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Who should the USMNT start vs. Panama?

Photo by Stew Milne/USA Today Sports


Quarterfinals berth? Check. Top spot in the group? Check. Impressive performance? Not quite.

The U.S. Men’s National Team might not have much to play for from a result standpoint on Monday night when it meets Panama (9:30 pm ET, Fox Sports 1), but the Americans know they need to show much improvement after struggling to convince in either of their two CONCACAF Gold Cup group stage matches.

Settling for gritty victories against Honduras and Haiti in the past week to claim an early first-place finish in Group A and ticket to the knockout rounds, the U.S. is looking for a more comprehensive showing against the Panamanians at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas. The challenge will be a big one for the Americans, however, as they will have to find motivation in a rare meaningless game while battling a familiar Panama team that is playing for its tournament lives.

U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has to weight rest or rhythm in this one given the quick turnarounds and travel that come with each group game, but is still likely to field a strong group in order to regain some sharpness and kick things into another level.

Who exactly will start for the U.S.? Here is the lineup we can see Klinsmann trotting out:

USMNT XI vs. Panama

Some thoughts:

The two new faces here are Alejandro Bedoya and Alfredo Morales, who have yet to see the field during this Gold Cup. Jurgen Klinsmann hinted at playing them during his pre-game press conference on Sunday, and they are most likely to occupy the outside midfield spots should they start. Bedoya would be allowed the opportunity to show how far he is coming along in terms of his fitness and Morales – who would be cap-tied with an appearance – could make a case to remain during the knockout rounds.

With Klinsmann stating that he wants the team to continue building, the rest of the midfield and attack will probably be filled with first-choice players. Kyle Beckerman should slot back into the defensive midfield position while Michael Bradley again serves as the playmaker atop the diamond. Bradley could be limited to 45 minutes here so as to be somewhat rested, and that could open the door for someone like Mix Diskerud or Aron Johannsson to come on at halftime.

Klinsmann has also vowed to stick with out-of-form forward Jozy Altidore, so penciling in the Toronto FC striker up top seems a safe bet. Johannsson could earn a second straight start next to Altidore if Clint Dempsey were to get a breather, but Dempsey needs to continue to adjust to playing in a more advanced role and appears to be the choice at the other forward spot. Like Bradley, there is a chance Dempsey is played only a certain amount of minutes to reduce fatigue.

The back line was completely altered in the last match vs. Haiti, and a completely swap could very well happen again. Klinsmann may want to revert to the back four that he used in the opener vs. Honduras to give it another good run against some tough opposition before the knockout rounds. That means that it is likely that Fabian Johnson slots back into left back, John Brooks and Ventura Alvarado pair up again in the middle, and Timmy Chandler is tasked with patrolling the right side.

Tim Ream could potentially earn another look in place of one of Brooks or Alvarado after showing well vs. Haiti on Friday, but Klinsmann is high on the young duo and has said that both Brooks and Alvaado need games to make mistakes and gain experience. There’s no better match for that than this one.

In goal, Brad Guzan is all but assured to remain the starter as he continues to work his way back to his best.


What do you think of this projected USMNT lineup? Hoping Klinsmann gives long looks to both Bedoya and Morales? Should the likes of Dempsey and Bradley start, or would it be better to rest them?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Time to let Jozy fade out of the picture (as a starter at least) until he’s fully healthy and performing at club level. Zardes should get a look up top, he’s been sharper and can only be an improvement over the Jozy we’ve seen so far. It’s time to give him a look in his natural position.

  2. ……………Johannsson………………

  3. BTW, unfortunately, it appears that our odds of winning the Gold Cup can only go up if we lose to Panama. If we lose to Panama, Honduras can’t finish 2nd. That puts Panama and the winner of Group B as our potential semifinals results. This wouldn’t be that big of a deal, because Costa Rica would normally be the winner of group B, leading to us playing a world cup team either way. But Costa Rica can’t win their group if Jamaica beats El Salvador as expected.

    The best case scenario for the US would be to have the 3 world cup teams and Trinidad in the bottom half of the bracket, and the US in the top half. To do that, we “have” to lose. If we do, then all we need is Mexico to not finish 3rd and Jamaica to beat El Salvador to get this result.

    Once again, we do ourselves a solid by throwing a match vesus Panama. Hopefully, we don’t have the same result a last time?

  4. Did anyone else find it troubling that Chandler could only go ~60 minutes against Honduras? He looked super gassed… Match fitness issue or just a function of pushing forward too much (or as designed) and having to come back quickly and defend? I hate that we had to waste an early sub on an outside back; hopefully not a reoccurring issue.

    • Not sure if he has any physical ailments that lead to it, but Chandler certainly has shown himself to be affected more severely than others by high humidity conditions.

      Not the greatest recipe for success in some of CONCACAF’s nether regions.

  5. I think we see first choice back line for a least half of the game. Even with a yellow for Brooks, he needs time to develop more chemistry with whoever will be his partner, presumably Alvarado.

    Jozy Johannson


    Bedoya Yedlin


    Johnson Brooks Alvarado Chandler


    If Bradley starts, then move Dix to Rmid (Yedlin sub)

    I expect we see Garza for Johnson at the half or 60 min. along with Wondo for Altidore or Johannson.

  6. I don’t see SBI’s team as having a whole lot of attacking verve. Jozy is gimpy or whatever. He should come in for the last 30 to get some minutes but he doesn’t have the energy or mobility to start the game off with more intensity. The proposed SBI lineup will be more stout defensively though.

  7. Morales has started at LW but is a DM.
    Bedoya has played both wings but also DM.
    If Beckerman is rested, then I expect Morales as the DM and Bedoya at R or LW.
    I wouldn’t risk Brooks getting a second yellow.
    Like the idea of capping/starting Yarbrough vs Panama.

  8. I am surprised the Tim Ream is not getting more recognition…he looked very composed on the ball and his distribution from the back is miles away from Gonzos….the plays that comes to mind is the sombrero move..Gonzo would have tripped overhimself and the opponent would have ran off to the races with the ball

    • problem is, i don’t think he’s competing with gonzo. klinsmann seems pretty locked into a left-footed LCB and right-footed RCB (yes, i know that’s ideal, i just don’t think it’s absolutely necessary), so he’s competing against brooks, who’s been impressive lately.

    • I thought Ream, and Gonzo were both generally better the Brooks Alvarado. I think the defensive problems of the last match really just came from Garza and Evans getting turned inside out and beat for pace.

  9. Another piece to this: while it is true we have underwhelmed, it also is true that everyone else has as well. CR, Mexico, Honduras, even Panama – no one seems to be playing well. Typical group play stuff, where players on the stronger teams seem to intuitively know how little they need to do to advance, and just do that much (unless we’re thinking this is a polar shift and Jamaica and Trinidad are emerging as the new confederation powers).

  10. Would love to see 4.3.3 with high press

  11. With all the comments complaining about the US performance, some of which I also made, we should note that at this point the US is doing better than any other team in the tournament, including Mexico, CR, Honduras, and Panama, all the top teams in the last round of WC qualifying. And we have had the hardest group. If you will remember, in the South American Cup, there were a lot of 1-0 games there,and even Argentina struggled to put away Jamaica. Tournament games are tough, so we should be heartened by the results by the US to date.

  12. I think we’ll see this lineup tonight:


    /Dempsey starts on the bench but will enter in the 60th min for Jozy. He will also take the armband as Bradley will simultaneously exit for Diskerud.
    //Bedoya will also exit for Zusi, playing in front of his home crowd, since Ale is returning from injury.
    ///Since this game isn’t as important as our next I could see the backline mixed and mashed to provide optimal rest but Klinsmann may want to keep them match sharp as well. Brooks’ yellow card situation may need to be monitored but I would expect him and Chandler to start for sure. Johnson may make way for Garza since he at least appeared as a sub last game and get some rest. I think Alvarado will get the nod tonight as he needs minutes at this level, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Gonzales start next to Brooks after this game, as he has more experience at this level.

  13. A line up where injury to any player won’t severely dent chances to win the tourney.
    Rest or reduce minutes to any or all of Bradley, Johnson, Dempsey, Guzan, Zardes, Footloose, Altidore (might need the minutes actually, so risk him.) Anyone need to be cap tied? Do it in this game.

    • Just Yarborough, I wouldn’t be surprised if that actually happened (him starting). Zardes has been rested enough, time for him to start and bring on Jozy or Wondo for the last 20-30.

  14. when does yellow card accumulation get wiped out? i think brooks is the only one to have one so far; if he gets one in this match, does he have to sit out the quarterfinal?

    • good call. start him and tell him to get a YC, sit out the QF vs Guatemala or El Salvador so no shenanigans in the SF can rule him out of the final. he is the only booked player right now.

      • Or just don’t play him and then yellow cards reset after the group stage so this way he can play in all three games

  15. not sure if i would put Johannsson on the pitch, didn’t he score the goal that eliminated them from the world cup? he may never get off alive.

    • It was actually Zusi who scored the tying goal, which ultimately eliminated Panama; he shouldn’t see the field for reasons that have nothing to do with the murderous rage of the other squad. Johannsson simply put the nail in the coffin with his strike.

  16. Agree with wanting to get your A defense more experience together. That means the Guzan, Chandler, Brooks, Alvarado, and FJ are starting and most likely – unless their legs give out staying in.

    To assist in their task – and maybe provide some cover for any mistakes they do make – maybe start two defensive mids in front of them: Morales and Beckerman or Ream and Beckerman.

    Bedoya should get the start here and I suspect Zusi will get the other wing with Zardes coming in for either one of them to keep him match ready for the fight to come next week.

    I’d try something different up top though. Maybe put Mix in the withdrawn forward role and Jozy in the holding forward. I suspect this is where most of the changes would happen towards the end of the game. Take morales our beckerman out for Dempsey or Johannson and Mix would be replaced by the Captain.


  17. You protect players this match… rest them for QF match that ought to not be that difficult as well that is the match you get the juices going and restart this machine… we have looked poor but we still need to rest players… IT IS HOT!

    The semifinal will be indoors thankfully…

    • How many possibilities? There must be some statistician who can start with 3 keepers and count the possible permutations of 10 out of 20 field players starting. I suppose if you impose that there must be 4 defenders, 4 midfielders and 2 forwards that will reduce the number of possibilities a bit, but still I think trying to guess what JK will do is a fool’s errand.

  18. I thought we were past this dependency on any one player, hopefully JK uses Altidore as a sub if he is truly fit enough to play. Johannson has done enough to earn a start, maybe we should be “building” him instead. This is certainly the game to give Bradley and Dempsey a rest. Also think that JK should go with whatever backline combo he sees as the best to begin to get some rhythm together, they have all played only one game so far so fatigue shouldn’t be an issue for any of the defenders.

    • +1 everything.

      our first choice back line of Johnson-Brooks-Alvarado-Chandler (or Yedlin) is rested and ready to go. I wouldn’t mind seeing Yarbrough cap tied behind them in this one.

      I can’t see MB taking a break, even for a minute but it would make sense to do that. But Jozy, Dempsey, rest of the attack – should be on the bench. Id go with:

      subs: Wondo, Ream, Yedlin

  19. Not sure I get this – why would we play close to an ‘A’ lineup in a totally meaningless game following 2 games already this week and (hopefully) 3 more next week? I could see Beodya playing since he hasn’t played yet and presumably will in the knockout rounds if healthy. Otherwise, it’s time for some backups to get some minutes. Bradley and Dempsey certainly shouldn’t play. Imagine if they pick up an injury in this game and can’t play in the knockout rounds!

    • +1

      The counter argument is that we’ve played so questionably that we need one more run to get into tournament form, but in my mind that thinking should only apply to the defenders – use every opportunity to reduce mistakes there. Beyond that, I agree we need to take advantage of the earned opportunity to rest.

    • The exact same thought I had, agree 100%. If Bradley or Dempsey play, I would limit them to the last 20 minutes. Give some more minutes to Johannsson or even Wondo. Johannsson showed during qualifying that he can score on Panama. Because Zardes has become important, I would limit his minutes also. Finally, this would be a good opportunity to cap tie Yarbrough.

      • I totally agree. I am not even sure Altidore should start. Maybe he could rest for this game to give his hamstring one more day of rest. Those kind of injuries are usually the result of repetitive stress. Just because you think you are over it doesn’t mean that all is well. I also think the lack of accuracy in passing may be a result of exhaustion. Some of the US players played without looking around. They were not focused. They always used their preferred feet even though they have two of them and know how to use them. Those are symptoms of fatigue.

  20. I like your line up but I would guess that Morales will get the nod as the defensive mid fielder in place of Beckerman just to rest his legs and Zardes will get start on the left wing. The big question will then will be if Johanson starts. My guess is that Dempsey will get the night off if JK wants to continue giving Altidore minutes. Mix can then come in for Bradley at Half time.

    • After the Honduras game, JK went out of his way to complement every starter including all the defenders. He also said that getting a result in the Haiti game was of paramount importance. It took a lot of us by surprise when he completely changed all 7 guys who were given the primary defensive responsibilities for the Haiti game. (all 4 backs and 3 of the 4 mids)

      Just when JK had sucked me in to thinking I could figure out what he was going to do, he pulled the ball away again.

      I have some ideas about guys who might need some rest, and who might get a start but I am now nearly 100% confident that whatever JK does, it will be different.

  21. Zardes……Johannsson

    • Yeah Deuce should get the night off. He’s been the best US player and one of the best of the tournament so far, but he should get a rest.

    • My issue being Brooks. Sitting on a crappy yellow card, that goes away after the Panama game unless he gets another, which could easily turn to red if we get another Mexican or Costa Rican referee tonight. Why take that gamble which would lose him for the QF’s? Tim Ream is the other left footed CB and it would give him another 90 to blend with the team. I’d hope for Brooks/Alvarado to be our starting CB’s tandem for as long as possible. A young fast and continuously improving duo to anchor our middle defense. Maybe not quiet yet, but their upside is astounding imho..


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