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The lack of reliable options at forward makes Jurgen Klinsmann's decision for which strikers to bring to Genoa for the match against Italy on Feb. 29 a pretty basic exercise.
With a pair of entrenched players at the position and Klinsmann potentially opting for a one-man forward line anyway, he won't be pressed into bringing a slew of players to compete for minutes up top against the Azzurri. The concurrent U.S. Under-23 camp will prevent a pair of young strikers from being considered for selection as well, narrowing Klinsmann's choices even more.
So who should Klinsmann call in to man the front line against the Italians? Here's who we think should get the call (If you didn't get a chance to see them yet or just want to refresh your memory, reference back to our picks for defenders and goalkeepers and midfielders):
Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Edson Buddle
Dempsey has been an absolute beast for Fulham and is currently riding the greatest run of form in his career. With 16 goals in all competitions (17 if his blast that led to an own goal against Stoke City ever gets overturned), Dempsey is in the midst of putting together the greatest season abroad by an American.
Altidore's play has tailed off a bit with AZ Alkmaar, evidenced by his being dropped to the bench, but he is still a couple games removed from a two-goal outing as a substitute. He has demonstrated an improved first touch and smarter off-ball runs while improving as a player overall this season, one in which he has scored 11 goals.
Altidore up top with Dempsey either next to him, withdrawn in a supporting role or playing even further back in a central midfield role behind him seems to suit the United States the best, and they'll likely comprise the front line in one way or another. The only thing up for debate is how Klinsmann will deploy them.
One wrinkle Klinsmann could throw into the mix is if he opts to use Dempsey alone up top in a 4-5-1 with an attacking central midfielder behind him while leaving Altidore on the bench, but that is something that he has not explored yet, and it would not necessarily extract the most out of Dempsey's skill set.
For the depth spot, Klinsmann has shown past preference to Buddle over someone like a Herculez Gomez, and that was when Gomez was on fire while playing and scoring for Estudiantes Tecos. Now in a reserve role for Santos Laguna, Gomez is no closer to being called back up.
Despite being out of action while on leave from FC Ingolstadt, Buddle finds himself back in a comfortable club situation with the Los Angeles Galaxy, and he should be able to provide ample depth for a cameo in this one-game scenario. Keep in mind that he earned the start in the most recent "A"-team friendly and scored against Slovenia with the United States operating out of a 4-4-2. Wingers Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley (if called up) could be used as complementary speed options in forward roles if need be as well.
In terms of the younger strikers in the pool, Juan Agudelo and Teal Bunbury have already been included in the Under-23 training camp, which means they won't be joining the senior team in Italy. Nobody else from the U.S. January camp, such as Chris Wondolowski or C.J. Sapong, did anything to wow Klinsmann into considering them for this trip, either.
Which forwards do you think Klinsmann should call up? Do you think the USMNT should operate with two forwards up top? Just one? What do you think is Dempsey's best role for the national team?
Share your thoughts below.