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Who should the USMNT start vs. Cuba?

photo by Peter G. Aiken/USA Today Sports


Improvements are not just desired anymore. They are mandatory, especially given the opponent.

The U.S. Men’s National Team learned on Wednesday night that it will take on lowly Cuba in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup on Saturday (5 pm ET, Fox). While the Cubans should not present much of a challenge after scoring just once and conceding eight times in group play, the Americans are under pressure to win via a more complete performance.

Jurgen Klinsmann’s side has failed to grab a convincing victory so far in the Gold Cup despite being undefeated through three games, and reinforcements have been brought in to help add more quality to the group. DaMarcus Beasley, Joe Corona, and Alan Gordon were all summoned earlier this week, and might be counted on to contribute as soon as in this weekend’s match at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland.

Klinsmann also has to decide who to replace suspended centerback John Brooks with. Tim Ream seems like the odds-on favorite, but that would leave the Americans without a physically-imposing central defense.

Which 11 players will Klinsmann go with vs. Cuba? Here is a look at the lineup  we could see:

USMNT XI vs. Cuba

Some thoughts:

After announcing his international retirement last December, DaMarcus Beasley is likely to return to the fold here by stepping in as a starter at left back. Beasley provides the type of veteran presence that has been missing at the back for the U.S. for much of the Gold Cup, and his inclusion, combined with Timmy Chandler’s struggles, would open the door for Fabian Johnson to switch from the left to right flank.

Centrally, the loss of John Brooks due to yellow card accumulation will force Jurgen Klinsmann into a change. Tim Ream should step in given he is the other left-footed centerback, but his unfamiliarity with Ventura Alvarado might force Klinsmann to insert Omar Gonzalez into the lineup. Ream and Gonzalez played together in the second group game against Haiti, and they did well as a duo after a shaky first 20-25 minutes.

Keeping possession and creating chances have been issues at times for the U.S., so bringing in Joe Corona is a possibility here. That said, Cuba should not offer up much resistance, giving Klinsmann one more chance to try and work out the kinks with a diamond midfield that has Kyle Beckerman at the base, Michael Bradley in the hole, and Gyasi Zardes and Alejandro Bedoya out on the flanks.

Bedoya was impressive in the 1-1 draw with Panama on Monday, but if he is still not deemed fit enough to go the distance then Corona or DeAndre Yedlin will get the nod. Corona seems more likely, however, given his possession-oriented style of play.

The early exit for Jozy Altidore means the starting spot next to Clint Dempsey is up for grabs. Alan Gordon might be the most like-for-like replacement, but the U.S. should be able to get by without a true target striker here.

Cuba is likely to throw numbers behind the ball, and a speedier option like Aron Johannsson or craftier player like Chris Wondolowski would seem to better suit the Americans’ cause. Wondolowski is good at putting himself in scoring positions, but Klinsmann might be more tempted to go with Johannsson given how crowded and tight Cuba’s penalty area is likely to be.

In goal, Brad Guzan again gets the nod.


What do you think about this USMNT lineup? Is there a player who is not listed here that you think should start? How would you go about replacing Brooks and Altidore in the lineup?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. where is the best place to watch us soccer in new york city? got some friends there and they want to watch in the right place.

  2. I agree, that group looks good. I really like your comment about Wondo. Wondolowski should play all 90 minutes. He has endurance and skill. The main thing is that all the players believe that they are part of the same team, and that goes for Dempsey, too. He sometimes thinks that he is the boy wonder. He often is very good, but not by any means all the time. In the end the team wins, not the individual player.

    • Ok, let me break it down for you, Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley are the only two world class players in this team. How the heck are they not gonna play every day. Let me see, without Dempsey, we would’ve had one goal in this tourney, especially if we had depended in our “only natural striker.” Good riddance. Ohh, and the only reason Wondolousy is still in this team and playing minutes is because of Klinsmann’s ego, nothing else.

      • Dempsey and Bradley “world class”? lol!

        They’re our best two veterans but let me break it to YOU…the US has *never* had a world class player. We’re still waiting for His arrival.

        Not a knock on USMNT accomplishments…simply the truth.

  3. It’s amazing that USA national team being playing soccer for long instead getting better they getting worse they wore Ranked 17 in FIFA KNOW THEY ARE RANKED 34 WOW . PROGRESS ? I DON’T THINK SO . just like FREDY ADU. THE NEW PELE LOL WHAT JOKE

    • The FIFA rankings mean nothing to most people unless, of course, USMNT breaks into the top ten. Then it is used as a sign of progress and how we are going to win in Russia 2018, etc.

  4. I don’t care who he plays behind them, but Zardes, Dempsey and Aaron have to start up front. Also, Guzan as the keeper has to play, can’t lose his rhythm. So, sorry for cap tying Yarbrough may not be possible. But hey, this is Juerguen Klinsmann, so anything is possible.

  5. Hey buddy forget my accent !!!!!!! I wish that you would reply my comments. Unless you you are one those USA fans that appears once every four years , who doesn’t know nothing about my FUTEBOL.


  7. Just pull names from a hat. If it turns out Beasley is the GK, so be it. It’s Cuba! If they don’t have enough to field a team due to all the defections, we can loan them a player or two.

    • I am not going to suggest Cuba has even a remote chance of pulling this one, but isn’t that what Guatemala was probably saying? See, that kind of attitude is no better than the Mexican-Americans hurling projectiles to the opposing team player taking the corner kick.

  8. I predict JK is gonna do something that surprises us all
    Whether it’s a totally different formation because we’ve lacked quality in the first 3 games and we’re playing Cuba, or rolling out a few players none of us think would start a knockout game

  9. Updated 4.4.2 diamond….. —-dempsey—aron—- ——bradley—– -fabian——–bedoya —-beckerman— -beasley-ream–omar—evans

  10. James i agree with you.fabian on the left mid with bedoya on the right,helps with possesion and attacking.On Yarbrough, i would wait till the second half.If were up 2 goals……

  11. REAM

    FJ is our best option at either FB position.
    That being said, for Cuba, it makes sense to put in Evans and move FJ into the midfield. We will need his creativite combination play to open gaps in Cuba’s shell. Put him on one side and Bedoya on the other, with AJ and Clint as staggered strikers and Mix as CAM and we should have enough creativity to net some goals, while Bradley sits in his comfortable position behind Mix as field commander.

    No body wants to cap-tie Yarbrough??
    Why not play him against arguably the weakest team in this tournament?

  12. Jb – Zusi’s 2 starts this cycle scoreline was 6-0, Bedoya 1 start the scoreline was 1-1. Bedoya is rather overrated since he plays overseas. We’ll see how JK has them ranked in the Cuba game though

    • Zusi has not been himself since Brazil. I don’t know why. Bedoya has been gradually improving for years until now, for me, he is behind only Bradley in terms of importance in the USMNT midfield.

  13. Brett….zusi is fine in that formation….but in the 4.4.2 diamond he dosen’t look comfortable going forward…and he dosent have the speed….he fits perfect in the…..and he has good crosses into the goal….

  14. Nate dollars..i agree…..thats is our identity and system…..we use the 4.4.2 diamond…and that is the best formation for our current team….and beckerman cover alot of ground…..i personaly like the….with zardes and bedoya on the wings …..thats creates headaches for the defense……

    • yeah, i’m thinking with our current defense (especially if klinsmann wants to stick with brooks/alvarado), we’ll need two holding mids to keep the scoreline down (mix/bradley or mix/beckerman, if klinsmann’s sold on mix as a d-mid). maybe if/when our defense gets better, the diamond will work, but it’s tough seeing beckerman or mix trying to clean up everything.

      also, it’s not like i had trouble understanding your comment or anything, but holy ellipses, man! give the other punctuation some love!

  15. Toddb….i follow colombia & usmnt…..having possesion in soccer from match to match… the most difficult…..that is a process that takes years in the making….thats why we lost to belgium….when the matches open up …and u go back and forth…..there u need possesion and those skilled players….in time we will get there….usmnt fans ….just be patient…..

  16. I think you try to mimic barca stragedy…..and coach tries to preach this to the players….high pressure on the ball….creates turnovers……which equals possesion ……i know were not barca ….but most teams bunker on them ……and jozy non high pressure kills you……did u notice the game with germnay….when woods and morris play together…..they understand what the coach wants from the forwards…..

    • A lot of teams bunker against Barca because it can work. Defensive beats possession, possession beats direct, and direct beats defensive.

      Possession is short passing, much of it between your defensive third and the middle third, and much of it seemingly pointless passing intended only to frustrate opponents and get them chasing you deep. That’s how possession pulls players out of shape and opens space for eventual penetration. When a possession teams plays a team in a defensive shell, it becomes a battle of wills, which typically the defensive shell team will win. The possession team is more likely to break shape and push players forward than the defensive team is to start chasing passes well above the ‘bunker.’

      We should have no problem with Cuba. One way we could get ourselves into trouble is to push forward, and give Cuba any opportunity for a bit of luck on a counter.

      Direct beats defensive. Keep shape, and pound the bunker with shots – long shots from the 18 if need be. Eventually you’ll get something that deflects off a defender, or have enough set piece opportunities to create real scoring opportunities… with minimal risk of giving up a fluke goal on a counter.

  17. just a question,

    if cuba sits behind w/numbers and looks to counterattack, does if make sense to have beckerman in the game. i think he does better when we kmow the other team has possesion and he sits outside our 18 shielding the d.

    how do you balance changes game to game and getting a flow going?

    • i think this might be the best game for having beckerman at the bottom of the diamond. this is a game where we could have just one dedicated d-mid, and then throw 5 a-mids/forwards in there to score some goals. and beckerman’s a savvy player, so he’d be a good one to snuff out cuba’s counterattacks.

      where he looks lost is when the other team is throwing numbers forward, and he can’t cover the entire space in front of the back line by himself.

  18. Beckerman’s days are over. He can’t run, adds nothing to the possession game. Someone tell me how many passes he and MB combined for.
    Give Evans a chance and move Johnson further up the field. He does not careas much about defending

    I like this lineup except for Beckerman. Plus I think Guzan is going to be our new GK.
    I like hisleadership

  19. ………..Dempsey………..Aron……….. . bradley zardes………… ………………..bedoya…………………………… ……… beckerman……………….. beasley…..ream…..omar……johnson……. ……………….guzan……………….

  20. Coach is starting his best eleven….this is a fifa tournanmnet….and the end of the day…..cuba has nothing to loose… why take a risk….win and move on…..

  21. we almost have 2 different backlines that play together.
    Games 1, 3: we had Beckerman in front of Johnson-Brooks-Alvarado-Chander
    Game 2 we had Mix in front of Garza-Ream-Gonzalez-Evans

    this game id go with:
    backline should have no problem keeping Cuba out of the net. Diskerud, Bedoya, Yedlin and Johannsson will be valuable pushing Cuba back while Dempsey and Bradley are level above anyone else on the field.
    resting: Johnson, Zardes, Beckerman and Chandler for the SF vs Jamaica or Haiti.

  22. I think the lineup is probably our best look given how this tourney has played out. However, I have to wonder if maybe this is a chance to rest one or two regulars that will be needed in the last two (hopefully) games. I realize there is some risk to this given it’s a knockout game, but I think we could all reasonably expect our B or C team to put away Cuba. So that being said, here’s some possible options, using SBI’s lineup.

    1. The riskiest one first, Mix in for Bradley. The most important player for us has played every minute and certainly will play every minute in the semi and final. We were given a huge break with the draw, this would be the biggest boldest way to take advantage.

    2. Keep Bedoya on the bench. He is still rusty and took some hits in the last game. He is, for me, the second best midfielder we have right now and can play anywhere in midfield. Use him as a sub to save him.

    3. Rest Beckerman. He didnt play well last game, and did get most of the second game off, but he covers as much ground as anyone and we need him at his best against Mexico. Mix can fill in, or maybe even Ream, with Alvarado in at LCB.

    4. Play Dempsey limited minutes. He had some time off last game, but surely we can score against Cuba without him…

    • the idea of resting Bradley… i can’t see it.. but i mean is the plan for him to play 6 full games (9 hours of concacaf) in 19 days?

    • The time to rest MB was in the completely meaningless game against Panama. Instead, JK chose to play him 90 minutes so there’s no way he’s resting in a knockout stage game. Also, if Bedoya is rusty why rest him?

      I get the rest factor but you basically want to play a second string in a knockout round game. I know it’s Cuba but that’s not going to happen.

  23. Zardes————————Johanson



    Kind of a hybrid 3-5-2 / 4-4-2 formation.
    I wish we see is Cameron in that Beckerman role. More of an advanced centerback/very withdrawn D-Mid. Bradley and Mixx or Bedoya would be playing true box to box center mids which would allow our outside backs to occupy that space on the wings and attack more since the backs are better and attackers anyway go ahead and play to that strength. Let Zardes operate outside in space and use his pace and ability to take on defenders one on one. Johanson makes great off the ball runs and Dempsey can just find the pockets of space which is his forte.

    • Cuba is probably hoping we over-commit on attack. It’s their only chance to get something against us.

      Assuming they bunker, we have to go into full direct attack mode. Not push numbers up – just pound them with shots and park a poacher up top to see if he can’t win any pinball games. It’s not pretty soccer, but it never is against a defensive shell.

    • Chandler is German; therefore, he’s clearly superior to any US-bred player; therefore, Klinsmann will start him.

      • Yes, that’s why it took forever for Danny Williams to get back into the USMNT even after going to Reading and playing well, why he chose Wondo over Terrence Boyd for the World Cup – which bit us, bad, when Altidore went down and we had no hold-up striker – and why he sent Alfredo Morales home, why he’s dropped Julian Green, and why he kept Jerome Keisewetter with the U-23’s even though he plays for Stuttgart…even as he yanked Jordan Morris from Stanford out of the Toulon Cup and bumped him up to the senior team and then started him against Germany.

        Timmy Chandler has not panned out thus far as a USMNT guy. Okay. He still has the athleticism and the skill on the ball, he just makes some incomprehensible gaffes that I think Klinsmann was hoping he’d outgrow. He hasn’t, but Fabian Johnson and Jermaine Jones were easily two of our top five guys the last cycle, and no way does the USMNT get out of the Group of Death without them.

        Klinsmann is just plain thorough about turning over every rock for talent – be it Bundesliga, some random Euro league, MLS, Liga MX, even NASL and the college ranks, for cryin’ out loud.

        Say what you want about this coaching staff, they’re remarkably eclectic and they have a serious eye for talent. Anybody who forgets the sorry state of the USMNT talent pool back in 2011 – when Bradley was still coaching, and Mexico beat us 4-2 – has a very short memory.

        Klinsmann kept Chandler mostly because he had to – there just aren’t a ton of options right now in the pool, and Chandler can play left back or right back so he’s going to stay around as cover. But he called in Beasley – with his usual foresight, Klinsmann was obviously aware he might need him and coaxed him out of retirement – and I can promise you he’ll start at left back, while FJ moves over to shore up the right back spot. And Chandler will start at left bench and probably come on only in relief…to keep Beasley’s minutes down.

        I’d also be shocked if in future friendlies Klinsmann doesn’t start looking elsewhere. I’d stare hard in the direction of Andrew Farrell, who I know now plays CB now for the Revs, but who I think would be right back for the Nats. Farrell is probably the most athletic defender in the American pool – even more so than John Brooks, IMHO – and I’d be shocked if at some point Klinsmann doesn’t start working him in somewhere.

      • not disagreeing with your main premise, just pointing out that most of the players you listed above were on the usmnt radar back when bradley was in charge (notable exceptions being jordan morris and julian green). maybe (definitely) klinsmann had a hand in getting those guys to *commit*, but you might want to balance out some of the credit for *discovering* those guys.

      • I don’t think Jordan Morris was going to play for another country. Also he was about 15 when JK took over so I don’t think we can get on BB for no “discovering” him.

      • also, i haven’t been too impressed with farrell. reminds me of marvell wynne (freakishly athletic, but prone to mistakes), and that ain’t good.

        …but then, i wasn’t impressed with yedlin either, so…

      • “…but then, i wasn’t impressed with yedlin either, so…”

        we’re not friends anymore… lol jk

      • You seem like someone in the know when it comes to German American footballers.

        Do you know what the deal is with Chander’s Ass? Why does it stick unnaturally behind him? I have never ever seen another individual like that. Is it a condition, bad form, both, neither?

        Just wondering I think it may be a thing so this is a legit question

      • LOL. No clue what’s up with that.

        Whatever, I think he needs to go sit on it. I’d prefer him doing that than being out on the field, the way he’s been playing.

      • That’s what happens when a player runs only towards the opponent’s goal, never towards his own.

  24. If it were me, I would be starting Garza and Yedlin at the back, allowing the wings to be Johnson and Bedoya, and add in Dempsey, Bradley, Johannson, and Beckerman. Not sure about CB.

    But since Garza is not there, I’ll play Beasley, though I’d be tempted to play Johnson there (moving Zardes to left wing).

  25. Lineup choices are OK, but I’d make it a 4-3-3. Zardes/Johanssen on the outside, Deuce in the hole, Beckerman holding, and Michael Bradley and Bedoya in advanced mid positions. As for subs, when Bedoya runs himself out, sub in Mix, and like some mentioned, probably Gordon in at 70 if you need him…or even if you don’t, just to get him some headballin’ practice at the CONCACAF level and get him into the mix.

    Wish we had Bobby Wood (never thought I’d say that) and Jordan Morris (or that either) for late subs available…they’ve got some lively legs and can really stress out a tired D. Morris in particular would be a nightmare late, as many minutes as teams have played and as hot and physical as it’s been.

    • would love to see this. it’d probably play more as a false 9 formation, as deuce naturally drops back, and bradley and bedoya are more box-to-box mids than attackers.

      • in three years i believe we’ll be running this false 9 system. our passes have to become cleaner and more crisp in order to play like that though.

      • all depends on who we have up top, i guess. we actually have very good passers in our forward ranks right now (it’s jozy’s greatest strength, and aron’s good too); what we’re lacking is top-class finishers–dempsey’s about it for us.

        and that’s the main problem we’ll run into if dempsey is the false 9 against top teams. he’ll be asked to create *and* score the goals.

    • my alternative for you, given the absence of brooks is:

      FJ, Ream, Gonzales, Alvarado, Yedlin along the back (obviously, FJ and Yedlin have full license to go up and down. Bedoya, Bradley, Mix/Beckerman in the MF, with Dempsey and AJ as forwards.

      I think you can press high (bradley+the Wing+ 2 forwards), no chance Cuba comes out with more than one forward, so 3 in the back should be fine, That should be our best line-up.

    • I think Jordan and Wood are better as a counter option. Versus Cuba we are going to see the whole team play in their own half most if not all game. The better pairing is Dempsey with Johannsson, they will work between the gaps of the defense.

  26. It was glossed over how bad Beckerman looked last game, but goodness he was really poor. I’d rather see Diskerud back into the mix since Cuba is likely to bunker and see very little of the ball. The shape should look very much like the 2nd half against Haiti. Where Mix sat in front of Ream and Gonzo and Bradley pushed forward rather than the mess that was the first half.

    I don’t the that many changes to the backline. Ream will pair with Gonzales but I expect Johnson to stay on the left with Chandler on the right.

    • I wouldn’t mind seeing Mix back in the…fold. (would have been too easy) I’m no KB hater, but he was atrocious.

      And, speaking of atrocious, my motto at this point is “ABC” – Anyone But Chandler.

      Go get ’em boys!

    • I think Bradley looked sub his standard last game as well, which really affected everyone else around him. Showed me how important he really is to the team.

  27. ——Zardes—–Dempsey

    • Hahaha. I like your General Omar Bradley reference,too. The general that the Italians got Bradley’s nickname from.

  28. ——- dempsey ——
    zardes —- MB—– bedoya
    ——beckerman—MIX ——–
    FJ — ream– omar — evans/yedlin

    • with that approach it’d be better to switch mix and MB there. MB will push up when he sees fit but naturally drifts back, where as Mix is best in the true CAM role but has improved his defending and can help clog the middle and pressure when the team’s defending.

      • I agree mix is best suited for that attacking roll and that MB is more comfortable sitting back, having the field and play in front of him.. but we know JK wants MB to be that 10. This is my reasoning for the line up, allowing mb and mix to roam. I would also like to see brooks and ream get a chance to gel once brooks returns.

    • Much too defensive. We should be going right at Cuba and try to put a strangle hold on them by half time. The SBI proposed line up is much better with two out and out strikers.

  29. With the players at our disposal I think this is our best possible lineup right now. Yedlin as an impact sub in the 2nd half

    • I think that strategy works well. Yedlin seems to best coming on late when others are tired and it solves the problem of Bedoya not being able to go a full 90.

      • Hopefully we’re ahead and don’t need Yedlin to come in late. He’s been poor at holding possession.

  30. “Ream and Gonzalez played together in the second group game against Haiti, and they did well as a duo after a shaky first 20-25 minutes.”

    The first 20-25 minutes was all about our left side (both mix and garza) getting completely obliterated, and I though Ream was the only redeeming/calming factor.

    • throughout the group stage, our fullbacks (and/or mix and beckerman, by extension) have been making our centerbacks look bad. much of the poor defense has been a result of our fullbacks either getting burned or not tracking back (even fabian, in the latter case), and mix and beckerman not being good enough as the sole d-mid to cover for both centerbacks getting stretched all over the field.

      not that our centerbacks have been stellar, but i think they haven’t been too bad. brooks could maybe have been a bit more judicious with his yellows, but neither one was really a glaring mistake.

      • You saw the Panama goal right? Where both CBs got smoked on the same play? Regardless of what happened before the smoking

      • i did. maybe i wasn’t clear enough in my last comment:

        i don’t think our cbs have been great; at times, they’ve been poor. my point was that the fullbacks and mids have left them hanging the vast majority of the time.

  31. I love this line up my only concern is that DMB just arrived to camp and might not have chemistry with the rest of the team. Then again he’s been around the USMNT for forever and its probably a seamless transition, and if it keeps Chandler on the bench its a plus; also, its friggin’ Cuba haha. As a Galaxy fan I want Gordon to get some good minutes too at the end of the game

    • Alan Gordon in at the end of the game is a no brainer, just like putting Wondo in late. Can’t miss, dumb not to do it. Dang. 😉

      I am not worried about DMB. He has been there before. He is playing well for Houston.
      Omar and FJ have to feel very confident, even more so, about their spots right. A little depressing that why can’t find a replacement for an old guy that retired on his own.

    • to alleviate your concern, most likely Evans or Yedlin will replace DMB maybe 65th minute? switching FJ to the left; if Evans, then Yedlin could sub for Bedoya/Zardes with Gordon being the 80’+ sub for AJ or even Clint if he’s tired.

    • Agreed! What is the over/under on Cuban defectors by game time? (knowing this is likely their last game in the States for a while).

      I say 2.

      • Mocking the Cubans, a vastly inferior team? Classy. Yeah, we are going to beat the Cubans no doubt, but I wouldn’t start ridiculing anyone before the final Gold Cup final whistle.

    • The lineup looks pretty solid, but of course, I would try for a little more offensive impact. My lineup would switch Yedlin for Bedoya and Mix for Beckerman. Bring in Gordo, Bedoya, and Corona/Beckerman as subs.


      • If you think Evans is more disciplined then you must have missed him getting spun around against Panama frequently. Fabian was arguably the best RB at last summer’s World Cup so I’m totally comfortable with him occupying that spot! Yedlin is progressing no doubt but as of right now he can’t hold Bedoyas jock strap

      • FJ is much more of an offensive threat. With the proposed formation you get both Zardes and Bedoya in on the wings and then you can have both fullbacks also join in the attack. I think when you are playing a weaker team at home, you go for the jugular–attack, attack, and then attack some more. If we can go into half time up 2-0, then we could afford to rest Bradley, Dempsey and someone else who needs it.

      • Also, FJ is maybe the best corner back we’ve ever had, and our Achilles heel is the back line. Granted, he’s arguably better than other wing options, but to me its a no-brainer where he should play on USMNT.

      • Best cornerback ever? I don’t know – Deion Sanders was probably better. Also Richard Sherman and Darrell Revis are pretty good.

      • I’m with you. If Beasley is going to start is because Fabian will be our LM. Cuba will pack it in and we need players that can build. Chandler is better vs. Cuba because he matches better against Cuba’s only strength, speed.

      • We need players who can pummel the bunker with outside shots. That’s how you safely beat a defensive shell – playing for deflections, bouncing pin balls and set pieces. Not pretty stuff, unfortunately, and maybe Cuba will surprise us and play a more open style. But we should assume they will bunker and set up accordingly.

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