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Who should the USA start vs. Costa Rica?

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With the 2010 World Cup berth already secured, the U.S. national team will head into its final qualifier on Wednesday playing for a chance to top the CONCACAF qualifying group, and a chance to improve its place in the FIFA world rankings (as well as score a measure of revenge for the 3-1 thumping delivered by Costa Rica in June).

With that in mind, it is time to start thinking about the lineup Bob Bradley will use against Costa Rica at RFK Stadium on Wednesday. Does he start the same lineup that beat Honduras, does he mix in some players such as Jozy Altidore and Benny Feilhaber, or does he go with a team made up mainly of reserves?

The first thing that should be addressed is the situation with yellow cards. There is no truth to the rumor that players who receive their second yellow card of the Hexagonal round will miss the World Cup opener. According to U.S. Soccer, cards are wiped out after the Hexagonal, with only a red card on Wednesday being able to keep a player out of a World Cup opener next June in South Africa.

That is good news for a U.S. team with a plethora of players carrying a yellow. With that out of the way, let's consider the squad Bradley might field on Wednesday:

Potential USA squad vs. Costa Rica






Altidore, Feilhaber and Cherundolo are the new starters in this proposed group, but other changes could be made. Bob Bradley could go with Brad Guzan in favor of Tim Howard, as well as Jose Francisco Torres in for Michael Bradley. You also have veteran defenders Jimmy Conrad and Frankie Hejduk as options as well. Up top we could see Saturday's hero, Conor Casey, get another nod, though I think it is a safe bet that we will see Altidore start.

I don't think we will see wholesale changes because the team does want to win this group and also respects the fact that the match is very important for the group, particularly with Honduras still trying to catch Costa Rica for the third and final automatic World Cup berth.

Now it's your turn. What starting lineup would you use vs. Costa Rica on Wednesday? Agree with the above lineup? Hoping to see Torres or Kenny Cooper start?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Shouldn’t Holden have gotten a card for hand-ball in the box? I really don’t know this rule. Can’t find a yellow or red issue to Holden in game reports. Not beating dead horse or the reporting, just mystified about CONCACAF and their officials.

  2. In light of Charlie Davies’ unfortunate accident and surgery, and we all hope he’ll recover fully. B.B. & the team want to win this final qualifier and win the group, and B.B. said he’d put his “best team” on the field.

    Casey – Altidore




    These start. Torres definitely subs early, maybe starts the second half, and Cooper and Spector are prime subs, depending on game situation.

  3. Why do some people here continue to talk trash about Casey, Bornstein, Kljestan, Bradley, Hejduk,,,? It is true that each of these players have on occasion laid an egg, but the vitriol is way out of line.
    Casey is slow and big, but he has been scoring a lot lately in MLS and did well in B-2 and while he may not be the team’s salvation, he is not its demise either.
    Bornstein is probably not naturally a defender and his size and strength are suspect, still he is quick enough to cover m ost attackers, does not dive in and get burned, sure he made a bad mistake vs El Salvadore, but he is probably the best passer in the back line and he has a wicked shot.
    Kljestan has clearly suffered through a bad patch, giving the ball away too much and not being on the same page as his teammates, but he did score a hat trick and has once again regained his form at Chivas.
    Bradley is probably a whole lot better than people think. He does sometimes lose his temper and that has cost the US, but he is tactically aware, can score goals and has the size to put real bite in his defending.
    Hejduk is probably not the best back going forward, but his constant running gets him forward to make several crosses per game (and yes, I wish more of them were better quality) and he never is guilty of jogging back while others cover for him. At 5’8” he is not the greatest defender in the air. Of course he did work out well in WC2002.
    None of these guys deserve the negatives sometimes laid on them here. Clearly no one is perfect and some or all of these players might not be the best option going forward, but each of them is clearly a talented player capable of doing very well in the right situation.
    To demean any of them or dismiss them as unworthy is just plain wrong.

  4. ABB, Anybody But Bornstein.
    Bradley knows what Bornstein can do, and most likely he would not contribute to a USA win, therefore no reason to start.

    I would like to see Benny and Gringo on pitch at the same time, highly unlikely though.

  5. personally I support resting a few of our major players to prevent injury, allow them back to their clubs, and give some youngsters a chance.




    Omit Onyewu so he can be back for milan, casey may start for davies in order to send back to france, feilhaber and torres to send bradley back and to give rico a rest. the game doesn’t really matter for seeding, as a #4 seed in 2006 got us a group of death. im happy where we are.

  6. Casey deserves another start.

    I would like to see Torres and Feilhaber start the central midfield together. I would especially like to see Torres, regardless of who else is on the field.

    Finally, I would like to put Frankie Hejduk at left back. I truly believe he is the solution there for SA2010.

  7. Donovan sits: Thats right, this team needs to find out how it can play if he’s not available.

    Gooch Plays: Just needs the games at this point.

    Conrad Plays: You have to see what you have 4 deep as cards in the tournament for CB and CM’s always suspend somebody. One other knock to someone else and you’re relying on you #4 CB to close out the final group match or in brackets. #4 matters.

    Casey Plays: You have to see if it’s a fluke or a legit option

    Torres Plays: Give him 90 or quit calling him into camps

    Guzan Plays: You know what you got with Timmy, Guzan needs the looks and pressure.

    Fill in the rest as needed. But I think you have to play the above in a legit game to know how they will perform or continue to perform against a desperate team.

  8. I think we need to play without Donovan for this one, plus as a Galaxy fan I want him rested. ANyway I like Altidore up top with Davies

    Torres Bradley Fielhaber Holden

    Bornstein Conrad Gooch Dolo


    I like Casey coming in second half, with maybe Spector coming in at left back second half as well. Clark coming in for bRADLEY in second as well.

  9. It’ll be way easier if we can get a seed, so I say we should put our best lineup out there and go for points points points! Maybe a little Casey action, and I’d like to see Chingy out there too.

  10. I would bet any amount of money that whoever Bradley plays in the Costa Rica game they will be in a 4-4-2 formation. It doesn’t help anyone to play with three defenders because there’s no way in hell the US will only use three defenders in the finals.

    People always suggest bizarre formations, but it never happens. I think the most unconventional formation we’re likely to see is a 4-5-1 and I still don’t think Bradley will ever line them up like that at the start of the game.

  11. Jeff Cunningham? He’s not on the roster for this game for starters. That discussion happened a couple of weeks ago.

    As long as we’re stretching for rosters, I’m thinking a 3-5-2 with Boca, Gooch & Conrad, Rico and Bradley in the middle

    JFT Donovan and Holden in front of Altidore and Davies…






  12. There is absolutely no point in starting anybody whose tickets have been punched: Donovan, (Dempsey), Howard, Bradley, Onyewu, Boca, Clark (Clark, Boca, Onyewu, Bradley are also prone to making one foolish mistake that could earn them a red card); there is also no point in starting veterans from the past who have no chance of getting a call-up, barring injury to someone, so these are out: Conrad, Ching, Cherundolo, Mastroeni, Hejduk, etc.

    So, here’s a lineup of players in the bubble (3-4-2-1):

    Guzan at GK;

    defenders: Spector – Goodson – Bornstein;

    MF: Holden – Feilhaber – Torres – Rogers;

    behind the striker: Casey – Davies;

    up top: Altidore

  13. HAHAHAHA Casey had one good goal and a lucky charm goal, now all of a sudden his “OUR MAN”!…. Altidore did great in Confederations, but yet, was benched during the Mexican game. :)… trust me when I tell you guys this,.. if Mexico would have seen Jozy & Davies on top in Azteca, no way, does Juares go forward 70% of the time as a setman. Mexico would have respected the U.S much more and stayed back waiting for the counter attack too,.. I know it. The same goes with any other team that the U.S will face from here on out. Davies & Jozy speed causes defensive problems for the oposition. Having Casey or Ching up front in the W.C would be a joke to most teams and will not be respected, shoot, they would consider it a Both CC & Ching are too slow for the speed played in W.C, they just don’t have the euro type game esperience yet. They are few players who can catch up to the euro speed rythem of the game, but, CC & Ching are not one of them. Sorry folks, get butt hurt, that’s the truth ruth!:)

    I want to see Benny & Torres get some minutes. Maybe Guzan at GK and Frankie in the backline.

    I’m just glad we are now qualify for the big show. I’m just going to enjoy the game without bitting my nails.

  14. Looks like I’m coming late to a good discussion. I’d start Jozy and Davies up top, Holden and Torres on the flanks, and Benny and Rico centrally. The backline should be Bornstein, Boca, Gooch, and Spector, with Guzan in goal.

    This is still a pretty solid lineup, and I hope the team will play to win. But now that we’ve qualified, it’s time to rest some of the guys who are gearing up for the MLS playoffs. Moreover, Bradley needs to test our depth and see if there’s a good role for players like Torres in SA.

  15. I agree with Schhors, the common wisdom that the US was horrible in 2006 is way over-blown. The result was disappointing for sure, but our group play was essentially on par with 2002. Now, in 1998 we were truly bad. We could have replayed the games that year a hundred times and we wouldn’t have gotten out of the group. But think of these comps between 2002 and 2006 – beat Portugal, tied Italy; tied host Korea, played Ghana even but lost; got whipped by a mediocre Polish team, got whipped by a pretty good Czech team. Really very little difference there in the QUALITY of play, though obviously the results were worse in 2006.


  17. Chris,

    Before the Honduras game my thought was to take 2 forwards only to the WC, Jozy and Charlie. At the time it looked like our options would be more plentiful in midfield. In a World Cup you can get by with two forwards; especially if you have Donovan and Dempsey to also play forward. If I had to take one more it would have been between Cooper, Ching and Casey, in that order, depending on who was on fire at the time.

    Now however, I’m not so sure about the midfield. Which means maybe Donovan isn’t so available to move up. I rate players by how they are playing now not for how crappy they looked a few months ago. In those games you mentioned he was in to mop up; in Honduras, he was asked to do a lot more and he came through. Maybe you don’t think that tells you something about a player but I do.

    I also noticed Casey’s play against Everton in the All-Star game where he did not look out of place. So I have no problem with seeing how Casey can do. Jozy’s problems are going to take more than one game to sort out, though I wouldn’t have a problem with him playing aginst CR. He needs to focus on getting regular playing time at Hull because he has gone about a year and a half without it and it shows. Like I said, Adu syndrome. Both Casey (who played in Germany before the MLS) and Jozy know what it’s like to play big time opposition; with both it’s a question of staying sharp and Casey has the edge with that right now.

  18. I’d like to see Guzan play because he needs game time due to his back-up role for his club team (Same with Jozy). And I’m planning on going down to D.C. for the game and if Torres doesn’t start I’m going to lose it. This dude gets real time for a good team in Mexico and deserves a full 90 (and may be our future in the midfield). And I wanna crush Costa because I have a lotta repsect for that Honduras squad and I wanna see them lock up that 3rd spot in CONCACAF. So I’m thinking this:


    Spector Boca Gooch Bornstein


    Holden Donovan


    Altidore Davies


    Benny, Casey, & Clark/Dolo/Rogers depending on the score

  19. The situation presents interesting opportunities. Will we attack from the outset for once ie. not play double defensive mids. I hope to see Feilhaber start in the middle and I’d like to get a look at Torres playing with some of the first 11. Good chance for Holden. Would stay with Altidore/Davies up top (still think when healthy, Dempsey should be a striker, paired with Altidore (if on form) with Davies coming off the bench and Holden on the right wing). Would give Davies the game here to improve his tactical awareness. Happy for Casey that he scored and the second one was a beauty. I think that earned him a chance to show it wasn’t a fluke but I really don’t see him in the mix overall. I’m OK with him off the bench here or getting some friendly action. Don’t like Bornstein on the left and if The Captain has to play would rather see him at LB. I’d actually like to see what Goodsen could do but I doubt that will happen. Can’t help but wonder if we’ll see all Michael all the time (would love to see Bob sub for him sometime eg. Feilhaber and Michael starting with Rico coming in for Michael after michael has run his ass off and starts diving in).

  20. The seeding sucked for the last world cup. If they only went back one world cup for seeding purposes we would have been ahead of Mexico because we made the quarter finals the prior world cup. Why go back 8 years, teams are completely different even 4 years later. Additionally, probably only 1/2 the teams in the world cup 8 years ago are in the current world cup. The seeding needs to be changed and weighted more heavly to current results. Additionally, since US won the CONCACAF qualification it makes no sense that Mexico a team behind them gets the seeding. Additionally, Mexico was behind the US in ranking, just like this year, and they could end up with a seed and not the US. This is a joke.


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