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.