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USMNT Daily Update: What changes might we see in the March qualifiers?

Photo by Michael Janosz/


There are six weeks between now and the next U.S. Men’s National Team World Cup qualifier, a ton of time to think about what went wrong in the loss to Honduras, and plenty of time for players to play themselves into position to break into the USMNT starting lineup.

Let’s face it, we can’t possibly see that same starting lineup that looked so awful against Honduras yet again on March 22nd against Costa Rica. It just can’t happen, and if Klinsmann did turn to that same XI, he would open the door for even more questions about whether he really has a clue about just how to put together the best U.S. team.

Plenty could change in the next six weeks. Landon Donovan could wake up one day and decide he’s done with his soul-searching sabbatical. Brek Shea could get fit and break into the Stoke City starting lineup, and play himself into good enough for to be back in the national team mix. Maurice Edu could continue to play regularly at Bursaspor, and sharpen his game enough to earn the USMNT start he should have been given against Honduras. Steve Cherundolo could return early from knee surgery that is expected to keep him out two months, too long for  return in the March qualifiers.

Even if most of those things don’t happen, we still need to see change. Klinsmann can’t go with that inexperienced back four, not against a Costa Rica side that boasts a strong forward tandem in Bryan Ruiz and Alvaro Saborio. He can’t stick with the same midfield that was so thoroughly outplayed by their Honduran counterparts. Klinsmann might also have to reconsider his decision to leave Herculez Gomez on the bench.

So what changes could come in the next six weeks? Here is a look at the squad, and what positions could be different when the national team takes the field in Colorado to take on Costa Rica:


Danny Williams didn’t get the job done. He was woefully ineffective and we shouldn’t expect that to change if he doesn’t start seeing more playing time at Hoffenheim. Maurice Edu looked like a much better option during his second-half appearance and Jurgen Klinsmann’s heavy praise of Edu after the match suggests he saw it too.

What remains to be seen is whether Klinsmann would consider Jermaine Jones for the defensive midfield role. He has stated repeatedly that he just doesn’t see Jones or Michael Bradley as ideal fits for the No. 6 role, but Jones has played that role for Schalke and played it well. Klinsmann might have to consider it in order to provide more of an attacking spark into his midfield while keeping both Jones and Bradley on the field.


Steve Cherundolo’s knee injury left the door open for Timmy Chandler to take hold of the right back spot, but he struggled badly against Honduras. Now with Cherundolo undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery it looks like he won’t be available for the March qualifiers.

Does Klinsmann go with Chandler again? Chances are he will and chances are he’ll have to. The only real scenario I can see that would have Chandler on the bench would be if Michael Parkhurst won the starting right back job at Augsburg. Parkhurst has yet to play a minute since moving to the Bundesliga though, meaning Chandler will likely have another pair of chances to prove he is the future of the position.


Eddie Johnson thrived on the left side against Antigua & Barbuda, but against a tougher Honduran side that made him work defensively and marked him well when he had the ball, Johnson was rendered ineffective.

The player who would make the best fit on the left flank would be Landon Donovan, but there is no way of knowing if he’s planning on being back and ready for March qualifiers. If he’s not in the picture, Brek Shea is another player who could be considered, but only if he makes a smooth transition to Stoke City.

You could argue that Klinsmann should consider doing away with the 4-1-3-2 we saw against Honduras and going with the 4-4-2, which could allow a pure left winger like Brad Davis to be a factor. That might make sense to some, but I don’t see Klinsmann changing systems to incorporate a player like Davis.

If Donovan and Shea aren’t available, Klinsmann might have to turn to Johnson against Costa Rica, but it’s tough to see Johnson working against Mexico in the second March qualifier.


It is unclear whether Herculez Gomez was completely healthy and just not used, or if he carried a knock into the Honduras match, but the fact that he didn’t play at all was surprising to say the least. The work he puts in defensively is invaluable, and his work also helps him create chances.

If you start Gomez then you have to either sit Jozy Altidore or playing him on the left flank, a position he isn’t completely unfamiliar with. The better question is whether Klinsmann will consider a 4-1-3-2 with true wingers supporting the flanks rather than having central-minded midfielders like Jones and Bradley serving as the “wide” players in the 3.


Do you keep Dempsey in a playmaking role or do you start him at forward and bring some other dynamic options into midfield? Players like Zusi and Joe Corona and Sacha Kljestan could do well playing in the hole behind the forwards, but that would be contingent on Klinsmann playing a 4-1-3-2 rather than a 4-3-3.

Bradley was listed as the playmaker against Honduras, but he’s not an attacking midfielder. He can serve as a box-to-box player, but when asked to be the main fulcrum of the attack it’s just a role Bradley isn’t suited for.

And exactly who is? Dempsey can handle that role, but he needs players around him who can move and pass and take pressure off him. That is something Donovan used to do very well, and right now there is nobody providing that sort of spark and threat to free things up for other American attackers.


Omar Gonzalez looked shaky at times, which is to be expected for someone with no experience in World Cup qualifying, but the U.S. can’t afford for Gonzalez to be learning on the job when the rest of the defense is also inexperienced in those kind of matches.

Bocanegra may not be the answer for the 2014 World Cup, but for right now, his experience is invaluable and if he’s healthy and playing regularly for Racing Santander then he has to be in the starting lineup vs. Costa Rica.

Is there anyone else worth considering? Not at the moment. Matt Besler isn’t any more experienced than Gonzalez while  Oguchi Onyewu isn’t playing much for Malaga. Things could certainly change by June, when the Americans have three qualifiers, but for the immediate future, Bocanegra looks to be the best option to help provide some stability and experience to a team that was sorely needing it against Honduras.


Assuming these players are healthy, here is a lineup that would make some sense:


E. Johnson———-Dempsey————Bradley


F. Johnson-Bocanegra–Cameron——Chandler


Here is a lineup I could see Klinsmann using vs. Costa Rica:




F. Johnson-Bocanegra–Cameron——Chandler


Again, a conservative lineup, but Klinsmann’s insistence on using Jones and Bradley in positions other than defensive midfield means almost any lineup he comes up with will lack some attacking spark.


And here is a best-case scenario lineup:




F. Johnson-Bocanegra–Cameron——Chandler


A dream lineup that only works if A) Shea’s playing and playing well at Stoke a month from now, and B) if Donovan returns to the LA Galaxy very soon and gets into match fitness heading into the MLS season. No, Bradley isn’t a playmaker, but he wouldn’t have to be with that quartet playing in front of him and Jones. This lineup would provide speed on the wings, would fit in the Bradley-Jones tandem Klinsmann is tied to, and gives the Americans two goal scorers up top (and yes, you could also replace Altidore with Gomez if Altidore hits a cold spell).


What do you think about the potential changes to the U.S. lineup? Which of the projected lineups vs. Costa Rica do you like more? What key change do you feel Klinsmann absolutely has to make going into the March qualifiers?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. What our USMNT is missing are dynamic playmakers, that can run at you and strike fear in the defender. Guys who’s upbringing wasn’t the old “USA style”.. During our friendly against Canada we should have experimented with Joe Gyau and Charles Renken. They are the future of the USMNT

  2. my choice for 2014….

    Altidore Gomez

    Dempsey LD

    Johnson Cherundolo (or Lichaj)
    Gomez (or Boca) Cameron


    Subs. Diskerud, Gatt, Lichaj, Shea, Boyd, Torres, Howard
    Coach. Bob or Bruce.. or even Sigi

  3. A Couple of Things:

    1. I think E.J. had a pretty good game considering the kind of service he was getting during the game. In fact, I would go so far as to say EJ was our biggest threat over the course of the match (prior to his substitution). Specifically, his ability to create space for other runners after receiving a ball helped create several of our better attacking changes.

    2. I’m not really sure why some are still on the Edu bandwagon. Yes, he played better than Williams last game, but the chances of him dramatically improving his game within the next two years are slim to none. Moreover, his first touch and general distribution is flat out terrible. If Klinsy wants to build through the midfield instead of utilizing the long ball, which he does, Edu CANNOT be a part of the system. He’s a fine second half sub when we want to button down the hatches, but he does not have what it takes to push in to a starting 11 role.

    3. Solving the midfield problem sans Donovan is going to be tricky. Zusi is not a wide player and neither is Sasha. So who fills in the slot? I could see Brek filling in that role if he ever gets his form back (brek cutting in with his left leaving space for Chandler to make his overlapping runs, if he ever does), but that’s simply wishful thinking. Any thoughts?

  4. First thing I would love to see is Klinnsman released and Ben Olson hired. He bleeds high intensity and undoubtedly could get this team motivated and proud to play for the US, something that has been lacking since B. Bradley. After that, he should be calling up LD telling him his team and country need him. No more screwing around, time to go out and do some work.

    F. Johnson———-Donovan (c)
    ————–J. Jones————-

    Bench: Altidore, Edu, B. Davis, D. Williams, Guzan, Parkhurst, Shea

  5. Why will Jurgen not play Jones or Bradley in the holding role? Did he not see Bradley at Chievo, or watch Jones with Schalke? I agree that Bradley is best as a box to box guy, but he is also very good as a defensive mid. He is not really suited as a playmaker and Jones is a black hole in attack. He should play 4-2-3-1 or 4-5-1 on the road and 4-4-2 at home for the qualifiers.

  6. A lot of US fans as well as decision makers in the pool process are analyzing the team horribly wrong. The most important thing to a team being successful is TALENT. The second most important thing is sound TACTIC. Without TALENT and sound TACTIC, teamwork, effort, and passion are null and void. Spain is the best team in the world because they have the most TALENT and they have sound TACTICS that fit their TALENT.

    In other words, JK is completely to blame for not playing his most TALENTED players and not having sound TACTICS. You can never outwork Lebron, Ronaldo, Messi, because they are better than you no matter the condition. JK has inferior talent and athleticism on the field simply because of his poor player selection. He claims to want to play free flowing, attacking football and plays 3 defensive mids, it just doesnt add up.

    Stop blaming the loss on the CBs being inexperienced, Boca and Dolo get beat all the time by more talented players. It’s just the way sports work. Boca and Dolo wouldnt have made a difference. If youre under a lot of pressure because the midfield cant make plays or keep possession, the defense will break down no matter their experience.

    Play a 4-4-2. Play Shea and Demps on the wings. Play 1 defensive mid: either Bradley or Jones. Use Holden or Adu as a play maker. Move Edu to CB to partner with Cam like they did when we shut out Mexico. It’s not rocket science.

  7. I’m not pleased with the USMNT performances here lately either. The issue I have with all of the previous “ideas” is, have any of u been at the teams practices or workouts? Or played professional soccer for a soccer power house like Germany? Have any of you coached pro soccer? No ok then what do you have to back up any of those ideas? I say we leave it to the professionals here

    • Michael If you were not pleased with our performance what part were you not pleased with? I generally agree with you that most of us don’t have the real life experience to comment. Bu this is a simple game. it is not rocket science. We need to find a way to create width.

    • Been to many national team training sessions, have coached many pros and can tell you that tactics in a game are sometimes overrated. It is soccer, not war. You keep the ball moving and try to get behind defenders and score. If you con’t keep the ball then you defend.
      JK’s team vs Honduras did not play as a team. It was one of the slowest games ever played by a national team because of the heat. There were not much in the way of tactics. The players that needed to be on the field were the one’s who could run in this climate and keep the ball moving. We would have DESTROYED Hondurus if we kept it moving and got the ball to our guys up front. Plus JK needs to know that if you are going to pair two CB together they need to play with each other and you cannot add a right back who barely knows everyone’s name.
      Terrible coaching and no team building skills.

      • I played amateur fussball in Frankfurt with mostly Germans and some Italians. I was in Frankfurt in 1990 when Germany won the world cup in Italy. I coached amateur youth teams in California with more of a ‘german approach’. I won city, area, and regional championships with boys teams. I was asked to assist coach a girls all star team. There are pickup games in Frankfurt like going to a park and seeing a pickup basketball game at a park in the U.S. Picture playing basketball..would you see a player pass the ball who does not make himself open? Picture basketball again: are all shots taken inside the paint (penalty area)? What about outside the perimeter or penalty area for shots? My teams tend to practice the way we play and I simulate the game as much as possible in all thirds of the field while only using half the field. Our teams ‘put out’ and we have a blast doing our best. Professional or amateur it is a simple game. The best championship teams at all levels play a fundamental game at a high and fast standard. Look at Ticky Taka Barelona..they pass the ball like it is a basketball game…They keep the game fundamental

      • Keep an eye on Guardiola coaching Bayern Munich this summer in 2013. That is going to be one heck of a good Ticky Taka Fussball spielen mannschaft.

  8. At most levels of soccer the team that gets width and crosses win because it spreads the defense. It is almost always the case at the international level if one team gets crosses and the other team doesn’t that team dominates. Outside backs can give you options for creating width but you must supplement that with wingers. That means true wingers and not forwards playing wings. Also while our midfield must have strength in the middle we need to have wingers who can defend and not permit as much penetration on the wings in the middle third particularly Honduras;s left wing. We must force crossed and defend to prevent crosses from the opponent.

    • You are a lucky cowboy but not such a lucky soccer fan. What could you disagree with?
      US Soccer is tanking and it is because we lack leadership and have an average head coach who gets paid $2.5 million a year to put us in the right direction from youth to senior team.
      And that coach has not done jack shite.
      His boss tries to have input but he is a financial wizzard and not a soccer person and should not be making soccer decisions just like Jerry Jones should not be making football decisions.
      Talk to someone in the know cowboy.

  9. I just made two SOCCER BY IVES buddies (Bizzy and Biff) but I will tell you it is not player selection it is mentality.
    Who knows what LD is thinking but don’t be suprised to see him back BUT I would bet he would rather play for BB or BA.
    US Soccer fell in love with a “Hollywood” coach and may pay a big price.

    The problem is not so much with JK but rather his boss.
    This guy is the Jerry Jones of American soccer and we are getting worse at every level.

  10. The MF is the central issue. How many times are we going to play an overly defensive MF, not maintain enough possession, and starve our Fs of service. It is THE issue.

  11. If the game was tomorrow I’d go with…



    Gatt———-Bradley ———-Gomez


  12. Eddie Johnson is not good enough to be on the National team. Sorry, but that is reality. I agree that Bocanegra’s leadership is of great value, especially at this point in qualifying. He’s been there. I like Zusi / Gomez in the lineup. Still waiting for Altidore to break out and be a force.

    Best of luck USA.

  13. First and foremost, I think you get Carlos Bocanegra back on the back line. You don’t mess around in tricky road trip qualifiers with an inexperienced back line. No, he may not be the future of US Soccer, but right now the goal is to get qualified, NOTHING ELSE.

    I also think Edu and Gomez need to be starting. I don’t like the idea of principally relying on Altidore and Dempsey to get goals. For some reason, they just don’t seem to be a productive or synergistic tandem.

    At this juncture, a win at home against Costa Rica is critical. I would like to see this line-up:






    Yes, I know this puts Bradley a bit more lateral than the norm, but I think a central midfield of Edu and Jones, coupled with a central defense of Cameron and Boca would be pretty tough to crack. This also frees up Gomez and Altidore to get nice service from Dempsey and Bradley, while also allowing Dempsey to push forward.

  14. One of the biggest problems is Klinsmann constant tinkering with the players and line ups. With the Honduras game we had 4 defenders who had never played together and 2 who were playing their first meaningful international game. That was an obvious mistake. Anyone who has ever played knows how important communication is on defense. I really think Ives missed the boat, too, by not considering Castillo as an option for the back. Also, Latin teams generally don’t play long balls and crosses, so we don’t really need height in the back line until we play Jamaica. Go with Bocanegra and Cameron in the middle and Castillo and F. Johnson as fullbacks. Let Omar Gonzalez get his experience in friendlies and the Gold Cup before throwing him into these games. Chandler looked overmatched and I don’t think he appreciated how difficult the game would be. We need Donovan to run at defenses from the wing or the middle of the midfield. If Donovan comes back, we have a surplus of good mids, maybe we should go with just Gomez up top and 5 midfielders because with Dempsey and Donovan you have two real attackers coming out of midfield so that your 4-5-1 can quickly morph into a 4-3-3. Then you can play with Jones, Bradley, Dempsey and Donovan in the midfield and either Zusi or Edu whether or not you want to play a true winger or another defender.

  15. Is it me or do others see a complete lack of team chemistry? It really seems like JK’s ego needs to be deflated a bit and his “captains” should be given some latitude to help decide who can get it done. Oh wait, who are JK’s true “field captains?” Just sayin’…

  16. Gomez needs to play. His work rate, and never say die attitude helps to create something out of nothing. I like Jozy, but he doesn’t hustle, and gives up on the ball. Gomez never stops, and drives defenders crazy. His continuous movement opens up the field, giving Dempsey the opporutnity to do what he does best – find or run into open space. Most of his goals come from this type of effort.

  17. I still think that brad davis could bring width to the game as he is a true left winger who passes, serves the ball well and could take corners and dead ball fouls. He finds open players and is very effective at one and two touch soccer. At the very least, he could come in as a sub to E. Johnson.

  18. Let’s face the facts:
    1. the ability to play compact, quick, and simple was missing.
    2. with a hot field temperature, the turf cut high, the ball not moving, and the players not being
    aggressive, how could we mount a legitimate attack?
    3. the team was directed to play too wide.
    4. there was a total lack of aggression from any USA player. Fitness was lacking.
    5. what defense, what pressure on the ball? Totally missing!
    …these 5 basic elements were missing in the Honduras game. I blame Coach Klinsman, 100%, even for the lack of aggression form the individual players, for the team’s disaster in Honduras.
    IT WAS NOT AND IS NOT the players chosen, it is the coach’s philosophy of the game, that lacked. Sorry Coach Klinsman

    • This comment is great. I have no idea whether it’s meant as dry sarcasm or a serious claim. You blame the temperature, field conditions, player fitness, and individual aggressiveness on the coach?

      • When I first started following the USMNT… way back in the 80’s… most of our guys were used to playing on crappy fields, in lousy conditions… what they lacked in talent they made up for with grit, tactics, fitness… the same stuff that got us ice hockey gold in 1980. desperate defending and scrambling, often fortunate counterattacks were the norm.. it was nerve racking, often sloppy… but usually fun and exciting. Then in the 90’s the player pool improved, we were able to include one or two talented players not afraid to keep the ball (Mathis, LD, Reyna, etc. ) but the US style of play was pretty much set and we gave some of the best teams in the world a run for their money now and then. Just sayin’

    • With the amount of Defensive Midfielders I cannot see room for Holden on the roster. Not taking anything away from Holden, but he is not a defensive midfielder.

  19. Klinsman Reminds Me Of That Kid Who Always Wanted To Drive His Dad’s Porche. One Day The Dad Gave Him The Key And Told Him It’s His. He Took The Keys But Did Not Know What The Hell To Do With it. David You Are Correct. Only Changes That Need Be Made Is The Coaching Staff. We Have The Talent To Qualify But We Need A Coach To Put The Best Players On The Field.Klinsman Keeps Trying To Put A Square Peg In A Round Hole. He Needs Either Mixx, Adu or Corona As An Attacking Midfielder. The Players In The Middle Have No Vision. There Is No One To Control The Speed And Tempo Of The Game. None Of The Players On The Field Against Honduras Could Consistently Dribble Into And Out Of Tight Space And Maintain The Ball.

  20. I don´t comment here often, but I have to put my 2 cents in…
    I also feel disconnected from Klinsmann´s team. ..and no offense to the fine young German-American professionals playing their international (surely world cup-bound) soccer for the US … but I would feel more passionate about a team made up of US raised foreigners. I believe that having more than one or two foreign raised players in just not conducive to creating a “national team¨… I´m absolutely sure that guys like Agudelo, Diskerud, Holden and yes, even Bunbury wear their jerseys with a sense of pride and team spirit that Chandler, Johnson, Boyd, Jones, etc. simply can´t muster… I remember when US soccer was known for fitness, discipline, tactics, humility and pride…
    Just sayin´

  21. I’m beginning to think that regardless of any possible changes on the field, the only meaningful change that will see us in Brazil in 2014 is to change the coaching staff.

  22. Conclusion: But with Klinsmann certain to start Chandler and with his love of defensive midfielders, this is the line-up I expect him to trot out against Costa Rica.

    ———-Jermaine Jones——–




    ————Tim Howard——–

  23. 5. We need Landon Donovan and we need him now. Klinsmann needs to stop with the tough love comments about Landon and instead telephone him, offer him the captaincy that he deserves, and bring back America’s greatest player for one last World Cup cycle. Klinsmann needs to realize that if he fails in these next three games he will be fired in disgrace and he will never again get a decent coaching job. In other words, Klinsmann needs to act and act fast.

  24. 4. Yes, Klinsmann will most likely play his buddy Chandler against Costa Rica. But I don’t think Honduras was a fluke. If Cameron continues playing right back for Stoke, I would rather see him moved over to right back for Costa Rica, and, yes, Boca return to the starting line-up for his leadership and experience paired with Besler.

  25. 3. I am a huge fan of Fabian Johnson and fully expect him to travel to Brazil in 2014. But he has been in a funk for months at Hoffenheim and in recent USMNT appearances just a shadow of himself. We have a left back who is technically, I think, at the same level as Fabian and Torres and who plays for a league-winning team that is known for tenacious defense and his name is Edgar Castillo. I want to see Castillo get the start against Costa Rica, with other Latino-flavored talent in the line-up: Torres, Corona, and Gomez. Hey, I know these guys weren’t born in Germany, but, they are darn good players plus they play with heart.

  26. 2. Three d-mids in the starting line-up. No. No. No. Never again. The new rule going forward is that Klinsmann can only have two on the field at the same time from this list: Bradley, Jones, Edu, Williams, Torres, Beckerman. I, personally, would like to see Torres given a chance to distribute from the back, meaning Klinsmann would have to bite the bullet and decide whether he pairs Torres with MB or Jones, who I think are our two best d-mids and both have their strong points. Under the new rule, Klinsmann has to pull his thumb out and bring in some attacking midfielders. I am ready to see Joe Corona get a start.

  27. 1. Other than firing Klinsmann, the simplest solution to pep up the USMNT is for Klinsmann to play a 4-2-3-1. This is the system that almost every other successful national team is using. Using two forwards does not work anymore. Spain won the EuroCup using no fowards and Franz Beckehbauer said last week that he would like to see Germany use the same no-forward system. That said, under a 4-2-3-1 Klinsmann will have to make a hard decision and choose one forward. And, please, Eddie Johnson is a forward, not a left winger, while Gomez mainly plays outside for Santos. Clint would be possible as the lone forward, but I think better as an attacker with someone else on top.


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