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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. Another point as to why it makes sense to sit Bradley and play Jermaine Jones with Torres intead is that Torres’s style of play, like Murphey’s at Fulham, is way more compatible with Dempsey’s style of play. Dempsey is pretty slow-footed for a winger, but his creativity and passing works well with a central midfielder that can hold the ball and pass. Think Spector to Dempsey, lay off to Torres to spring Davies on a through ball rather than what we see now, which is Dempsey getting the ball on his feet and trying to do too much because he we have no competent central midfielders.

  2. I know BB won’t goes this way, and we will get our usual on the road defensive shell/counter attack dreck, but if I controlled the team here is what I would put put out there:

    If Charlie Davies can go:

    – Davies Altidore –

    – Donovan Holden –

    – Dempsey Bradley –

    – Boca Gooch Marshall Spector –

    If Davies cannot go:

    – Dempsey Altidore –

    – Donovan Holden –

    – Clark Bradley –

    – Boca Gooch Marshall Spector –

    Holden’s crosses will get turned into goals. We need someone to whip nice passes in.

  3. I haven’t read all the comments, so someone may have already pointed out this fact. Goal difference will be crucial in determining final standings in the Hexagonal this go-around. With Honduras on +7, the USA need to score as many goals as possible in this game. Three points is essential, of course, but I really don’t think there is any doubt the USA will win. This game is the last realistic chance we will have to improve our goal difference and I believe it must be a priority. We cannot resort to Bob Bradley’s favorite tactic of going into a bunker for the last 15-20 minutes of the match to try to preserve the win. I agree that the formation and personnel used against Spain are an ideal choice to start on Wednesday, but we need to play with an agressive style all night, regardless of the score.

  4. Demerit didn’t didn’t travel with squad to Trinadad so I’m thinking Bradley will put Spector on left and Dolo on right with Boca and Gouch in the middle.

  5. No DeMerit so:

    Boca Gooch Goodson Dolo

    This group is fresh and ready to go….just do it!

    Besides the group that played against ES was pretty bad at home and this is a raod match.

  6. Jeff in Houston, my remark was directed at you but just at a particular position sometimes taken here about the Bradley-Bradley relationship.

    I don’t blame Bradley for being conservative about pulling guys in slumps when the alternatives at different positions are Clark, Pearce, Bornstein, Casey…

  7. Jimmygreaves…re: Cooper, yes, he’s a goal scorer. For FCD, he consistently needed a high number of shots to goals (see stats). Selfish is a good quality, agreed. But, you gotta know when to shot v. pass. Even a “selfish” scorer like Shearer knows when to dish. Not saying he’s Shearer, but the analogy holds. Bury your shot or develop some vision.

    And you appear to agree with what I wrote, not contradcit it….Cohesion is vital and the Nat Coach has a tuff job b/c of lack of time & opportunities. I think that we are past the point of having a small number of players who could be in the pool; we crossed that bridge 4-6 years ago. The pool is actually what the coach & staff see and choose to bring to camps (Nats, U20s, Olys, etc.)

    So if BB plays 4-4-2, he needs to choose guys who will do those roles so that his basic tactical approach has as few holes as possible. He needs to have alternatives ready if possible. I guess what I find BB in lacking is nerve for big decisions (that is what he get paid to do…the guys play, he builds squad and chooses who is in and plays)….IMHO it was fate forced his hand (injuries and awful form) rather than a ruthless analysis of players.

    As you know Capello dropped Becks from the 1st team in Madrid and was publically adamant about why he did so…pre-signing contract, poor form, etc. He was ruthless and yet, over a few months, also humble to his own decision when the reality of Becks’ value to the team changed…so he brought him back to the squad.

    That he cotinues to select Becks for ENG is b/c he sees value as a player, someone with a role (no matter size) and a contributuion to winning. That is the message, merit/value to winning.

    So…the big Q before SA is what will BB do to win?

    And, I will gladly take your knock of playing fantasy ball….that is why you and I and all others are here…..that IMHO is why even I bother to write…b/c we care and, with all humility tossed out, think that we have the answer to Qs (an easy one – why is Deuce so darn frustrating rite now?) that Bob, Sorber, etc. have on their minds – what can we do to WIN!

  8. I’m shocked Ives didn’t call for ching starting in all 11 positions.

    I’m also shocked some people really want to switch formations from a 442. Simply put, that’s retarded. Davies and jozy are so dangerous because, as a tandem, they can throw so many different things at you. Slotting davies out wide to run the flanks makes 0 sense. Why would you give him a tracking responsibility? Why would you want to take him away from goal? Keep the 442 and fill the positions with the appropriate players.

  9. Jeff in Houston,

    There is a reason national team coaches tend to be conservative and tend to play favorites.

    They have very little time to forge a team so players who are familiar with what the coach wants and that the coach trusts are vital. Why do you think Capello keeps Beckham around? It’s because he uses him to get his point across to the other players. History is full of succesful national teams that were not “all-star” selections but rather cohesive units. Most bloggers here love to play fantasy soccer, “lets pick this guy or that guy” with litle regard to whether or not they fit into the overall team concept. Actually, I think you will find Bradley is more adventurous than Arena was in his selections; though that may be because the talent pool is widening all the time. I also think Davies came in at just about the right time. I didn’t think much of him ( great speed, poor touch) before South Africa and he has certainly proven me wrong. When they fire Bradley (either when we fail to qualify or after the World Cup) I think you will find his successor may be more adventurous only because the talent pool keeps widening for the US.

    By the way, Cooper is not a selfish player; he is a goal scorer and every goal scorer worth a damm is a selfish player by definition. They are asked to score and that is what all they do. If you don’t like that then don’t include them in the squad and a lot of coaches don’t.

  10. Yeap Ives that line up is a proven winner.

    They sure controlled the midfield in that Spain game!

    Wow, I cant believe people actually think we have a midfield that can control that area of the pitch.

    Especially, especially when we play an empty bucket formation.

    When will people learn that the line up proposed to us by Ives will only be useful vs competion far superior to ours? Where we can bunker and counter attack.

  11. One of the biggest problems I have with Bob Bradley is he appears to select his subs before the game starts. He does not seem to make situational subs. He has 14 guys picked out and that is who he is going to play. Not acceptable at the international level.

  12. If the medical staff don’t agree with Davies Twitters I would use the lineup I suggested earlier and move Donovan up top with Altidore.

  13. Oh yeah- and Holden should be the one who starts for Dempsey.

    Dempsey just looks morbid out there. His head and legs just aren’t into it.

  14. jeff in houston,

    Davies got his first cap in the summer of ’07 against China, the same game in which Kljestan got his first cap. He’s been in and around the squad for a while now.

  15. I bench dempsey and send Bornstein back to Chivas.

    I also give torres a run in midfield-at least 30 minutes, to see if something can be done about the lack of chemistry there.

    Sitting MB is not an option and it is a shame it is not because his current form is very poor.

  16. Would very much favor Feilhaber instead of Clark but that does potentially create issues of who’s going forward with Junior (obviously Clark would stay back and let Michael go forward as he sees fit). Would hate to lose Benny,s potential to unlock the other team and I don’t really like the idea of him as “supersub” which would mean we’re chasing the game at that point. That’s OK against Brazil, Spain etc but why not just go for the damn thing in the first place especially against teams that we have a good chance of beating. As someone else on one of these posts said, playing double defensive midfielders (Junior is a bit of a hybrid) pretty much guarantees you’ll play more defense. I also hope we don’t see the 4-5-1 again. I think we’re pretty much in 4-4-2 territory with BB so most personnel choices are probably going to fall in that territory

  17. colin – regardless of who the pair is…please dont limit the requirements for our MFs to being able to switch via long cross-field ball. We need a guy who can bring it up simply out of the back with a small sq/triangular ball.

    I do not see enuff of Junior to know whether he does this for club. But, for Nats, he can be a bit too much of a pinball machine in that space in front of the D…pinging and bouncing off of him, easy turn-overs & give-aways.

  18. “baquito,

    I believe Port au Prince is in Haiti.

    Posted by: Jorge | September 07, 2009 at 12:29 PM”

    Oops, thanks. Port au Prince, Port of Spain. Grr, I’ve repeated this mistake a lot this week…

  19. I’m a Dynamo fan, but Ching and Clark must not start. Bring them off the bench if we’ve got the lead. Based on recent performances, Feilhaber deserves to start, and he works well with Bradley. I have never seen Spector play LB, but if he can do it, then play him there with Dolo at RB. I don’t want to see Bocanegra at LB again. Wouldn’t mind Boca and Deuce starting on the bench with Lando wearing the armband. Torres and Holden need to see the field also. Vamos USA!

  20. TR – I did not mean to imply that the favoritism shown by BB to Junior is based on father/son only. Rather it is based on BB’s conservative approach to man management. The issue is whether BB is decisive enuff to “send a message” by dropping a guy for a game and, subsequently, dropping him altogether. What I see of his selection policy (squad, starters, and subs) is that he is very loyal to players (a good quality for harmony) but the flip of that is stubborn to his decisions. I know tha part of the issue with selection is that a coach needs to have options. OK. But he also had made his options by who he has selected over the last 3 years. Sasha and Stu Holden are more or less similar players. Yet, Sasha’s been a full Nat for almost 3 years; Stu only this year. Why? Same with Charlie D. Why? The luxury that US (and MEX) has is that we play 3 tournaments every 4 years … one of which does count, this year Gold Cup b/c it is NOT the ticket to Confed. Furthermore, if we’re smart, we’ll always take the Copa Am invite in the year after WC to blood guys. And, you could argue that the prelim round of WCQs could be used t bring guys to camp to see them. So he made decisions for Sasha, EJ, Jonny B, (others …please help) that have limited his pool of players at this time. Only injuries (see Davies for Ching) and truly awful form (see JF Towers and Stu for Sasha) have forced his hand…he is NOT PRO-ACTIVE in developing his squad and his options. he is stuck and, thus, so are we….IMHO, there are some guys in MLS who play well enuff to be Nats (or on squad) but BB was not sufficiently diligent in ID’ing them. But he is no different than the bulk of US/MLS “coaches” who have not removed the blinders of what they look for.

  21. When Jermaine Jones comes into the squad, Jones-Bradley is our first choice midfield pairing. Hands down, period, amen.

    I realize Bradley and Feilhaber both got caught forward on Saturday, but I don’t think that happened because of repeated lapses in concentration, it happened because our overall tactics for the game were pretty much all-out attack. Would we ever play that way if the game wasn’t against El Salvador in Salt Lake City? No Effing Way. Against anyone else, especially away, Bradley stays home and comes forward when it’s appropriate, like he always does. By the way, Mike Brad can definitely pass, he’s one of our only players that can effectively play the cross field switch long ball. I’m not sure why everyone has this idea that he can’t pass now.

    I think Feilhaber is great and Torres could be too, but against superior competition they are undoubtedly more effective as substitutes once Jones joins our lineup next summer.

  22. I personally would like to see Dempsey up top, with Holden taking his place in the midfield. The last few games that he’s been in, he has shown the ability to put in very dangerous crosses and diagonal balls. I also hope that the midfielders play a little tighter in the defensive third. After watching as many of the WC Qualifiers that I could this past weekend, the space that we give away just outside the 18 would be a dangerous liability against teams that have the ability to put long-range shots on frame.

    a little off-tangent, but…Did anyone catch the England – Slovakia friendly? How awesome would it be to have a LB like Cole?

  23. ives,

    i read and enjoyed your latest espn write up. just one question though.. why the mention that bradley is the coach’s son? does espn make you do that?

    (SBI-That was added to the story by an editor, not included by me. Glad you enjoyed the article.)

  24. I don’t buy the argument M Bradley gets played during a slump because he is the son. Coach Bradley has played a number of regulars during slumps, and they either rebounded (Dempsey) or got dumped (Beasley. It does take Coach Bradley time to pull the slumpers out.

  25. CT – totally agree with you. not sure whether our players are smart enough/we have a coach strong enough to give us the discipline. but still, we are a talented squad i think, and i desperately want us to drop the counter attacking nonsense that might win us a fluke game against spain but wont do anything significant in the long run. crashing out in the group stages of the WC is not enough anymore, especially not with our talent. no we arent top of the world, but we can expect more and its worth trying it before saying we cant do it.

  26. Anyone that saw Ricardo Clark’s last game v. Colorado is groaning at all the lineups with his name in it right now. Kid went Where’s Waldo against a mid-level MLS team and gave up more than half his passes.

    Want to explain to me how that contributes to more midfield control, Ives?

  27. And…regardless of who (provided it ani’t ever Jonny B) plays, any D scheme requires coordination. So folks who think Spector is slipping…keep in mind that Deuce is in front of him. For the last few months, IMHO Landon has been doing well on the D side. As a system for club and Nats, Becks and Neville understood each other (yeah, yeah…club mates helped alot of course). That makes the Nat coach a tuffer job to insist on D responsibilities being fulfilled….unless you are a poacher (see Romario), you have some D responsibilities in almost any formation and tactical package…Deuce…please play some D.

    Same goes for the D person of a 2 man MF…one guy has to sit back first, second, deny his instinct unless it is really his space to go into…Junior…actually what is his role? D first or free-hand to play as he sees fit?

  28. Just seems like Bradley gets a pass when he plays bad. Would just like to see him come off the bench instead of a automtic 90. Mix it up when he’s clearly not in top form

  29. BOCA is our captain. He’s not the best leftback but better than Bornstein. Pearce ain’t playing cause he got no club. Maybe Castillo but Boca will play.

    I prefer Demerit/Gooch in central defense with Boca as LB and Spector as RB.

    deal with it

  30. It is good to see the debate close to settled on Jonny Bornstein; he’s not improved his game one iota since 07 Copa America. Drop him from the squad….and that is the hardest thing for a Nat Coach to do b/c of the limited time and broken up schedule….

    As for guys who do merit squad but not the start, the 2 candidates are Deuce and Junior.

    Deuce…a frustrating situation of form v. magic. As a RM in this formation, he is not taking care of his D responsibilities. Why? B/c he does not fear being benched like he could be at Fulham? Or is it tactics? B/c at Fulham, he plays as Rt side slashing forward, w/ it appears a better D system around. So how to get a magic player on the pitch and control the D-half of the situation. BB has not answered yet….For the record, Hodgson drop him for a good long while; Deuce had to work to get back in.

    Aa for Junior, the test is when Jones comes in to camp (or for BRZ 2014 cycle, when MoEdu hopefully gets even better…I fear another 8 year cycle ala Bruce), will he ever be benched under BB? He is sitting at BoMo in GER b/c he is not learning (per club boss)…so…Can BB tell his boy to stay back and sacrifice his O for a D focus, or bench him if he fails to do that?

    In the mix of things that a Nat team must have guys who sacrifice what they typically do for club when wearing the Nat shirt (see ENG Lampard & Gerrard as rubbish when 2gether 06-08) OR have a coach who can adjust tactics and/or sell guys on playing in a way for the Nats (see Capello).

    I aint asking BB to be Capello or Guus, etc….but the standard approach to make a Nat team work is to drop guys who do not play the role…Bob…tell your son to sit at home, please.

  31. Austin,

    I agree with you. There has been a slump in his form but it is not beyond any repair, just yet. But having said, until he gets that back, Michael needs to be on the bench.

  32. calm down with the michael bradley axe to guys…..he is still young and we need 2 DM’s as we have seen on the field 4 them lately, so lay off him unless its just horrendous… hasnt been yet

  33. ————Davies———–Dempsey ———–





    Dempsey can be a mahor liability in midfield. He gives the ball away with careless play in dangerous places and his dfensive energy is suspect. Holden can create down the sides and is a much better defender.

    Spector was terrible defensively in the last game. He is still unreliable in the back. We need to see if Cherundolo can still play at a high level, because our back line is very weak right now. We need Clark’s defensive abilities and Bradley needs to be in a more offensive posture. Finally, Dempsey is an offensive machine, let him play next to Davies once to see what happens. He can actually hold the ball well, better than Jozy by far. Davies can run off him.

  34. one more thing….if Demerit is not able i believe sliding Marshall into centre back with Onyewu would be just fine and put Bocanegra on Left…Marshall and Onyweu are both 6’4(THAT WOULD BE SO GNARLY)

    I would still be ok with ives suggestion though

  35. i agree ives…..feilhaber did well,BUT the midfield was nonexistant in the el salvador game and i still believe that shows why US needs to defensive mids like bradley and clark STARTING….feilhaber is still no doubt a supersub though for the US

    I STILL believe left back is a HUGE problem…..i think its time bradley transitions the captains armband slowly to Donovan, takes out Bocanegra and inputs Castillo…..HOWVER this cannot happen in the T&T game b/c its going to take sometime to adjust under such a drastic change

    and ofcourse this is all if Bocanegra continues to be a slouch at Left Back

  36. Feilhaber over Bradley. Not sure what’s up with Bradley lately but he’s been awful, including his play or lack thereof in the Bundesliga.

  37. I have to agree with several of the comments…at this point in time, Feilhaber should get the start over Bradley if the defensive role is going to Clark. Bradley has been careless with the ball and Feilhaber has been fairly tidy. I think it’s obvious that Bradley suffers a bit from over-confidence and perhaps coming in as a sub isn’t a bad thing.


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