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USA vs. Guatemala: A Look Ahead (And who should the USMNT start tonight?)


The U.S. Men's National team are in Guatemala City for tonight's vital CONCACAF World Cup Qualifier against Guatemala, and the match will be a significantly more difficult step for the Americans as they look to move a step closer to World Cup 2014.

The USA won the last time they were in Guatemala, four years ago, but it was far from an easy ride. For those who don't remember the national team's 1-0 victory in 2008, here is a match report to help with your memory.

Fast forward to today, and the USA is a veteran squad with several players who took part in that victory. As many as eight players who played in the 2008 victory could be in the starting lineup for tonight's match, experience that will prove vital when dealing with the hostile environment in Guatemala City.

Here is my Fox Soccer preview of tonight's match, which breaks down, among other things, the potential lineup permutations for tonight.

So what formation and lineup might we see tonight? That is going to depend entirely on the health of Fabian Johnson. If Johnson can't go, Jurgen Klinsmann will be forced to shake up his back four yet again, which could lead to problems against a Guatemala side boasting the ever-dangerous Carlos Ruiz as their target striker.

So who will start tonight? Here is a lineup we can see Klinsmann using against Guatemala:


So why this starting lineup? The three-man central midfield allows Klinsmann to deploy forwards in a 4-3-3, but Donovan and Dempsey are also versatile enough to turn the formation into a 4-1-4-1 when necessary. There is also a sense that Klinsmann has gone to this midfield to provide cover for a shaky defense.

Johnson's health is paramount, because if he can't play then Bocanegra slides left and either Onyewu or Cameron get the call. As bad as Onyewu has been, you get the sense Klinsmann still rates him ahead of Cameron. I would find it tough to trust Onyewu at this point, but Klinsmann may decide experience is something he wants at that position.

Will Johnson be able to go? He has looked unbothered by the injury in recent days, but will still be a game-time decision. Right now I would bet on him being ready.

So where is Jozy Altidore? As long as Klinsmann isn't completely comfortable with his back four, he will need to deploy the Edu-Jones-Bradley triangle, which means one target forward rather than a 4-4-2, which could feature a Gomez-Altidore tandem. Klinsmnn could start Altidore against Guatemala, but Gomez has done too well to bench at this point.

With the above lineup Klinsmann has the luxury of replacing Edu with Altidore if the team finds itself needing a goal, and this lineup can also drop into a 4-5-1 to defend a lead.

What do you think of the lineup listed above? What lineup would you like to see Klinsmann use against Guatemala? How do you like the USA's chances of winning tonight.

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Ok all your points are valid. But I STILL believe a disinterested Landon harms us a lot; case in point tonight’s result against Gautemala. He’s TOO good to play so subpar for us. We need him to be his best. And I think it is fair that we EXPECT him to be his best. He looked a shadow of himself tomight and rarely did anything positive with the ball. It’s just frustrating watching such obvious talent be treated so blasé.

  2. 4 years ago, hey dude, Beas, Ching and Boca bailed out the US in this venue. Lot of folks liked to bang on some of these guys.

    Ching won a lot of balls to maintain possession and protect the lead.

    Beas added serious pace and a calm on the ball that day, he also tracked back non stop to cover for Pearce.

    Heydude was pure hustle, energy and aggression without getting a card (or bad calls against him).

    I worry that with our injuries, we aren’t fast enough on the left flank, and with Jozy on the bench we don’t have enough hold up play. While I love Jones, he’s a card waiting to happen in a game that we won’t get any calls in the first place.
    In klinsi we trust, I hope this team is tough enough. Go Yanks!

  3. I love Fabian.

    I do not want him at left back because after Clint and Donovan, he is the most dangerous attacker we have. He has the skills, the vision, the innate understanding of how to attack an opponent.

    I’d rather see him in midfield.

    However, left back can also be a good platform from which to attack, if you set up everythng properly. That is why Torres and Castillo, converted midfielders like Johnson, can play there.

    All three will remain as JK’s left back rotation for the future because all three have at least one common trait. They are all very good on the ball.

    They will become better all around left backs as time goes on because defensive responsiblities and techniques can be taught and trained. Offensive capability, which all three have, on the other hand, is a little harder to come by.

  4. MRook,

    I read your whole post. I just thought your concern was a non-issue. As long as Landon is responsible for producing a couple of goals per game I don’t particularly care what Donovan feels or thinks or is passionate about. If all he thinks about is Heather Soltis, more power to him.

    I’ve been watching Landon for almost his entire career and these questions about his committment and passion have followed him around since he bombed out at Leverkusen. He has often had long periods where he would “disappear” or produce sub-par performances. It has always been amusing to me that MB90 got so much flak for being an automatic when in truth, Landon has gotten lot more free passes than Mikey ever did. But he has been that indispensable. And based on what I’m seeing right now, he still is.

    Donovan has a long term well-deserved reputation for having motivational issues. But, with the exception of the 2006 World Cup where he might as well have stayed in bed, he usually is there when the US needs him. And he remains an exceptional player, no matter what those Clint ( another exceptional player) fans think. And the US needs both of them or we are done. Landon is older now so it is legitimate to ask if the off and on act will work like it has in the past but so far so good.

    And I’m fairly certain JK knows all this about Donovan better than I do. I suspect a motivational transfer to Everton or wherever it is Moyes winds up will do wonders for Landon’s desire and the upcoming World Cup will as well. The man needs a challenge. After that, he is probably toast.

  5. can someone who actually understands the rules and regulations that govern FIFA please respond. Could refs fromUEFA or anyone outside of ConcaCaf officiate these games?

  6. ————–1—————–



    Guatemala will be looking for a point so you can assume them dirtying up the game. There will not be that much pressure other than a very predictable counter in addition to long balls. That said, the key is to maintain posession and find space on the wing with intent on whipping dangerous balls servicing Dempsey and Gomez via Donovan and Fabian. No one on the team other than those two are quick and skilled enough to create space on the wings and they have the ability to pinch into space towards the middle. With regards to thwarting a counter or winning tackles in the midfield, Bradley could assume a 2 way role similar to what Holden use to do with Bolton in addition to acting as a pivot point in the middle of the park.

  7. @Clover I was thinking the samething also sorry if I didn’t see your post early but I posted this line-up too and is something very similar to your line-up
    ala Barcelona.


    Reason I have Gomez and Boyd playing wing is cause they can move all over and even switch places like Donovan and Dempsey. I think having these three guy on top can create a lots of problem for Guatemala Defends and can put pressure on top too. while Dempsey and Donovan and go up and defends something like Iniesta, Xavi do in Barca and style. Having either Bradley or Jones playing the roll of Busquet

  8. look, I like Adu a lot and want to see him (and Benny Feilhaber) back on the NATS scene, but that’s not where they are at right now. Besides, I think JK was planning on Adu being one his way to London right about now… again, not making the Olympics messed up a lot of timetables for these younger players.

    I want to see both of them light up MLS for the rest of the season and make it IMPOSSIBLE to get passed over. Right now there are simply too many players on stronger clubs, in better form, riding hotter hands….

    I don’t like it, but thems the rules.

    Now Lichaj’s omission I just don’t get.

  9. Great points all around. I still have a lot of questionable straight reds to folks in our last CONCACAF go round to wonder if Jones would even get the caution first, but I totally get where you are coming from.

    The only reason that I personally didn’t consider Cameron is that I haven’t seen enough of his play to really know what to think about him, so I’ll defer to folks who rate him.

  10. And frankly I don’t know how more clear I can be with my point. Maybe I’ll speak as plainly as I can: Donovan is good. The best we’ve had. But (in my opinion) he doesn’t seem to have the commitment he once had. That’s bad for us.

  11. Boca is perfectly capable of either playing left back in a back four or playing in a back three with a four or five man midfield. Everyone seems to forget Boca was never particularly fast in the first place but somehow started at left back in France for many years. They have a lot of fast guys there.

    If you are talking about flying Lichaj in for the Guatemala game, if Jozy is not now match fit, then neither is Lichaj.

    And besides you did not mention a factor that is probably more important, which is that Lichaj has never been in a JK camp. My guess is JK saw center back as more problematical and figured he could wait on fullback.

    And like I said to Vic, if you tell me that you foresaw Johnson, Castillo, and Torres getting hurt all in a row like then I will say, sure you did.

  12. He’s quite valuable in the sense that the fall off between Johnson and any apparent LB backup at this point may be the steeper than any other position on the field.

    Also, his LWB style plays perfectly into the JK system and adds another level to the attack.

    I’d still say our best player is Clint and our MVP over the past few games has been LD, and Johnson is still a long ways away from the two at the top, but the dynamic F. Johnson lends to the team makes him very valuable.

  13. Well then I suppose we just disagree. I think when Donovan is off, he hurts us more than helps us. I would rather have another, more interested player on the field instead of a disinterested Donovan.

    I still would prefer a Donovan that is trying and seemingly cares. My point is that he hasn’t appeared to be THAT player for us consistently in, say, the past two years.

  14. Lichaj would have given us cover at both fullback positions.

    Parkhurst gives us cover all across the back line.

    Going into these series of games (the three friendlies and the two qualifiers), the main injury concern was Gooch and his recovery.
    That seems to have been a valid worry.

    Now if you tell me you anticipated both Johnson ,Castillo and their replacement going down to injury then forgive me but I won’t believe you.

    JK took a small gamble and it blew up in a big way. S++t happens. Get over it. In addition Torres was just fine at left back.

  15. I read your post and I’m not sure what your point is either. The guy has consistently been our best player for nearly a decade now.

    Even on his bad days he offers the team more than anyone else who could possibly take his position. At this rate he’ll be a USMNT starter till his legs fall off.

  16. I would like to see Torres in the Edu spot with both he and Jones in front of the back four in a 4-2-3-1. Bradley needs to play forward of Jones to have any decent attack.

  17. No let’s not.

    The reality is Gomez looks like he is heating up right now. Herc is a streaky player and his history is that when he’s hot he will go on a run. JK would be a fool if he did not start him tonight, regardless of who lines up next to Herc.

    The other reality is that Herc is 30 and while I suspoect he will be on our World Cup team, if we make it, the near and distant future is most likely Jozy and Boyd.

    Then again, JK was a mentor to Miro Klose, the ageless scoring machine wonder. And of course, JK himself was 33 when he scored three goals for Germany in the 1998 World Cup. Ask Wynalda about that.

    However valid the Lazy Altidore notion is, like JK said, he does not care about history, and that includes negative history. So whatever Jozy did before, what matters is how he looks in practice right now.

    Given that Jozy has already played a qualifier in Guatemala and knows what a hell hole the place can be, I would think he may see the field tonight with Herc but we will see.

  18. One thing I’m reading in here is that war between who is better now. Jozy or Gomez. but you guys forgot who was the forward for the Scotland game. that was Boyd.
    here is the line-up against Scotland.

    Boyd is build like jozy but he hustles like gomez. I think either the three forward that we have will do a good job but I pretty much would like to see a real
    4-3-3 4 defenders, three mid field and three true
    forward ala Barcelona.

  19. I agree with you, chuck. And if Castillo and Torres are not still injured, which for some strange reason the USMNT has not seen fit to tell us, I would like to see Klinsmann start Corona (right wing), Castillo (left wing, with Fabian at left back), Torres (central midfield)), and Gomez up top. I think at some point Klinsmann is going to have to shake things up, but not by playing players out of their club positions as he is wont to do. Torres from the very beginning of this “five-match tournament” should have been playing central midfield, his club position, and Edu is a very good destroyer defensive midfielder, not an offensive midfielder.

  20. “i am not sure why he isn’t given a shot at the DM position.”

    Injury. Also he is quite versatile and JK may have other more important places to use him.

  21. With all due respect to Fabian, I think you are over stating the case. This is much ado about nothing.

    Much of this MVP stuff is due to hype.

    Left Back has been such a black hole that filling it was always going to be a big deal.

    Chandler did well there and then deserted us.

    Johnson comes in for Chandler and not only does well but does it in what is arguably the signature game of the JK era, the 5-1 thrashing of Scotland.

    Then Fabian comes up hurt, we lose to Brazil and then, very dramatically, Castillo the backup goes down, we put JFT at left back and then he goes down. Very Spinal Tap drummer like .

    All very emotional and dramatic.

    However, the USMNT has always had problems at left back. Still, in the last World Cup the USMNT put on one of our best World Cup perfomances. They reached the “Sweet Sixteen” with Jonathan Bornstein at left back.

    And he was not the reason the US did not beat Ghana.

  22. Agree 100% with you, Jorge. I have checked all over and could not find any sort of update on our injured players. And what Bryan is saying is correct. The flood of news we had at the beginning of camp has slowed to a trickle. My guess is, and it is only a guess, is that the USMNT has deliberately circled the wagons for one reason or another and is being much more protective of what information is allowed to filter out than was the case two weeks ago. But what I find most disappointing is that sports reporters are not taking more initiative and asking questions. I mean, this would never happen in Germany. Reporters have daily access to Jogi Low and to players and would be asking about the status of injured players.

  23. Switch Johnson and Bocanegra: I’d rather see Johnson make runs through the midfield than the wing.

    Switch Bradley and Edu: With Johnson making runs up the middle I’d rather have Bradley playing him through and also being available to defend if Guatemala counter attacks after a Johnson run.

  24. I think you’re slightly missing my point (or it doesn’t sound like you read my post entirely):

    I concede that Donovan is our most dynamic player and irreplaceable etc. My point and question is how consistently he can do that for us and more importantly, where his commitment and passion for US soccer is.

  25. Maybe the fact that you haven’t been watching the team practices and living with these guys for the last few weeks has something to do with it.

    What you see as a fan in Houston or in Cameron’s few USMNT appearances, may not be what the coaching staff sees these last few days/weeks.

    You don’t know how Cameron is adapting to the whole USMNT experience behind the scenes.

    I’m surprised Cameron hasn’t played more the last few games but what is really missing is a media type who will ask JK why that is.

    Until that happens, and I have little confidence that it will, we have nothing but gossip and speculation to go by.

  26. Agree strongly that Cameron should not play tonight, but neither should gooch. I would rather goodson and Edu/Jones play in the middle with boca on the left. Both have played that role before.

  27. Why not give Carona a start? Other big national teams are afraid to start young guns in big games, why are we? He is actually a true winger, and it will allow dempsey to slide inside and play right behind the striker, IMO his best position.

  28. I would call Cameron a bit of a gamble tonight. Considering the growing pains of international soccer (he has had a few) and the lions den we are playing in tonight, my gut tells me this is not the time. Edu and Jones have played CB, and I would rather see Boca out left in a pinch.

  29. That particular strategy also works in reverse.

    This Guatemala game is for real; you put who ever is working out best on the field tonight. It doesn’t matter if they are 22 or 32. Gomez has been arguably the best US player the last couple of games. Why in the world would you bench him?

  30. “Herc has a very high work rate which is good for Klinsi’s high pressure system.”

    Work rate is fine but the reason JK likes Gomez is because he scores goals.

    Like JK said, “we have to score more goals”.


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