Photo by John Todd/ISIphotos.com
The U.S. men's national team begins World Cup play on Saturday against England in a match American fans have been anxiously awaiting since the teams were drawn together in December.
While I'm sure you have read dozens of previews on the match, here is my Fox Soccer preview on the big USA-England match. Fox Soccer will also feature my piece on The Five Things USA need in order to beat England, as well as a position-by-position breakdown of the match from Fox Soccer colleague Nick Webster. Keep an eye out for those later today.
The major question that remains as we head toward tomorrow's tilt is simple. Who will the United States start vs. England? The reality is there are still several question marks. If the team is as healthy as Bob Bradley is saying, here is the starting lineup I see taking the field in Rustenberg on Saturday:
USA Projected Lineup (IF everyone is healthy)
Now, if Oguchi Onyewu and Jozy Altidore can't start (Bob Bradley said on Friday that Altidore would), here's a lineup we are likely to see:
Something else to consider is whether Bob Bradley considers going with an ultra-defensive squad. If so, we could see something like this:
Why Findley instead of Altidore here? It really wouldn't surprise me if Altidore didn't start. He stopped short of saying he was 100 percent on Thursday, so if he's not fully fit and still feeling pain in his ankle, Findley could get the call in order to apply pressure on England's centerbacks. The formation also gives the Americans three central midfielders to make things more difficult on the English duo of Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard. The only question about this formation is the fact that we really haven't see that sort of combination in central midfield together. (Bob Bradley admitted on Friday that Jozy Altidore would be starting vs. England, which takes some of the mystery out of these lineups).
Which leads me to wonder if we could see this:
This lineup would require Dempsey to play in a deeper role than usual, where he could help the central midfielders while also slipping into a more advanced role. I have seen him slide into a central role in trainingh before, so it wouldn't stun me if we saw something like this. This lineup would also put Donovan against Ashley Cole, the more dangerous of England's fullbacks, while putting Beasley's speed on the left flank to help Carlos Bocanegra. No, this lineup isn't one that comes to mind right away, but would certainly be interesting to see matched up against England (It would also make more sense of Bob Bradley's recent comments about how important versatility is to his team).
Another question many will ask is why Ricardo Clark is in all of these lineups. As bad as he looked in the lead-up matches, he's still the preferred partner with Michael Bradley in a match against a dangerous attack. Maurice Edu and Jose Torres have both looked better in recent matches, and I can certainly see either of them starting later in the group, but against England, where making things difficult for Lampard and Gerrard is paramount, Clark is likely to get the nod.
So what lineup do American fans want? I get the sense this is what USA fans would like to see:
This would be a very interesting lineup, but I don't see Torres starting vs. England unless its in a three-man midfield. Holden has become a bit of the forgotten man in recent weeks, but he's someone who could do well against England.
I know you're wondering what lineup I would personally put out there against England. Here's my starting lineup:
Iknow some folks are down on Beasley, but I think his defensive work could be vital against England. I also like the idea of Donovan on the right against Cole, as well as Dempsey up top. I would also go with Edu over Clark at this point.
Yes, that's SIX different lineups to consider, and yes, I like the fourth one (though the first makes most sense if everyone is healthy).
What lineup would you like to see the Americans use against England?
Share your thoughts below.