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USMNT vs. Canada: A Look Ahead


It may just be a friendly, and isn’t likely to be played in front of the biggest crowd, but tonight’s 2013-opening match for the U.S. Men’s National Team carries  more weight than any January match in recent memory.

When the USMNT takes on Canada tonight (9pm, ESPN2) they will be playing more than just a friendly. They will be playing the first match in what is shaping up to be a busy and important year, and they will be playing a warm-up match one week before the start of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. A match that will likely determine who some of the starters will be when the United States travels to Honduras in a week.

For Jurgen Klinsmann, the match represents his only chance to see some new faces in action before settling on the final roster for the trip to San Pedro Sula, really the only chance to see some fringe players before summer approaches and more qualifiers and the Gold Cup hit the schedule.

More importantly, tonight’s friendly could help confirm the identities of some of the U.S. team’s starters for the Honduras match, and could help some players grab a hold of regular roles on the national team.

On that list of potential qualifying starters are Eddie Johnson and Graham Zusi, who both played key role in 2012 qualifying, as well as Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler, who are both vying for a place higher up on the centerback depth chart.

Then you have a veteran like Brad Davis, who has caught Klinsmann’s attention with his quality on the left flank. Davis had been considered too old in some circles to still be a viable national team candidate, but Klinsmann has made it clear the Houston star has made the most of his latest opportunity.

So what should we watch for in tonight’s friendly? Here are some key subjects to focus on:


Gonzalez and Besler came into the January camp considered two leading candidates to content for playing time in qualifying if they could impress Klinsmann. All indications are that both have impressed and are likely to start against Canada.

Gonzalez is the front-runner in the group, with his size, strength and dominance in the air. Besler is more of a finesse centerback, arguably a better passer but not as imposing physically. There is still a good chance that Klinsmann could call on Geoff Cameron and Carlos Bocanegra to start vs. Honduras, but if for some reason one of those two can’t start, Gonzalez looks like the best bet to step in and start. That is assuming he can put in a strong showing tonight vs. Canada.


The lack of quality wing options is one of the big issues facing the USMNT heading into 2013, a situation brought on by Landon Donovan being in limbo, Clint Dempsey being more of a forward option these days and Brek Shea recovering from a broken foot.

Enter the likes of Zusi, Davis, Josh Gatt and Alejandro Bedoya. Though Klinsmann’s preferred 4-3-3 formation features wide forward roles rather than the traditional wing roles in a 4-4-2, players like Gatt, Bedoya and Zusi have the characteristics to be able to handle the work that goes into playing as wide forwards who can whip in service as well as take on defenders.

Davis is an interesting one. He is probably better suited to playing centrally in the 4-3-3 than as a wide forward, but his service from the left flank makes him an intriguing option there. A healthy and in-form Brek Shea is probably the most ideally-suited player in the pool for that role, while Eddie Johnson looked very good playing in that very spot in 2012 qualifying.

If Davis is more likely to feature centrally, then he faces much stiffer competition for a more long-standing role on the national team. For more dynamic players like Bedoya and Zusi, their ability to play both centrally and out wide in the 4-3-3 system give them each better chances of earning regular spot on the national team.


Just who Klinsmann starts at forward against Canada won’t necessarily tell us who he plans on taking to Honduras, but it should let us know who has impressed him the most in camp.

The current form of the forward quartet of Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Terrence Boyd and Herculez Gomez could very well mean that only one of the current forwards in camp earns a call-up to Honduras. If healthy, Eddie Johnson should be that player, with Juan Agudelo a possibility as a bench option. Beyond that the competition is for places in the pecking order for the summer, when more qualifiers and the CONCACAF Gold Cup will mean a need for a new batch of forwards.

Chris Wondolowski and Will Bruin should get their chances to shine against Canada, and given the lack of quality in Canada’s defense, they could be in for big days. Could either play their way into a trip to Honduras? Barring injuries, that seems unlikely.

Though Wondolowski and Bruin seem more likely to start, Agudelo feels like a better bet to be able to book a trip to Honduras if he can show Klinsmann an ability to make an impact off the bench once again, as he did against Russia. Klinsmann knows how important it is to have players who can provide a real spark off the bench.


With Canada featuring veterans like Dwayne DeRosario in midfield, it is a safe bet Klinsmann will be fielding an experienced midfield, with Kyle Beckerman and Benny Feilhaber candidates to start. He could trot out Zusi at the tip of the diamond, but there is also the possibility of giving Mix Diskerud the start. Given the fact he might need to start one of these central midfield options against Honduras don’t expect Klinsmann to go with youth in the middle of the park.

If Diskerud gets a start, it would tell us he’s closer to a place in the World Cup qualifying conversation, but he will still need to stand out against Canada to have any chance of a trip to Honduras.


Anyone who watched Canada be dismantled by a Denmark B team on Saturday knows that this Canada squad is young and inexperienced. There are some quality veterans in the mix, DeRosario, but the defense is very young and could be even more vulnerable without the support of veteran goalkeeper Lars Hirschfield, who suffered an injury in Canada’s loss to Denmark.

On the surface a USA blowout seems inevitable, but you can rest assured the Canadians will be looking to atone for their awful showing against Denmark, and any match against the Americans is going to bring out a better effort from our neighbors to the north. The defense is likely to have trouble with a potential trio of Eddie Johnson, Chris Wondolowski and either Will Bruin or Zusi, but the real question is whether Canada’s attack can generate chances after looking so toothless against the Danes. Dwayne DeRosario is sure to bring something special to a match being played in Houston, but with the likely trio of Beckerman, Gonzalez and Besler to deal with, the D.C. United star could have a tough time seeing much daylight.

The key for the Americans will be controlling tempo and working the flanks. If this match is to be an audition for those who want to take part in the Honduras friendly, then finding  success on the flanks and showing good organization and quality defensively will be the most important keys for the U.S. team. Canada might not have the attack to provide the stiffest test to the U.S. defense, but the wings are where Klinsmann will be looking for someone to make some magic happen.


Here is the lineup I see Klinsmann trotting out






Klinsmann could go with A.J. De La Garza at right back but I think Morales turned enough heads in camp to merit a start. Will Bruin and Brad Davis are also options to start but seem more likely to come off the bench.

Klinsmann could also decide that he’s seen enough of Eddie Johnson and Graham Zusi and doesn’t need to start them, which would open the door for Bruin and Davis to start in their home stadium though Diskerud is definitely an option to start in the attacking midfield role in place of Zusi.


What do you think of tonight’s USA-Canada match? Who are you most looking forward to watching play? What do you think of the projected starting lineup? What do you see the final score being?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Who cares if it’s a blowout. Teams get blown out all the time and bounce back just fine the very next week. Intensity, desire, and hopefully a good amount of quality play.

  2. Guessing this means Aguedelo is starting?

    ” @jagudelo11 Juan Agudelo
    You want something bad enough you Get it. Period”

  3. I think Klinsman wants to get more athletic, and bigger, with a high pressure 4-3-3 featuring dominant athletes like Fabian Johnson on the flanks, technical players in the middle, and three big, rugged, fast forwards up front. Unfortunately some of these players (Aguadelo, Shea, Boyd, even Altidore) aren’t as ready as our pedigree players like Dempsey, Holden, Donovan, Bradley, etc. The best formation for the pool this year would be a 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield, but in the future I think it becomes more athletic and it becomes a 4-3-3 for all games. It’s interesting: with all the success and superior technical ability of Barcelona, they still have trouble with Drogba-like athletes who can so physically dominate a game that the balance is tipped. Drogba basically beat them on his own last year. I think Klinsman is looking for that kind of edge – those kinds of athletes. Germany is the closest to Spain right now because they are looking to develop physical players who are also very technical.

  4. Interesting, does Holland have history of racially abusing players? I don’t remember anything in the recent past.Unlike Spain Italy and east European countries.

  5. Feilhaber? Really?? His performances on the Revs in the past two season have been underwhelming at best. How he gets be a starting midfielder on the USMNT is beyond me.

  6. Johnson————Agudelo————–Gatt





    • I like this and hope we see it.

      Although knowing JK’s love for Beckerman, I doubt we see a starting XI without the dreads on the field.

      • Beckerman offers a control in the scheme. He is a known quantity in every sense so it allows us to judge other midfielders in a more realistic setting (pairing with a DM) and easily evaluate their play. If we played Zusi/Mix/Benny as a midfield 3 and they looked lost, we wouldn’t really learn anything. Likewise, if they looked awesome, we wouldn’t really learn anything as it applies to how they fit into the squad in the Hex. That’s why I’d prefer to see Beckerman & Mix paired together with Zusi spearheading the triangle, then in the 2nd half Benny come on for Mix or Zusi. The only other change I’d make to Weaksauce’s lineup is EJ central and Agudelo on the left, because we haven’t seen EJ lead the line for the USMNT and I think wide forward might actually be Juan’s best position.

      • I think they are fine where they are. Agudelo played great there last time against russia setting up one of the goals infact, and Johnson on the left will provide some much needed 1 v 1attacking play on that side…

  7. Why start Wondo if he has virtually no chance of making the Qs? Unless this is a tryout for the Gold Cup team, in which case there are some badly misplace priorities.

    My prediction USA 1-0 in injury time. Most boring game ever played.

    • I think you keep Wondo because none of the central strikers have a chance of making the Honduras team so you might as well have a finisher. The only ones who have a chance are the winged forwards – Agudelo, Johnson, Zusi, and Gatt.

  8. Just FYI: NWS is anticipating a squall line cold front passage through Houston this evening in the neighborhood of game time. 20 degree rapid temperature drop (currently 74F, forecast high 82F), 60% chance of rain, chance of t-storms.

    I was thoroughly unimpressed with the Canadian roster, and while I expect them to show up and play hard, I also expect a tail-kicking. I will be interested to see who Klinsi trots out to start, and how well they play.

  9. Actually, the US squad is deep enough that, only Klinsmann knows who he will start. Gone are the days when the US had to pick the best 11 and try to fit them into a formation because after the first 5 or 6 talent fell off too fast. Now at most positions, there are 2 or 3 players who, while they may not be the obvious starter in an important game, are players who can step in and perform well. Even as recently as 2010, that was not the case, the loss of a single talent, Onyewu or Cherundolo for example, would cause a ripple throughout the whole team.

    Canada might have been awful against Denmark, but tonight is a fresh 90 and if nothing else, expect an aggressive performance by Canada, if the US tries to muscle through them, it will be an ugly game. It will be interesting to see if the US can possess the ball well enough to make this look less like a physical College or High School game.

  10. Since it’s a friendly, I care less if USA wins/loses and more about seeing them just play well. Quick passes, tenacious defense, confidence when attacking. Things I don’t see when we squeak out of Mexico with a 1-0 win.

  11. Three thoughts:

    1. I would love a US blowout, but that almost never happens, no matter the competition. I can imagine a 2-0 win with the Nats controlling the game. Does that count as a “blowout”? Not really.

    2. I’m really hoping that Wondo gets the start and plays 70 minutes or more. He deserves an extended shot at this, given his MLS prowess, work habits, and selfless attitude. Has anyone ever had one poor game (his was in the Gold Cup) held more against him than Wondo? I seem to remember Clint missing some big sitters in that Tournament as well… I don’t buy Klinsy’s comment that the second chance goals that Wondo thrives on with SJ don’t exist at international level. They may not exist in the World Cup, but in the HEX they are certainly there. After all, many of the best defenders in the HEX countries (excluding Mexico) play in MLS or even less impressive domestic leagues. Wondo in extended minutes would clean up against most of these teams…

    3. My biggest desire is for Morrow to have a great game at left back and put his claim in for that position in qualifying. Then we could consider pushing Fabian Johnson up to occupy our troublesome left winger position. For me, this is the biggest potential game changer that could come out of this camp and it’s not been talked about much. If it doesn’t happen we’ll be waiting for Landon to return and Shea to get back in form, because no one else seems ready to play this spot in a 4-3-3…

      • I could see Twellman giving the pre match analysis.Taking his suit off, putting his cleats on, scoring a brace against these guys.Doing the post match analysis of his performance after the match.

    • The University of Southern Alabama striking corps deserves more respect than that.

      They can’t all be expected to produce like their USMNT counterparts: Agudelo, Johnson, Bruin, or Wondo.

  12. In the formation you showed I rather have Feilhaber behind the front three, Zusi next to Beckerman.Benny has less midfield bite than Graham and he can also create more in the final third.

  13. Why are all the Canuck players kinda crappy? Do they even have 1 much less 2 pkayers in Europe comparable to Dempsey or Bradley? Why dont their federation spend more to advance themselves like USSF is doing?

      • Any of the guys that beat the US in Olympic Qualifiers on this squad? I’d love to see that Goalkeeper let a bunch in this time around.

    • Canada has good euro based players ie. Jono deguzman .. Jr. Hoilett .. Atiba hutchinson etc etc
      Most of them just choose to play for other countries :(.

  14. I’m not looking for a blowout, though that’d be nice, I’m looking for a controlled game. Klinsi’s system is not built to rack up goals. It’s built to keep possession. I’ll be satisfied with a 2-0 win so long as we control the game and don’t revert to kickball and long passes up field to no one. Goals against a weak team means nothing, I just hope Canada presses the whole time and don’t hang their heads down.

    Let’s see calm passing from back to front and movement into spaces.

    I agree with your lineup Ives. Although I do hope Mix and Agudelo get on at halftime. They seem to have a natural connection on the field.

    • I could see us hitting a lot more resistance than most are predicting. I have no idea how well these guys worked together in training but they seem a very ramshamble group (which is to be expected of second tier national team players). Interesting mix of young up and comers and one-last shot guys.

    • Outside of De Ro and Ricketts, this Canada side is basically a USL Pro team. They had a guy from the recent MLS draft starting CM against Denmark. So potential there for some of these guys, but that’s about the best you can spot them.

      Denmark had them beaten into submission with a B team from their domestic league by halftime. And, sure, Canada played a better second half, both because those guys were seeing their own mistakes and because Denmark was taking the foot off the pedal.

      So not saying we ought to fully replicate the Danes thrashing, but it shouldn’t be close. If we don’t, that will raise some questions about this camp quality.

  15. I’m almost at a loss trying to predict the starting XI for this game. Too many guys I want to see get major minutes, and too much in limbo in terms of what formation Klinsi trots out.

    Since he’s been using the 4-1-3-2 and wants to replicate the A team’s play as much as possible, I’m going with this. Could also see Johnson starting over Juan, and Davis moving left to open up CAM for Benny.

    Agudelo Wondo
    Johnson Davis Zusi
    Morrow Besler Gonzo Morales

    Not what I want, but what I think is reasonable. Would like to see Gatt, Benny, Mix and Bedoya all get serious time.

      • While it isn’t as deep as many countries, it is the deepest I’ve ever seen it. We have a solid B team for once that actually challenges veterans for Caps. Rather than just sticking with what we have because, it’s all we got, we can actually bench starters that aren’t performing and not be putting ourselves in a drastically huge hole.

      • No, see this is a big nation, and we have plenty of people. Deep and quality aren’t analagous, so it seems the only joke here is your reading comprehension. Id shall now be forever dubbed “Gomer Pyle”. Can we all agree?

      • and you are not familiar with the meaning of “deep” in this context; so your reading comprehension and understanding of sports terms is lacking; nobody would call a team with hundreds of mediocre players “deep” except you…

  16. Just a general question but when JK came on, he said he would develop a system for the players that the US has and that we would play in a more proactive style. I’m wondering if 4-3-3 is what JK wants us to play in (and that we may be ill-suited for it) vs. a 4-4-2 which seems to play to our strengths better? Thoughts?

    • with Zusi and Mix pushing for starting roles the 4-3-3 plays more into our strengths. Gatt and Bedoya seem more dangerous as a forwards than a box-box outside midfielders. a 442 would have to be:
      id take the 433 line up.

      • i’m surprised there isn’t more talk of the Olympic qual. defeat to Canada last year in the leadup to the match. how many Canadian players from that team last year are on the roster tonite? for the USA i only count four…

    • A lot of teams say they play 4-3-3, but not really. Look at how Ives drew that and ask yourself what’s the difference between a 4-3-3 and a 4-2-3-1? Answer: phase of play.

      I do agree the U.S. is likely to play a 4-2-3-1 in qualifiers, given our need to protect the center backs with two DMs. If anyone wants to call that a 4-3-3 because the wings sometimes are deeper than the 18, fine. For that matter, maybe we should call it a 2-3-5, because those outside backs get up there in attack phase, too.


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