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Who Should Start for the USMNT vs. Colombia?

Photo by Gary Rohman/MLS/USA TODAY Sports
Photo by Gary Rohman/MLS/USA TODAY Sports

Friendlies are done. The time for experimentation is over. The Copa America is set to begin and with it comes the U.S. Men’s National Team’s biggest test since the 2014 World Cup.

The U.S. kicks off this summer’s tournament on Friday night against Colombia, a team that was recently recognized as the world’s third best team in the latest FIFA rankings. Led by a potent attack feature James Rodriguez, Carlos Bacca and Juan Cuadrado, the USMNT faces a team that is almost certainly the favorites to advance out of Group A.

However, the USMNT enters on a run of form that Jurgen Klinsmann will find ideal. A trio of friendly wins, including one over South American contender Ecuador, has the USMNT’s confidence at an all-time high entering the tournament.

The true tests are set to begin on Friday night, as the U.S. looks to defend their hope turf in what Klinsmann calls a once-in-a-lifetime competition.

Here’s a look at a possible USMNT lineup for Friday’s match against Colombia:

USA XI vs. Colombia Copa America

Some thoughts:

All things considered, the USMNT’s back five is all but set in stone. Klinsmann said himself that Guzan will lead the way heading into the Colombia match, while the backline of Fabian Johnson, John Brooks, Geoff Cameron and DeAndre Yedlin have all but locked down their spots in defense.

The player that likely faces the toughest test is Johnson, who matches up with Colombian star Juan Cuadrado down the left-hand side. Although Johnson is certainly a competent defender, the pace and dribbling ability of Cuadrado is enough to trouble even the top fullbacks in the world. The Juventus loanee is a master at whisking past his defenders, and has the pace to beat them outright if his skill on the nullified. Johnson will likely need help down the left from both the midfield and the winger in front of him, while the presence of Cuadrado may limit Johnson from being too aggressive on the counter attack.

With James Rodriguez set to lead the Colombian attacking unit, the presence of a true defensive midfielder becomes all the more vital. Michael Bradley has shown to fit the playmaking aspects of the role against the likes of Ecuador and Bolivia, but the Toronto FC midfielder would have his hands full defensively with man-marking a player of Rodriguez’s talent. Kyle Beckerman is not as fast as he once was, but he reads the game like few in the USMNT pool. He may not be able to keep up with Rodriguez with his feet, but Beckerman’s discipline in the defensive end could prove vital in limiting Rodriguez from taking over like he did at the 2014 World Cup.

The change, if Klinsmann opts to go for it, would certainly neutralize the free-flowing nature the USMNT displayed over the past two weeks, and that’s okay. For Friday at least, a point is what is needed, and the U.S. can certainly sacrifice some of the excitement generated in the pre-Copa friendlies in pursuit of that point. More beautiful soccer can wait for Paraguay and Costa Rica, as Friday will likely be a rough, physical game with both teams jockeying for a tournament-opening result.

Even if the U.S. does bunker a bit, the options at the top of the field provide individual specialties that could  open up the counter. Clint Dempsey routinely shows that he can play a killer ball in behind the defense, as evidenced by his play against Ecuador. Dempsey’s picking out of Gyasi Zardes proved the USMNT’s best chance in the Ecuador friendly, and Klinsmann would like to see more of the same from Dempsey on Friday night. Add in the Seattle Sounders’ forward continue tendency to be clinical in front of goal for the USMNT, and Dempsey remains a prime option to start on Friday night.

Alongside of him, he’ll have Zardes and Bobby Wood, two players who bring their own skill set to the mix. For all of his faults, Zardes remains a menacing option on the wing, one that should challenge the Colombia backline for pace and power. Even if his first touch lets him down on occasion, Zardes has shown the ability to finish, especially in the confidence-boosting win over Bolivia.

Wood, meanwhile, enters as the USMNT’s most in-form forward, and has more than justified his place in the lineup. A good finisher with confidence at an all-time high, Wood has shown a flair for the dramatic throughout his USMNT tenure. Goals against the Netherlands and Germany come to mind, as Wood has shown a tendency to step up in big games. It’s an unlearnable and unteachable trait and, to this point, Wood just seems to have the demeanor needed in crunch time moments.

With this lineup, the USMNT will likely lose the possession battle, something that will certainly be a bit upsetting given recent performances. However, the USMNT could also position themselves nicely for the war to come, as any points against group favorites Colombia sets the USMNT up for a potential run into the knockout rounds.

What do you think of our projected lineup? Who would you change? Do you see the U.S. beating Colombia?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. I realize JK wouldn’t like the 5 man backline, but CB is one of the deepest positions on the team. Use that strength.


  2. I feel like you haven’t been watching Beckermann play lately. Against Mexico in the CONCACAF Cup last October, his defensive “prowess” certainly didn’t deter Mexico from maintaining possession and creating scoring chances consistently. That was 8 months ago, against the 16th team in the world. Now, you think he can turn that around against the fourth best team in the world? You’ve been taking crazy pill again.

  3. “Clint Dempsey routinely shows that he can play a killer ball in behind the defense” What?
    Clint was never known to be a great passer, he is a shoot first, pass second type of a player, sure he can come up with a great pass here and there but that is not his game. I see him dropping to help out the mids, take his usual dives and maybe get us a free kick. Hopefully, his good ball awareness won’t fail him and he will be at the right place at the right time to knock one in.

    • I get what you’re saying but to Clint’s credit he does manage one or two good through balls a game that could theoretically create a chance if his teammates had any sort of first touch.

      • I don’t think he does enough to justify the writer’s comments about his passing. Now, I think Altidore has a better passing ration than Dempsey in the final third. Some of Dempsey’s scores has been because of Altidore’s passes.

    • My Dempsey’s M.O. was spot on. I thought he should have been subbed off instead of Wood, we are chasing the game and can’t put any pressure on an opponent when you have Dempsey strolling around.

  4. I watched a US game vs Argentina in the Meadowlands (2013?). Bradley marked Messi and did a pretty good job of it. He consistently denied Messi any space and pushed Messi into what were easy tackles by the fullbacks. If he stays focused he is certainly capable of handling the Colombian forwards.

    He is bigger stronger and faster than Beckerman and better able to distribute the ball. Beckerman is likely to never get caught trying to go forward and always looks to defend first, but he no better at defending than Bradley and not as athletic.

    I can’t predict what JK will do, but it takes away from the attacking JK wants if he starts Beckerman at DM instead of Bradley and leaves Bedoya on the bench.

    • I thought MB had problems with Messi when it came to lateral movement. There is one play sketched in my mind where Messi just wrong-footed MB and left him behind like a traffic cone.

  5. Lineup will be Bedoya over Beckerman.

    My lineup would be this:

    -Colombia has a lot of speed and attacking prowess on the wings. Therefore, Bedoya and Zardes get the call of helping contain James and Cuadrado.
    -Dempsey should play the poaching supersub role at this point in his career. Against an opponent like Colombia, all 10 field players need to be able to apply good defensive pressure and have the ability to transition during the counterattack.
    -Pulisic should also see time in the second half as a substitute. Starting him this game may be a little too much but when the game opens up after the 60 min mark, he should be able to use his youthful legs to tire out the Colombian defense.
    -Jürgen needs to unleash Nagbe. He’s enterring the prime of his career, not a youth player who needs to be coddled. It’s already clear he has the vision and creativity that has been sorely missing from the team. This also takes the burden off of Jones and Bradley to be playmakers in the attacking third and just wreak havoc all across the pitch.

  6. Obviously it’s comical that the article makes no mention of Bedoya. Glad to see the majority of comments mention his name. It’s rare but refreshing to see a site where the authors of the articles are actually the novices, simply presenting what they believe to be the main talking points for us to pick over.

  7. Bekerman cant hold the ball and distribute like MB. U.S. has to have more possession in the midfield. MB, Jones, Nagbe provides the best option, Dempsey like to drop into the middle more than a typical striker which helps strengthen the midfield. Let the young winger Zardas and Wood put the pressure on the defense.

  8. You need to rename this site to “SoccerByRyan”. He’s the only one posting regularly.

    WTF, Ives! You too busy with your gig to do anymore podcasts? Or are you chillaxin’ at your beach crib in the Hamptons?

    • Almost forgot: USA vs. Colombia–Spirit of ’94!

      Hope we relive a massive upset like we did on 06/23/94 during the WC!

      • Yeagh, but we can do without the irate fan shooting the
        Colombian player who gave up an own goal.

  9. I find it disappointing that we have no other viable left back options then FJ, who should be playing as a winger. I know he is “serviceable” but we should be able to slot a number of serviceable players in that position. We would be a much more dangerous side with FJ on the wing

  10. I don’t get this rationale that Beckerman is a better defensive mid that Bradley. When did this happen? Bradley is just as disciplined and hard-nosed as Beckerman, has an enormous engine that allows him to keep running all game long and he gives us much more in terms of restarting the attack. I trust MB to be able to read the game and stay back when the game calls for it. He’s not like JJ, who just surges forward whenever he damn well pleases.

    I think the Colombia game is where we go for it, try to surprise them, maybe Colombia starts a little flat-footed and we get a win or at least a tie. But starting Beckerman sends the signal that we’re playing for a tie (at best) or just to avoid getting blown out.

    • I think you’re right for the most part, but I think Beckerman is a better 1 v 1 defender than Bradley and that is probably where JK sees an advantage with him as the holder.

      • I’ll grant you that I’m not a student of Beckerman’s game and don’t make the same effort to watch his games as I do Bradley or other players, but it just seems that MB is just a more dynamic player, while Beckerman, if he gets beat on the dribble, does not have the ability to catch up

      • Beckerman has made his career as a deep lying midfielder with a knack for snuffing out opposition build up before they have a chance to build something threatening. This is exactly why the casual observer, the majority of them anyway, does not appreciate what Beckerman brings to the table. I am not a fan of his and I honestly believe there are players who can offer something similar who also have better all-around skillsets, but Beckerman snuffs out passes and breaks up plays behind the scenes. Kylse is the type of player who scans the build up from a deep lying position like a linebacker, and then gravitates toward where he believes danger is most likely to develop or manifest. Often times, he cuts out the 3rd or 4th pass which would have been the beginning of a, say, 10 – 20 pass sequence which would eventually have led to a dangerous scoring situation. That’s why JK values him. On a team that struggles for possession, a player like Beckerman is perfect for damage limitation.

      • But to make my point, Beckerman is not a better “1v1” defender than Bradley; most likely, this title belongs to Bradley, although it really doesn’t matter. Most of what you would call “1v1” defending takes place on the wings, say between a winger and a fullback. In the middle, Kyle’s role is what I described, and Bradley’s is similar although he is much more offensively inclined and talented obviously.

      • mal, I’ve been watching Beckerman since he came to RSL, I’m well aware of what he does and how he plays. Thanks for the lecture though.

      • Too simplistic to think that way… 1v1 defending discussion is irrelevant in middle of the field. This is not the NBA. No defender in the world can successfully play man to man on the best attackers here. This is why the defenses in soccer are constructed in lines and we talk about “closing down”, referring to zones on the field as much as players themselves. This game is spatial, and of course James or anyone could beat us with a single one-touch through ball – undefendable – if the rest of the defense isn’t switched on.

        However, Beckerman brings a 1st rate tenacity and that attention can be focused on a single player, meant to frustrate him. So the psychological aspect is important to Kyle’s game, not to be underestimated. Beckerman can be an absolute pest. He can play single-minded whereas I don’t believe Bradley can – whose role is very multi-dimensional.

      • This article explicitly states that the purpose of starting Beckerman would be to man-mark James out of the game. If that is truly JK’s strategy, 1 v 1 defending would most definitely be a primary factor. I’m talking about more than just a defender marking a player with the ball at his feet.

    • We will probably need both Bradley and Beckerman playing defensively to stay in the game. It’s not a case of Beckerman taking Bradley’s role, but of supplementing it.

  11. JK is in a bit of a catch-22 in this game. He probably feels like we need to get out of the group in order to keep his job, but in order to meet his stated goal of reaching the semis we almost certainly need to win the group to avoid Brazil in the quarters. That means we need to play to win against Colombia, not play for a point as so many seem to be saying we must do. Playing to win would mean a lineup similar to Dro Scott’s above. Playing to tie means a lineup like the one in this article. My guess is JK goes for the option that makes it more likely to keep his job.

    • “He probably feels like we need to get out of the group in order to keep his job”

      No, he certainly does not feel that way. There are no significant sources that would indicate this is JKs or US Soccer’s mindset. everything we know at this point would indicate that he has the reigns through Russia.. so that’s some specious speculation on your part, no doubt. Would it be a disappointment? By all indications, yes, of course, but to oust him after a poor group stage performance would only reflect poorly upon US Soccer. If this were our logic, he wouldn’t have made it beyond the Gold Cup debacle. Clearly, US Soccer’s plan is more far reaching than you currently understand (or maybe give them credit for). The fact that you actually believe JK is thinking that in his own mind spells doom for any sort of analysis you might have to offer.

      • Actually, I have seen this specious speculation in more than one place. Sounds like you work for U.S. Soccer, though, so I’m sure your insight is better than mine.

      • From actual people in the know or just on message boards? I haven’t seen or heard any pundits that think his job is in jeopardy from this tournament.

      • There was an ESPN panel report posted just a couple of days ago and at least two or three of those on it said that if they don’t get out of the group stage they think the question will need to be asked if it’s time to move on. That’s not the only thing I’ve seen, but I don’t remember where else. I’m sure if the team looks ok and doesn’t get demolished that it’s unlikely for him to lose his job, but I don’t think it’s at all out of the realm of possibility.

  12. I can see Bedoya starting in place of Zardes which I would prefer. I wouldn’t bet against Klinsmann being a coward and starting Zusi over Wood.

  13. ———————————Wood————————————–

  14. Hah! No ways. Jergun needs play like dis:


    Wondowlowski and Badoya make sick pairing up tops. Kyle is gr8 playmaker, just need opporutnity. Wings no explanation need. Beesler good at getting balls up so he be good def mid (only cuz Kyle up top HAH!). Backline no brainer, Jermaine best in a defensive role. And goalie should be Harvoth, dem other Doods is old HAH!

    • Are you drunk or on drugs? No way Wondolowski and Bedoya up top will work. Danny Williams and Ream should have been on the roster. We have Jones and Bradley already as Defensive mids no need to bring three, but typical Klinnsman thinks he knows best. If Jones starts I am going to need him to not be on the ground all game, people who think he is still in his prime and good need to check into a crazy house. Sigh!!!

    • Great lineup. I think you should switch it to a 4-3-3 and put Besler in the left forward position. “Defend from the front”

  15. I want to see:

    – Guzan –
    Yedlin – Cam – Brooks – FJ
    – Bradley –
    -Bedoya – Nagbe/Jones –
    Zardes – Demps – Wood

    Unfortunately I think we will see the SBI lineup and I am not confident in that lineup at all. Play our best lineup, the one that looked like they were all playing together well. Why figure it out and then not put it out there? Play a positive lineup to get a positive result, if it looks like they are being overrun, then you make changes… is called coaching!

  16. Really wished he had of kept Danny Williams on the roster instead of Beckerman or Kitchen. We have Bradley, and Jones that can play defensive mid. Also he could be used on the wing or centrally in attacking midfield.

  17. It seems the only real debate is whether to Backerman or not to Beckerman. If no Beckerman, then Bedoya gets added to the line-up and Bradley moves back into the 6. Otherwise, I think the line-up is accurate.

  18. This is why the US is so far behind in its analysis of the game. Keeping some foothold in possession is key to not getting overrun. We aren’t Atletico Madrid, we don’t have that kind of talent up front to take advantage of a counter attack and turn 1 attack into 1 goal 9 times out of 10. We need to hold some possession, otherwise we’ll just spend all game defending, and still most likely concede.

  19. I think we play like we did the second half against Bolivia. Beckerman starting over Bedoya would really surprise me. Plus Bedoya is Colombian himself so I doubt Jurgen would deny him the opportunity to start.

  20. –Wood—

  21. Looks like the starting XI I see getting the go in the first match. I imagine we’ll see Nagbe, Bedoya and Pulisic as our three subs coming on should we be down or tied.

  22. i think thats the 11 we have all been told will be there. gotta think Bedoya is a candidate to start over Beckerman, Wood or Zardes with recent performances. If he is not in the 11, probably standing by the sideline itching to get in to this game.

    • Bedoya and Nagbe should be in the game. Too many DMs only means we are out there to do damage control and we are not going to be able to bunker down for 90 minutes, we need to attack. For us to survive this tournament we need to take the fight to them…





      Then possible second half subs (if we don’t get overrun early)

      Jones for Bradley

      Pullisic for Dempsey

      Zusi for Bedoya


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