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Who should the USMNT start vs. Trinidad & Tobago?

photo by Scott Kane/USA Today Sports
Photo by Scott Kane/USA Today Sports

The U.S. Men’s National Team picked up a convincing victory in its initial 2018 World Cup qualifier, and head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has vowed not to make many changes to his lineup ahead of the tougher challenge that awaits.

The U.S. routed St Vincent & the Grenadines, 6-1, on Friday night, but the sole focus now is on looking ahead to Tuesday’s road qualifier against Trinidad & Tobago (6:30 pm, beIN Sports/NBC Universo). The Americans are anticipating a more difficult game than the one they played last week, especially since the Soca Warriors are coming off a confidence-boosting 2-1 victory in Guatemala in their first qualifier in Group C.

First place in the group will be up for grabs at Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain, and Klinsmann will surely consider at least a couple of tweaks to the starting lineup he used against St Vincent & the Grenadines. We already know that Brad Guzan will make way for Tim Howard in goal, as the duo rotate starts, but Klinsmann may also want to modify the back line given the strength and physical nature of some of Trinidad & Tobago’s attackers.

Klinsmann may opt to keep his front six together after seeing the group put up a half-dozen goal, but may also be tempted to go with Fabian Johnson at right fullback after seeing DeAndre Yedlin have a costly error in Friday’s win. If the U.S. coach goes that route, that would leave an opening in midfield that could be filled by someone like dynamic newcomer Darlington Nagbe.

Which 11 players will Klinsmann go with? Here is a lineup that could take the field:

USMNT XI vs. T&T 2

Some thoughts:

The one change that we could see and that surely would surprise plenty of people is Fabian Johnson returning to right back. Johnson had a stellar game as a left midfielder vs. St Vincent & the Grenadines, but the U.S.’s need to be more cautious defensively vs. Trinidad & Tobago’s physical attackers may force Jurgen Klinsmann into replacing DeAndre Yedlin with Johnson.

A prime candidate to fill that vacant spot in left midfield left behind by Johnson would be Darlington Nagbe, who earned his first cap as a substitute in last week’s rout. Starting his first international game in a road qualifier would surely be a challenge for Nagbe, but his speed and technical abilities are the type of qualities that Klinsmann likes. If Klinsmann were to deem it too early to throw Nagbe into the deep end, he could swap Gyasi Zardes from the right to the left and insert Yedlin in front of Johnson.

Aside from goal, where we know Tim Howard will replace Brad Guzan, the lineup will likely stay exactly the same. Forwards Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood worked well off one another in the lopsided victory over Vincy Heat, as Wood’s speed allowed Altidore to play off of someone quicker than him and drop to become more involved in the Americans’ build-up. Both of them got on the scoresheet as well, and Klinsmann will surely want to rely on their confidence while allowing them to continue to build chemistry.

In the midfield, the central duo of captain Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones will again lead the way. Bradley and Jones were heavily involved in the attack on Friday, but there will need to be a very good understanding between them in terms of who attacks and who defends in order for the U.S. to be successful against the Soca Warriors.

The U.S. defense would also stay mostly untouched. Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler seem locks to start again in central defense given their experience, and will need to be sharp and alert in order to contain physical and crafty striker Kenwyne Jones.

Tim Ream, who has quietly turned in a string of very solid defensive performances in his last few  appearances under Klinsmann, is also a safe bet to get the nod again at left back.


What do you think of this projected lineup? Would it be a good move or a mistake for Klinsmann to drop Johnson to right back in this one? How would you see Nagbe faring if he started? Do you see Bradley and Jones doing well in terms of finding the right balance in the middle?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Keep Wood as a super sub. Move Zardes into that spot (the underneath Dempsey #9 role). Nagbe takes his place at right mid. Johnson stays at left mid, Yedlin stays at right fullback.

  2. Firstly, I really want Fabian to stay on the wing. Twellman made a really good point the other night. Fabian’s competency on the ball and attacking ability frees Bradley up and he has someone else to rely on. It also makes up for the fact that Jozy does not how to make effective runs.

    I really liked the Jozy, Wood, Zardes triangle. I liked how Wood and Zardes interchanged. That also gave us more targets up front. That needs to be tried again.

    Nagbe, clearly he is comfortable on the ball. He is comfortable centrally. Nagbe and Bradley is an interesting combo. I see Bradley lying deeper than he has which plays into his strength.

    Keep the back four as is. Yedlin at RB. Ream at LB.

    St Vincent was a scrimmage. I would like to see the lineup used in a game like this.
    Especially away. And screw the one forward, counter attack stuff during an away game.
    Please do not revert back to Beckerman.

    • On second thought:


      (I know JK won’t do this bc he’s against 2 left-footed centerbacks).

    • (I mean, the goal is to contain Jones, stop the long ball and the quick counter, and make them beat us with possession. To do that, we need to he strong defensively in the middle of the field. But to do this, we need our backs not to be too aggressive, which I suppose counsels back to the projected XI, except I still think we need a dedicated DM; if not Cameron, then all we have is an aging Beckerman).

  3. I like Nagbe in for Jones since Jones tweaked his hammy. Keep Johnson on the wing. He needs Ream behind him though, not Shea or someone anxious to get forward on every occasion. Zardes and Yedlin seem to be a good match on the right side.

  4. Does Yedlin leave much be desired defensively? Duh. But it’s time to decide if this guy is going to be groomed as a right back or not. If not, then he is a forever condemned to being that speedy sub you throw in when you’re down a goal. The guy is finally getting regular games in the BPL. Play him.

  5. It doesn’t matter who starts or who plays. It’s going to be a bloodbath. They’ll press us at midfield and hit us with lightning fast attacks down the middle.
    They’re fast, strong and skilled

  6. I don’t think the projected lineup would be smart. Jones and Bradley don’t work well together in central midfield. Nagbe’s not at his best out wide, and Zardes is more of a natural forward. The entire midfield might end up in disarray. Plus Fabian regularly loses runners in behind him, and Zardes won’t offer much support in that regard. And I like Ream a lot, but this is a game where he might get beaten for pace. That lineup is asking for trouble, IMO.

  7. I will be more than a little pissed if Nagbe gets a start when Klinsmann has never given Lee Nuygen nor than a cameo. Is Nagbe better than Nugyen? Not in my book

    • To be fair when Nguyen was 25 he was playing in Vietnam and JK had just taken over (at the point in time he was Freddy Adu great youth promise but had failed in Holland, Denmark and was now playing in a league no one had heard of). Although his next two years in NE he was good and very creative he only scored 9 MLS goals not World beating. By the time he set MLS on fire last year with 18 goals he was already 28 and would be 32 in Russia. Part of it is on Lee for not hitting his stride until later in his career. It wasn’t like Bradley called him back in from 2007 to 2011. I’m sure Benny and Sasha are saying the wish they could get a cameo in the last 15 minutes of a game.

      • Yup, Nagbe is better on the ball and plays defense. Head to head Nagbe frustrated Lee to the point he drew a yellow for unsportsmanlike conduct.
        The biggest unknown is can Nagbe adjust to top flight international level? Nguyen has hit his ceiling

      • While I agree with most of your points, although my point was a little bit different.

        It is excusable for Nagbe–a #8–to play more defense than Lee–a #10. They are different players and that shouldn’t take Lee out of the conversation if we need a playmaker up top.

        They both have excellent technical ability and anticipation, but Lee is more creative and aggressive, while Nagbe is more pragmatic and conservative. That’s fine for what a coach should ask them to do.

        I prefer Nagbe on this level, even though the comparison is limes and lemons. Nagbe is physically faster, quicker, and stronger. . .not to mention younger (with yes, a higher international ceiling).

    • This or something similar is what I would like to see. I doubt we’ll see a formation change with so little training time, but I really hope we go to a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 next year.

  8. Boy, do people get carried away. Some bad results and the team and manager are garbage. We beat up on a tiny nation at home and we don’t even have to worry about T&T. The reality is neither of these. Away games in qualifiers are tough, almost without exception. All this talk about going out and attacking and/or playing a 4-3-3 is just not what most coaches would do in this situation. A draw is good enough, so you play defensively and carefully the first half, looking for counter attacks. I you get to the last 20 minutes with a drawn game, then you bring in more attackers and try to snatch a win late.

    • You can play defensively in a 4-3-3. The formation doesn’t dictate tactics, it’s a matter of getting players organized in a way to best take advantage of their strengths and minimize weaknesses.

  9. I would offer an opinion, but my immature brain cannot comprehend the complexities of the kickingball game. Klinsmann tell me what good and is not. Maybe, listen good I lern to tell good from bad.


  10. JK’s biggest realization may be that the 4-3-3 end up too defensive with his talent pool despite his attempts to find players who fit that formation. Unless the front three can work possession in the offensive third, a 4-3-3 ends up looking mostly like a 4-5-1 with the forward wings pushed back to defend, and then struggling to emerge from that going forward because there are no options in front of the ball. That’s the kind of stagnation we’ve seen from the offense. The 4-4-2 at least give you someone else higher centrally to check back and play off it the wide mids get stuck out wide. It also gives the fullbacks more room going forward.

    • So there was a big change in tactics last game: both Bradley and Jones dropped off, leaving a hole at the #10 spot. That’s why you saw Fabian and Altidore cutting/checking into the middle. Zardes did not do that as much, if at all. I think everyone recognizes Bradley is crap in that fwd a role – hence the change. I actually thought it looked ok – sort of unothodox but a good solution.

  11. The more I look at the lineup from the SVG game, the more confident I feel going forward. Could that 11 (or something very close to that 11) form a long-term foundation?

    My hope/wish is that eventually a true #10 will emerge — Nagbe, perhaps? — so that Bradley can slide back to his more comfortable role, and that it happens before JJ’s age and mileage catch up with him.

  12. We are not minnows…put an attacking line up on the field!
    Woods Altidore Zardes
    Fabjo Bradley Nagbe
    Ream Cameron Besler Yedlin

    • Who is better–the US or France? If you don’t say France, you are delusional. Who is better, T&T or the Faroe Islands? This is a little tougher since neither team is known well, but the answer is clearly T&T. In qualifying for the 2010 WC, France went to the Faroe Islands and won by a 1-0 score. You over look your opponent and you are asking for trouble. Anyone who thinks we can waltz in there and win just because we are the US has not been paying attention, not just to CONCACAF, but to international soccer in general.

      • Tactics set the bar for belief. If you set your team up to bunker and counter (like we did against MX) your team will not play on the front foot. It’s a mentality that allows your opposition time on the ball, encourages confidence and demands you defend…not to mention bringing fans into match. T&T are not a team that requires that sort of thinking. If we want our mentality to reflect the belief that we are kings of CONCACAF we press a team like T&T at home AND on the road.

  13. Trot out the same 11 as last time. The time for tinkering for its own sake is long past. Nothing that happened against SVG — even Yedlin’s error — justifies a change. Let these guys start to develop some cohesion against a better opponent. There may come a time later in qualifying when injury, age, or form dictates a change, but now is not that time.

  14. Agree, need to give Yedlin another game at RB. Everyone is making such a meal out of that first SVG goal. Although Yedlin did make a mistake — he tried to force the ball left, i.e., back toward Cameron and help, when he should have closed the attacker down — it wasn’t his fault that Cameron somewhat left him on an island by the giveaway. Cameron should never have blindly played the ball back toward the middle like that. I like this back four and they need more games to work together (although I would love to see Shea eventually step up and take LB away from Ream — he just has so much more attacking upside).

    • It was a simple ball over the top. Yedlin never should have been beaten in getting to the ball. I remember when Jozy was playing at Sunderland and playing back in defense on a corner kick. He headed the ball straight back out and it landed at the feet at the attacker who got off a good shot on goal that was saved. Posters on this site excoriated Jozy for making the defensive mistake of heading the ball straight out (something I have also seen done by defenders). Now Yedlin, playing as a defender, makes a most basic and simple mistake, in a qualifier, it leads to a goal, and everybody wants to excuse him. Yedlin is still very raw and inexperienced at both the international level and top flight club level when it comes to playing defense. To substitute him against a team like T&T at home, would not be a mistake. You can give him more experience at that level when we play Guatemala both home and away and maybe even T&T in the US. T&T at home will probably be sending a lot of people into the attack. Think strategically. The goal of this first round of qualifiers is to make it through to the Hex. It doesn’t matter whether we win the group or not, only that we qualify. If we get a draw at T&T, that will be good enough. You draw on the road and win at home and you are mathematically guaranteed of advancing.

      • Subbing our RB from last game who has been starting in England recently against Trinidad and Tobago so we can have a better shot at stealing a point is sad. I’m not saying it isn’t what happens but how long can you baby the guy? He’s 22 years old its time to step up.

  15. If we see the diamond again I would still expect to see Beckerman. JJ and MB do not consider themselves as DM and since JK considers those two his spine he will play them where the feel most comfortable.

    • I think Beckerman will get torched against T&T, as he did against fast teams like Jamaica and Brazil. I also think Jones is a step slow, and with his penchant for taking risks, could slow down the midfield.

      I would come out in a true 433, like they were running near the end of the last game:

      Wood Altidore Zardes
      Johnson Bradley Nagbe
      Ream Besler Cameron Yedlin

      Why not take it to T&T?

  16. I think the same lineup as Friday would be best (other than Howard coming in which we already know is happening). Yedlin didn’t have the greatest game but I think he merits more than one game at RB for the USMNT before Jk gives up on him.

    • Agree, I thought as much a mental error on Friday as anything. Not being prepared for a give away, thought he was underestimating his opponent. Doubt that will happen Tuesday.

    • Benching a defender for making a mistake is like demoting a starting pitcher for giving up a home run. It happens. As long as it doesn’t keep happening in key moments, its no reason to take off your best player at the position.

  17. I would keep the same lineup as Friday, but change out jones for nagbe allowing Bradley go go back to dmid. Also switch out zardes for any other technical midfielder, while zardes is good at helping the defense, his skill set is not a winger/mid. But we don’t have very many options to replace him. I would love to see leggett or Finley with this roster.

    • Bradley does not consider himself a DM and he isn’t that physical of a tackler. For that matter Jones doesn’t consider himself a DM either, although his skill set is best suited for that role.

      • He’s best as a box to box midfielder, not a traditional DM or 10. The fans at Roma loved him specifically because he did all the dirty work, falling back into defense and clogging the lanes, but able to spring up to the offense when necessary as well. JK has always wanted him to push higher more often, and that hurts his effectiveness.

      • Bradley would do best playing box to box in a 4-3-3 (like Roma) which could be done with


        or, if we want to go all in with Nagbe, then a 4-2-3-1.
        I actually like this lineup the best if Nagbe is up to the job.


  18. Not impressed with Zardes’ touch in midfield last game. He is good when he has space, but that’s not the whole deal. Nagbe for Zardes.

    • Where do people get these ideas? Zardes has 17 caps and 3 goals. Nagbe has played with the national team a total of 20 minutes. In the last two MLS seasons Zardes has scored about 20 goals for the Galaxy and Nagbe has scored what, maybe half a dozen for Portland. In what universe does this make Nagbe a better choice at this time?.

      • Zardes strength is going forward. Nagbe’s strength is going any direction with the ball at his feet. Only two other players in the USMNT player pool can hold the ball and go from the defensive third into the offensive third; Bradley and FabJohnson. Nagbe also does a great job of balancing the field and maintaining defensive shape. Nagbe is a more of a complete player

    • Completely agree with you here. Zardes touch and slow recognition kills any kind of momentum or counterattack. His passing is average, and his slow recognition of the game completely negates his physical abilities and speed, because he is definately not quick. Isn’t that the reason he’s on the field at a wide midfield position? Nagle on the other hand is going to naturally tuck in as he did in the previous game, albeit as a 2nd half sub. I think that jk is killing Zardes’ potential, for international purposes, by not playing him as a forward. Not that I would play him over Bobby Wood…. .not right now at least. Yeah it’s a lot to ask of Nagbe and Yedlin on that right side…..Zardes does do a lot of the defensive dirty work required in jk’s system. But wow is he frustrating to watch.

  19. …Altidore…Wood….

      • Good point, the St Vincent game was the first in some time where Klinnsmann didn’t play anyone way out of position. Although, I would still argue that Bradley is still out of position, he is not a number 10. However, it was mostly a joke, not meant to be literally factual.

      • Hard to really tell where Michael was supposed to be once StV dropped 10 guys into the box and didn’t really try to push that up. Even Cameron and Besler were only about 30 yards out most of the time. It seemed MB and JJ were supposed to be more flat than in a diamond. I like that much better as neither is a true DM or CAM, but the communication between the two needs to be better. If it was anyone else I could see slotting Mix in there as he and Michael work better together in that formation, but JJ would have to be completely unable to walk for JK to pull him out.

    • I expect (hope for really) this lineup. Have there been any reports on Jones’ availability? Yes, he went back on the field after tweaking his hamstring, but to an inactive centerback roll. There won’t be any of those on Tuesday. [and we should be moving on from players who have already crested the hill]

  20. why do you think Orozco will start? i do not see Yedlin getting benched. as for Jones, i hope he does not play if he still isn’t practicing. it also seemed Shea was training with the starters and i would not be surprised to see him at LB.

    • I hope not Shea, I could see it because he is faster than Ream, but Ream makes up for it in positioning. I would be ok with that as a sub in the 2nd half if we needed a goal, but Shea seems risky to start.

  21. Change nothing leave Yedlin at RB and FJ in midfield. Unless someone has taken a knock that we have not heard about. JJ does need to stay home, but I think Friday night his boredom led to him getting too far forward at times.

    • The goal was scored ln the first 5 minutes. So you think Yedlin was bored at the beginning of the game and that’s why they scored?

      • Yes as Bryan said, I think boredom explains why Jones kept getting so far forward since there really was nothing for him to do deeper. Although you can point to spots in most games were you can tell as soon as JJ gets the ball he’s going to dribble until he can get a shot off no matter who comes to defend or who is open.

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