The most important non-World Cup match of the year for the U.S. national team will take place on Tuesday, when the United States faces the Czech Republic in a friendly in East Hartford, Connecticut. That match will be the last one U.S. coach Bob Bradley will have to evaluate his 30-man provisional World Cup roster and make the necessary cuts to the squad.
The match is also important because it will give some American players coming off injuries a chance to see their first national team action in some time.
With that in mind, it's time to start thinking about the squad Bradley will trot out against the Czechs. Will he start veterans, or will he start the fringe players fighting for their World Cup lives?
Here is one group we could see on Tuesday:
POTENTIAL USA Lineup vs. Czech Republic
SECOND HALF (subs in bold, limit is six subs.)
So why this starting lineup and these substitions? Here are some thoughts:
I do want to clarify that the subs listed above are subs you could see in the second half, not necessarily halftime subs.
With Bradley needing to look at his forward options aside from Altidore, it would seem to make sense to sit Altidore for this one and to play the other forwards in camp. The sense I get is that Ching is a good bet to make the team, so he might be the forward who doesn't play along with Altidore.
I thought about the idea of Michael Bradley sitting, but if we can assume both Maurice Edu and Ricardo Clark are strong bets for the 23, then it would make sense to give Benny Feilhaber and Jose Torres their chances to show what they can do playing alongside Bradley.
Sacha Kljestan and Alejandro Bedoya get looks in the second half, though Bob Bradley could decide to give Stuart Holden some minutes. I think Holden's a safe bet for the 23 so his chance to play should come in the Turkey and Australia matches. Robbie Rogers is also in the mix, though as of right now, I'd project him to be one of the players least likely to make the 23.
As expected, Oguchi Onyewu gets the start (and goes 90 here). He needs to get game action under his belt so look for him to get the whole match, with Carlos Bocanegra as his partner. With Chad Marshall looking like the odd man out among central defenders, Jay DeMerit and Clarence Goodson can expect minutes in the other friendlies.
Heath Pearce is also on the fringes and will either get the start, or the second half to convince Bradley to bring eight rather than seven defenders to the World Cup. Bornstein is a safe bet for the roster, as much as some fans don't want him to be.
Tim Howard has been treating a quad strain so he could be rested in favor of Marcus Hahnemann or Brad Guzan, but he insisted it wasn't that serious. If he can't go, it will be very interesting to see who gets the nod. Guzan hasn't played recently so Bradley could give him the 90 minutes. It might sound like it makes more sense to give Guzan and Hahnemann each a half, but with the three goalkeepers for South Africa already decided, and so many other roster battles going on, Bob Bradley will be more likely to use his six subs elsewhere.
So who won't be playing on Tuesday in this scenario? Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Brian Ching, Stuart Holden, Maurice Edu, Ricardo Clark, Steve Cherundolo, Jay DeMerit, Clarence Goodson, Marcus Hahnemann and Brad Guzan get rest for this match. Chad Marshall and Robbie Rogers miss out.
What do you think of this proposed starting lineup? Who would be in your starting lineup?
Share your thoughts below.