As the United States prepares for what can be called a must-win game on Tuesday night against Guadeloupe, there are some serious questions about just what lineup Bob Bradley will turn to in a match the Americans can't afford to lose, and really can't afford to even tie.
After sticking with the same lineup against Panama that beat Canada, only having shockingly worse results, Bradley will have no choice but to make some lineup changes to A) get some fresh legs into the lineup and B) find a combination that performs better than the squad has performed over the course of the tournament.
Will we see wholesale changes? Not likely, but you figure Bradley will have to insert three or four new starters to infuse some energy, some offense, and also to rest some players with the quarterfinals in mind.
So what lineup will Bradley turn to against Guadeloupe? Here's one possibility:
PROJECTED USA LINEUP vs. GUADELOUPE
As much as Bob Bradley rates Tim Ream, it's tough to see Ream starting after his outing against Panama. Oguchi Onyewu seems to be a bit of a mystery man because you figure if he was in a good place form wise he'd be starting. He also been the only reserve not even warming up at halftime of Gold Cup matches, which makes you wonder just how far down on the depth chart he is.
The central defense needs some stabilizing and Carlos Bocanegra can do that. Eric Lichaj is ahead of Jonathan Bornstein on the left back depth chart so he gets the nod.
Central midfield is an area of serious uncertainty. Jermaine Jones started off well against Panama, but began to fade in the second half and then threw a pretty unfortunate tantrum as he left the field when he was subbed off, yanking his jersey off and throwing it. Not exactly the thing to do when the team has a ready-made replacement in Maurice Edu.
Bradley could also go with Sacha Kljestan in central midfield for more offensive punch, but we'll go with Edu to start and Kljestan to get the call out wide, though Bradley could definitely go with Alejandro Bedoya on the right wing.
It should also be noted that just because a player doesn't start vs. Guadeloupe doesn't mean their tournament is over. With the quarterfinals looming this weekend, Bradley could choose to rest some starters in order to get them ready for the quarters (as well as to get fresh legs in the lineup)
These moves mean Clint Dempsey plays up top with Jozy Altidore. This tandem has worked well together in the past and there's no reason to think they can't create some magic together.
Now, if you're wondering what lineup I would use against Guadeloupe, here is the squad I'd trot out to win the match:
SBI'S PREFERRED LINEUP vs. GUADELOUPE
This is a very offensive-minded group and one capable of getting the job done (and also a lineup I could see Bob Bradley using). Guadeloupe can be broken down defensively, and this group can move the ball and pass well enough to crack Guadeloupe's defense. I know, Canada managed just one penalty kick against a 10-man Guadeloupe, but Canada's lineup had zero offensive punch. Bedoya and Kljestan provided instant energy and sharp passing. Bedoya is clearly playing at a high level and is good enough to find success against Guadeloupe.
What do you think of the projected lineup? Do you prefer the squad I would start? Which players would you like to see get the start against Guadeloupe? Which players DON'T you want to see start?
Share your thoughts below.