photo by Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports
By FRANCO PANIZO
The 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup trophy is starting to come into focus, but the U.S. Men’s National Team has a stiff opponent standing in its way.
After a walk in the park in Saturday’s 6-0 rout of Cuba, the U.S. will take on Jamaica in the semifinals of the competition on Wednesday (6 pm ET, Fox Sports 1, UniMas). The Americans enter the match in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome with an undefeated 3-0-1 record, but so too do the talented Jamaicans.
Jamaica reached the final four of the Gold Cup by beating Haiti via its third straight shutout win on Tuesday, and its solid defending combined with the attack’s athleticism and opportunistic finishing could make for the Americans’ biggest challenge to date in this tournament.
U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann will have to figure out which offensive weapons he can piece together to test a Reggae Boyz defense that has not conceded a goal since the tournament opener. Klinsmann will also have to weigh whether he wants to continue to go with younger players like Ventura Alvarado and Timmy Chander at the back or field more seasoned veterans like Omar Gonzalez and DaMarcus Beasley.
Which lineup will Klinsmann go with? This is the one SBI thinks will take the field:
The U.S. back line is sure to see one change with the return of John Brooks, but Jurgen Klinsmann could be tempted to make even more given the type of challenges Jamaica poses. If DaMarcus Beasley is recovered from the injury he sustained last week, Klinsmann inserts the grizzled veteran at left back. What that means for Fabian Johnson, who has been playing there throughout the tournament, is a shift to the opposite flank. The oft-criticized Timmy Chandler gets dropped here.
At the heart of the defense, Brooks, who just served a one-game suspension for yellow-card accumulation, is likely to again be paired up with Ventura Alvarado. Omar Gonzalez might make more sense for some, but Klinsmann seems to be all in, at least for this tournament, on the younger pairing of Brooks and Alvarado. Throw in the fact that Gonzalez and Brooks are both tall centerbacks, and Klinsmann may opt to go with two players who better complement one another.
The U.S. has struggled with possession throughout the Gold Cup, which could open the door for the insertion of Joe Corona. With Kyle Beckerman doing the dirty work in the No. 6 role, Corona could be tasked with helping move the ball and finding Michael Bradley in the hole.
On the left flank, Klinsmann has an interesting decision to make. Gyasi Zardes started there vs. Cuba, but even in that one he showed he still has to grow from a tactical perspective. With Jamaica being a team that is capable of punishing mistakes, Zardes could be pushed further up the field while making room for the blue-collared and defensively-solid Alejandro Bedoya.
That midfield quartet means that Zardes could start up top next to Clint Dempsey because of his speed, which is something the Americans might need against Jamaica’s defense. Aron Johannsson has indeed shown well as Dempsey’s partner and could get the start again up top, but Zardes might be the preferred option after showing in the tournament that he can find different ways to make an impact.
Back in goal, the reliable Brad Guzan continues to get the nod.
What do you think about this USMNT lineup? Would you like to see other players start or a different formation? What will be the key for the Americans to top Jamaica?
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