturday. And no, I can't really see Jonathan Bornstein starting vs. T&T, but stranger things have happened.


What lineup would you like to see on Wednesday? Which lineup do you think Bradley will go with? Which player are you praying gets a start vs. Trinidad & Tobago? Which player are you hoping stays on the bench?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. We all know Michael Bradley will play 90 minutes, despite being the weakest player on the field the last two matches. I’d love to see Torres but I don’t think anybody trusts Clark as the single defensive midfielder. So the compromise is to use two (relatively) weak defensive midfielders, Clark and Bradley. When Jermaine Jones is healthy and eligible Michael Bradley should not see the starting eleven until he improves his game … the rumors in Germany are that Munchengladbach tried desperately to sell him and that much of his playing time last year (including letting him take penalty kicks) was with that objective in mind.

  2. A few of the thoughts of my fellow readers have Bocanegra going to the bench. I have to agree. Gooch and Demerit were simply too good in Confederations cup and Boca’s lack of pace was exposed out on the left. I like Spector on the left and Cherundolo on the right.

    I am also just not that happy with Dempsey. I think he is lazy and he pouts if he doesn’t get more involved early on. He should have buried those two early SOG’s Saturday and missed them. Is he too big for his britches? Maybe a taste of “sit down and watch for awhile, son” will be good for his mentality?

    Besides, Holden has demonstrated to me a serious case of “Put me in coach, I’m ready to play” if you don’t mind me borrowing from a Baseball song. He is quick, decisive, serves an excellent cross and HUSTLES back on defence (something that Duece sometimes fails to do).

    Finally, I never had major issues with playing Ching or Cooper or Casey up top but watching Jozy and Charlie mesh is BEAUTIFUL. Under zero circumstances is it acceptable to see anything BUT those two in the rest of qualifying…or in SOuth Africa.

  3. Bradley is 1 of our best midfielders. Other than him we have Feilhaber, Clark and Edu and the possibilities of Torres and Jones. Let’s not kill him yet.

  4. Altidore – Dempsey

    Donovan – Torres – Feilhaber – Holden

    Spector – Gooch – Bocanegra – Cherundolo

    1st sub: Davies for Altidore
    2nd sub: Clark for Feilhaber
    3rd sub: Ching for Dempsey

  5. I agree on all points, both in terms of the starting lineup and in terms of who we’ll see if Demerit can’t go. I also think this is the rare instance where what I want to see and what I think Bob Bradley will put out there are the same thing.

    The bad news is that decisions at left back are still being made for us.

  6. I don’t think the future addition of Jones will bring the demise of Michael Bradley–it is going to knock Clark down a spot. It will also enable Bradley to go forward more often while having cover. I’ve seen Clark have more weak games than strong ones. Bradley’s weakness is tight passing after a steal in the defensive end, so hopefully Jones is better than him. Bradley has made some great passes in the offensive end, but this seems to always get overlooked.

    T&T could be a perfect time to see Torres. Feilhaber was solid last time, but not a game changer. Torres was a late sub and almost scored. From what I’ve seen, he has a real hunger to score. I like Benny, but Torres might understand the regional game better, an area Coach Bradley can certainly approve in.

    My overall preference is to see more guys on the field who can control the possession. Having an additional destroyer like Clark doesn’t add to our possession abilities.

  7. As with the others, I think the issue is who to start in the midfield besides Donovan. I would pick one of Dempsey/Bradley because both like to be forward/center and neither is good at distributing or defense. My choice would be Dempsey, but I could see Bradley for nepotism reasons. The other two midfielders should be Benny and Clark both who provide some defense and Benny provides excellent distribution. My guess, though, is that Ives is right about who will start, and that Bradley will start in place of Benny.

    With regard to the back line, hopefully Coach Bradley will not put in Bornstein and if Demerit is not healthy we should have Spector and Cherondolo, with Gooch and Boca.

  8. How about something really radical like starting Bradley on the bench? He should not start every game, he isn’t that great

    If he puts Boca outside we’ll be burned. News Flash – Spector plays LB for country. Put him on the left and Dolo on the right. Boca to the bench, Gooch & Demerit in the middle

  9. Ok tom v, I’ll give it a chance. There’s a weakness in every set up. I’m guessing your setup would be weak if Davies and Donovan don’t track back effectively with overlapping fullbacks. However, I don’t recall T&T getting their fullbacks into the attack very much. Also, I don’t recall any of your examples (Liverpool, et al) playing long ball very much. I wonder if the current personnel for the USMNT have the discipline and confidence on the ball to bring the ball forward with possession rather than long balls.

  10. Just wanted to point out to those that the last time Clark played in T&T, he was a complete disaster. (semi-final round) Granted, the US was already thru and playing a lot of (at the time) secondary players, but it still wasn’t a good performance. Same for Maurice Edu, he was embarrassingly bad in that game as well.

    Be careful what you wish for..

  11. Post-match quote from Coach Bradley: “I thought Carlos did a good job of winning his battles and organizing the backline.”

    I know Bob is giving his all, that he wants success the way we all do, but there are too many head-scratching moments.

    From post-game assessments to the decision to insert Beckerman (baffling) to the decision to start Bornstein (risible).

    We should qualify for South Africa. But, to pick one example, English supporters would be within their rights to think they should have gone the 1994 World Cup and the last European Championships.

    The fact that CONCACAF is so tight is exciting.

    But really we needed better results on the road earlier. We are quite frankly struggling.

  12. CT
    it wouldn’t be a sole striker. in sucha 4-2-3-1 set up the 3 play really fluidly. see for example liverpool where torres is technically listed up top by himself but he is constantly aided by either kuyt, gerrard,or riera/benayoun.

    in terms of quarterback. that’s why i have clark in the game. so if benny pushes forward clark will stay home, as opposed to bradley when bradley isnt disciplined enough to stay back. the 4-2-3-1 is set up so that its one possession guy with one defensive guy, making the hole not an issue. again see liverpool, italy, united at times, villareal, and currently real madrid.

    this lineup is as attacking as the one we used saturday, and better in the sense that it lets dempsey play centrally and uses the athleticism of davies and donovan while letting benny move the ball around from a deeper holding position.

  13. I think you might have it right Ives. Feilhaber was just OK on Saturday but i’m not sure his play was so outstanding that it warrants another start. Clark can be a real pain in the butt for the opposing team if he’s on his game and that may be just what they need on the road. I also like that you think Bradley is moving Ching down the pecking order. He just doesn’t provide enough goal scoring to continue to be in the lineup. A striker should be capable of providing that game changing moment by himself and Ching just can’t do that. Good player but he shouldn’t be starting for the Nats. Bornstein has to be done by now. Castillo needs to get the call soon and Jones can’t recover from his injury quick enough. That may cover the 2 biggest question marks for this team…maybe.

  14. I like your line up Ives with the exception of Clark. I still like Benny over Ricardo.

    The subs I’d like to see are Torres, Dolo and Findley come if the situation calls for those positions.

  15. Ives, read the piece you wrote for ESPN, good stuff, but one thing I thought was self-contradictory.

    You argue for Bocanegra at LB while simultaneously saying that whomever plays LB needs to be fast to counter T&T’s speed down the flanks. Memo, that isn’t Bocanegra. Dolo on the right, Spector on the left. Boca in the middle with Gooch.

    I think Bradley was the problem in CM last time. I’d prefer Feilhaber/Clark or Feilhaber/Bradley to Bradley/Clark. Mikey makes some bad positioning decisions (he wanders forward when he should be the DM) and can’t pass that well either.

    Still, if we go with Bradley/Clark (as I expect BB to), our attack will look like crap, as it will be route 1 ball all night.

  16. 1. We all know the way Bob Bradley thinks. So Ives’ line-up is very likely. Maybe Feilhaber will go instead of Clark.

    2. I am a big fan of Michael Bradley. He is very good. But another manager — a less conservative manager, a manager not named Bob Bradley — would be considering a Clark-Feilhaber midfield.

    3. Michael Bradley is quite limited as a passer and distributor of the ball. And until now he has shown himself unsuited for a role as a holding, defensive midfielder. He is not disciplined enough. And the way he gets forward — which is a *strength* in his game — makes it hard to pair him with a creative, offensive minded partner.

    4. An international manager worth his salt, would experiment with Jermaine Jones plus one of Benny Feilhaber or Jose Francisco Torres in coming months. (Note: In the future — obviously not tomorrow…)

    5. Bornstein should have never seen the field. Spector should have been on the left and Cherundolo on the right against the Salvadorans. And Beckerman? He should also not be on the field.

    6. Things that make you go hmmmm:

    Charlie “The World’s Best Kept Secret” Davies: Why is it that we had to wait for Brian Ching to get hurt for Davies to get his break?

    7. Torres — needs and deserves more time. Based on what I see when I watch Pachuca, I think Torres is every bit as good as Benny Feilhaber.

    8. Stu Holden — has been impressive. I’ve been skeptical, but the kid is repeatedly bringing it.

  17. tom v: I’ve already explained my objection to your sole striker setup. My other objection is that you don’t have anyone on the field that could serve as a “quarterback” to control tempo and keep an eye on the big picture. You have Benny in the game but you’ve got him as a defending MF with Clark. In your setup there’d be a big hole in front of the back line if Benny pushed forward. Against T&T there is no need for a 5-man MF (even if you call it 2-3). The US ought to be able to handle T&T with a 4-man midfield.

  18. I agree with some that Clark coming in for Bradley and not Feilhaber tactically makes sense- one of the biggest complaints was both Bradley and Feilhaber going forward and a huge gap behind them- putting in the more defensive minded midfielder and pairing him with the more offensive minded would solve this problem. However, Bradley is talented and relentless and a stalwhart who I don’t see coming out, however, he will always be plagued as not being a true defensive or attacking midfielder.

    Rest of lineup will happen- I doubt Cherundolo comes into the game unless DeMarit cant go because I don’t think Gooch and Marshall is a good pairing. Not so sure Ching does not come in for Davies- Altidore and him had a couple good games during WCQ before Confed. Cup.

  19. If there were ever a game in which it would NOT be good for Holden to play in, it’s this one. We can’t afford to give possession away, and he’s a turnover machine. I like the guy, and I hope he can further improve his game and become a great second option if Dempsey gets hurt or isn’t playing well (like right now), but for now, I’d really just prefer that he comes in as a sub in a game where we need offense or, like against ES, where one of the strikers is tired.

  20. Definitely something like this:







    After subs:







    Whether or not it’s Ching or Holden (or Torres for that matter) who comes off the for that last sub is up for grabs and up to Bradley.

    One thing that should be noted is that Dempsey is finding the net a lot and maybe it would be smarter to stick him near the goal a bit more. He did OK as a striker next to Ching at the start of Qualifying, finding the net 3 times. His lack of pace seems to force him to either commit to defense or commit to offense with on option leaving a giant hole in the other. So playing him up top seems like a good idea, especially if we can use Chuck-D’s pace on the flanks. Something like this:







  21. dman- DeMerit has had a groin strain all week. Clark not playing was coach’s decision. Some have speculated that Clark was held out because they were afraid he’d pick up a yellow card, which would have suspended him from Wednesdfay’s match.

  22. ives – i do think you correctly predicted what bradley would do. what would you personally like to see?

    id go with the following lineup.


    donovan – dempsey – davies

    benny – clark

    spector – boca – onyewu – dolo

    the 4-2-3-1 lets dempsey play more central. he plays on the flank for fulham but they use wing backs, meaning he cuts in a lot and basically plays a CM. the only problem with this is it would put davies in a different role, but his athleticism should make him perfect for this walcott/arshaving like role.

    defense – spector plays LB for a top 10 EPL club, sounds good enough for us. i’d prefer demerit to boca, he brings some skill/positioning to compliment gooch’s size/strength, but since boca is the captain we dont necessarily have that option.

    midfield – benny or torres needs to be our creative player, and we need someone more defensively disciplined to work with him. bradley tries to get forward to much, and that leaves us exposed. when jones is ready it will be jones, but for now it should be benny/torres with clark.

  23. Ives,

    If healthy the only change I would make is Feilhaber-Torres for Bradley- Clark and Dolo for Spector. Bradley looks out of sorts to me. Spector had a pretty average to below average game.

    If Demerit can’t go I put Spector at left back and Los in the middle.

    If Davies is hurt, Dempsey up top and Holden in.

  24. I know this isn’t a Q&A post Ives but if you (or someone else) are able to provide a decent opinion on whether Bocanegra’s soccer brain/athleticism/positioning is better than Cherundolo’s or Spector’s that would be a help. Oh, and please explain why or why not in the event you answer. Thanks so much.

  25. If we’re going to use Ching this match then the most likely event would be to bring him off the bench if we’re leading by a small margin and we want to hold onto the ball as long as possible. Someone who can bring other players into the game but can also kill the time by holding onto the ball, taking it into the corners and drawing fouls. Taking three points from these guys is by no means going to be easy and we’ll need to pull out all the stops.

  26. “sooo why didn’t clark or demerit play vs el salvador. I’m still trying to unlock that mystery.

    Posted by: dman | September 07, 2009 at 11:16 AM”

    Demerit = groin injury

    the common consensus on Clark is that he was benched to avoid picking up another yellow which would suspend him for this match (which is prolly why we will see him
    in Port au Prince).

  27. For those who advocate one striker in order to get another one of our MFs into the game, please recall that this has been done already a few times in the last 12-18 months and it always results in a non-existent attack. Not only has BB found his starting lineup, he’s found his tactical set up – 4-4-2. It’s too bad we have more than 4 MFs that we’d like to get into the game, but that’s the way it is.

    Some of you have mentioned that the US is seeking a classic #10. I think Feilhaber can be that guy (he’s not there yet). If I were BB I’d keep running him out there and getting him more and more experience.

  28. I’d rather see Feilhaber than Clark, but I’m ok either way. I think the rest of the line (assuming everyone is healthy) pretty much picks itself.

    Ideally, we put away a few chances early (unlike last game…) and are able to give Holden and Torres some significant minutes, I think both of these kids have serious potential. For the third sub, I doubt it’ll happen but I would love for Bradley to call newly-eligible Castillo into camp and give him a few minutes to get his feet wet.

  29. Ives. I like the lineup if Demerit is healthy and I think it is the most likely option given how we gave up possesion in the midfield on Saturday. A part of me would like to see.

    Davies Altidore


    Dempsey Holden


    Boca Oneywu Demerit Spector


    I thought that when holden came in he supplied great service into the box and Donovan being the creative midfielder it would def be a more offensive lineup. If Demerit is still injured I think we will see this lineup:

    Davies Altidore

    Donovan Dempsey

    Clark Bradley

    Spector Oneywu Boca Cherundolo


    However we lineup we need these points!!! Time to make it happen!

  30. I would like to see Feilhaber and Clark in the midfield. Other than I agree with your lineup.

    If we went with one striker because of Davies injury I would put Dempsey central and put Holden on the wing. Dempsey was playing central most of the game Saturday and that is where he tends to stay with Fulham. His crosses are not his strong point.

  31. I think our defensive strengths (which are prolly maxed in Ives lineup) matches up better with T&T which may mean Clark’s inclusion may be overkill. Furthermore, we need offense/goals so keep Feilhaber in and give Junior orders to stay home at def center mid.

  32. Scott- agreed, ideally it would be Jones holding the midfield, with Bradley or Mo Edu in front of him. I prefer to have Bradley closer to goal with more freedom to roam over Mo, since Bradley is a proven goal scorer.

    I like your lineup Ives, don’t see anything wrong with it. Holden has proven to be one of the best passers of the ball we have, he can really whip it in, and he hustles his butt off. Bornstein and Marshall need to come out, they both aren’t ready for this level yet. I like Benny, but he is still not 100% there, he’d make for a good 60th minute sub.

    The problems in the XI still remain the same: creative midfielder in the middle, and a left back. It’s only two positions, but you can easily argue they are the most important ones.

  33. the only chance t and t could ever score against us in on a counter attack using there speed. if we eliminate this they are done.

    no more bornstein on the national team period.

    he needs to find a good usl2 team to play for.

    kljestan can welcome him back to obscurity.

  34. I could deffently see that being the line up, I think that Feilhaber will get the start though. I hope that will be are starting back 4 because that deffently seems to be our strongest group. The USA has to win this game and hope that the other results leads to them being in 1st have Wednesday. LETS GO USA!!

  35. I think Feilhaber did fine against El Salvador but nothing special by any means. A few good looks followed by invisibility. I would be fine with him starting again but I do not think he played well enough to be a lock in the central midfield. That said Clark is nothing special in my book either. Ideally I would like to see Edu or Jones there eventually.

  36. if you look back at the El Salvador game notice Feilhaber’s deft touches, controls, and passes. Ives, is there any way you could stats on his pass completion? I think it was really high. Much higher than Bradley’s who seemed to turn the ball over on a regular basis. I was especially impressed by Feilhaber when he went to ground tackling an El Salvador player effectively after a Bradley miscue. Please, let’s appreciate Feilhaber’s all too forgotten ability to possess the ball!

  37. I’ll be happy to see Onyewu in the back again. May help firm it up and allow Spector to give his service allowing for his weaker defensive “struggles”.

  38. First. The lineup is a proven winner for us. The tactics utilized though are the new issue. It’s great that we have progressed to a point where we can finally start worrying about tactics as opposed to personel. That being said the score and shell tactic employed by Bradley needs to get more flack from the press. In the confed cup we found if enough bitch and moan Bradley does finally listen

  39. Feilhaber > Clark
    I think Feilhaber could provide better playmaking and have more possession than Clark. besides, Clark still feels like a card waiting to happen.

    I have been very impressed with Spector and dont want to see Dolo or Bornstein again.

    That said, is there a chance to go 1 up top and throw Feilhaber + Clark in? 4-3-2-1 ?

  40. Bornstein should be banned to Mordor (Lord of the Rings Hell)… We still need a good left back… Any word on Davies thigh contusion?


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