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Who Should the USMNT start vs. Costa Rica?

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

The U.S. Men’s National Team’s Copa America got off to the worst possible start, but the U.S. will have a chance to remedy all that went wrong in Tuesday’s clash with Costa Rica.

A 2-0 loss to Colombia saw the USMNT’s backs pushed against the wall, but Costa Rica’s dull scoreless draw with Paraguay reopened the door for knockout round qualification. To keep those hopes alive, the U.S. will need a result on Tuesday.

However, Los Ticos will, as always, present a challenge. Even without the suspended Kendall Waston and injured Keylor Navas, players like Joel Campbell will threaten the USMNT throughout Tuesday’s match.

Does Jurgen Klinsmann opt to keep things consistent in the wake of the Colombia loss, or is the USMNT in for yet another shakeup after a disappointing tournament opener?

Here’s a look at a possible USMNT lineup for Tuesday’s match against Costa Rica:

USMNT XI vs. Costa Rica 06062016

Some thoughts:

Friday’s loss to Colombia highlighted several of the USMNT’s deficiencies, but, despite two goal-causing mistakes, defense was not one of them. Geoff Cameron and John Brooks both put forth strong performances, despite Cameron’s first half error, while demonstrating that they are certainly the two best central defenders in the squad.

Their fullbacks, DeAndre Yedlin and Fabian Johnson, were left too tentative in anticipation of Colombia counters and could do little to positively impact the game. While players like Joel Campbell offer a similar threat, both Yedlin and Johnson will need to get forward more against Costa Rica, as it is imperative that the duo provide width and an outlet as the team battles into the opposing half.

In the midfield, one wouldn’t expect Michael Bradley to struggle nearly as much against Costa Rica. If the USMNT is to be successful, they will need Bradley at his best. The USMNT’s aim will likely be to keep possession and play proactive soccer, and Bradley as a No. 6 still offers the team’s best chance at achieving those goals.

Alongside either side of Bradley, Klinsmann faces a decision. Alejandro Bedoya and Jermaine Jones were penciled in to the Colombia starting lineup, and the latter was particularly ineffective due to the team’s weariness of Juan Cuadrado. If Jones is in the lineup, he needs to be freed up a bit to actually contribute something meaningful in the attack. Bedoya, meanwhile, looked solid last time out and was likely one of the more consistent players on the USMNT against Colombia.

Darlington Nagbe, meanwhile, has shined as a super sub, and has proven to be a legitimate contributor. It remains a mystery just how Nagbe would fare as a starter, but, given his first match performance, Jones seems the obvious exclusion should Nagbe be thrust into the lineup.

Up top, Klinsmann faces a decision. The front three of Clint Dempsey, Bobby Wood and Gyasi Zardes clearly didn’t work against Colombia, but Costa Rica does not boast the same defensive core, especially without Kendall Waston. For the sake of continuity, it would make sense to give the trio another go while going at a shorthanded Costa Rica backline with a three-pronged attack. Whoever starts on the right wing, Zardes presumably, will need to take advantage of Ronald Matarrita’s inclination to attack, which often leaves plenty of space in behind the backline.

Wood and Dempsey should be deployed a bit differently given the former’s lackluster showing on the wing. Wood is a striker, a pure striker, one that gets in the box and scores goals. He should be played as such. Dempsey, meanwhile, could shift out wide in position only, as the veteran forward’s habit of dropping deep to get the ball while freeing Wood up to get into the box. If Wood once again struggles to find a flow out wide, the USMNT will need to find a way to get him into the box where he can actually contribute.

Christian Pulisic would once again be relegated to bench duty in this lineup. The Borussia Dortmund prospect remains a valuable asset, one that can go against tired legs with a unique blend of technique, speed and intelligence at just 17-years-old. Like Nagbe, Pulisic should be counted upon to make a difference off the bench and could provide an attacking spark later in the game should the USMNT be in pursuit of goals.

Overall, look for Klinsmann to go with continuity. As frustrating as some aspects of the Colombia performance were, the USMNT didn’t lose because they weren’t lined up correctly. Rather, they lost because Colombia was a better team who was much better on the day. Because of that, expect Klinsmann to go with more of the same in what likely remains the USMNT’s best lineup.


  1. Lineup is in…..same as last game, no changes. I really hope they come out with a better positive attitude and some cohesion in the final third. Let’s go USA!

  2. I would rather see Kyle Beckerman in the middle rather than Bradley. If things don’t go well Bradley can always come in later. In my opinion Dempsey should also not be there. His MLS performance has not been that great. Maybe he is hiding some injury. Instead I would like to see Pulisic. If Pulisic can’t score, it’ll be Nagbe.

    But if we have that set-up Wondo could also be of help up front scoring goals. The last game was much too defensive. People need to be aggressive. If they are not, they will lose. They need to be much less predictable. If they are predictable they will lose. Bradley and Dempsey can be defended against very easily.

  3. maybe in a fair tales

    donovan Morris

    johnson orPulisic feilhaber zardes

    Nagbe Bradley

    Lichaj or johnson Brooks Omar Cameron or Lichaj


  4. I think that they should run a 3.5.2. I think that this is the optimal formation that plays as many players in the their natural positions, and it also allows Johnson and Yedlin to play as wingbacks and go forward in the attack. You keep Jones planted in the midfield as CDM and allow bradley to go forward.


  5. I would rather flame out trying new players and formation rather than playing safe in order to get out of the group….again…..just to not play well in the knockout sage…..again. I would like to see a 4-4-2:


    Yedlin – Cam – Brooks – Besler


    Bedoya – FJ


    Pulisic – Wood

    Here are my thoughts…Wood plays up top and Pulisic plays underneath him as the new Dempsey. Besler plays LB with FJ in front of him for cover and to allow Johnson to get forward more, Besler stays home and Yedlin pushes forward on the other side to overlap Bedoya. Nagbe is the playmaker and Bradley is the metronome. I think this gives us more fluidity and unpredictability in attack. Subs would be Demps for the kid for the late game goal and Jones for Bedoya if we need defense or Zardes if we need some speed.

    All that said, I believe JK will go with the same lineup from game 1 because it is a must win for him.

  6. 4-3-3 False 9
    GK: Guzan – RB: Yedlin – CB: Cameron – CB: Brooks – LB: Castillo – CDM: Bradley – RCM: Nagbe – LCM: Johnson – RW: Zardes – CF/False 9: Dempsey – LW: Pulisic … Castillo was very solid for Monterrey at LB and started for us at LB in that 4-0 WC Qualifier vs Guatemala, Johnson is at his best in LM he is a talented attacker we need to use, bring in Wood, Jones, and Bedoya as subs.

  7. Dempsey is still the best and most dangerous player on the team. A wise coach would arrange the other players around him.

    • True. What’s up with payne? He looked good for the youth NT and he plays in Europe regularly I thought. Has he hit a snag in development or lost playing time? Vincent is a month out of college with a shock call up last Jan. So expect next Jan to be his personal test into the team. Shea is kinda a 50/50 right now. I really like him and hope he can get back in the picture but you have to wonder how strong he is looking while at OCSC, he needs to be a little more consistent and showcase his attack skills etc (mho).
      Villafaña I really just want to see in action in January to see his intl potential (which no matter what club he plays for needs to be assessed before he’s penciled in starting lineups)

  8. Before Colombia – Finally we switch to the 4-3-3
    After Colombia – Dump Dempsey, switch formations..
    Not just the fans, every article out there the last few days has Deuce on Social Security already..
    But everyone of the media “geniuses” has a radically different “solution”
    – Put everyone in their natural position!! – Ok, it’s easy to pick one player & say “he’s out of his natural position (rant..rant..rant) but where does he fit with the other 10? Has anyone noticed that we arent exactly loaded w/ Champs League players we can choose from to move people…
    (HOW MUCH griping have we heard about the diamond???)
    -Deuce isnt a 9
    – Ok fine, bench him..Then build your attack around 3 guys with 6-7 Int’l goals between them?
    – – Build an entire formation b/c of Wood? Guess what, Zardes would still be “out if his natural position” according to all the “experts” And who is ur spark off the bench?? hmmm
    – – Deuce dives too much…, Yea? well he did earn 6 fouls inside 40 yards
    Here’s a few observations to consider:
    1. The role of a false 9 is to open the spaces behind for fast wingers who will stretch the line.. What did the Colombia coach say about that huh…
    2. Go back & watch the game, watch how many times Deuce dropped & GZ, BW, Ale & even Jones ran into the channel only to have no delivery… The midfield sucked.. not just with their bad passes & poor trapping, but there was a lot of times they wouldnt pull the trigger or take an extra touch..period
    3- Wood looked lost outside – When he had to track back, yes. Sh!t happens.. GZ is better at it.. But there wasn’t any big talk about him being lost outside before Colombia.. Well guess what.. when your midfield sucks it doesn’t matter where they play they’re gonna look lost at times..
    – Fabian should be in the midfield!!! – OK, tell me who exactly you wanted to mark Cuadrado..
    – – There isnt one person who “WANTS” FabJo at LB.. tell me a better option.. Ream???? Anyone else?? Cuadrado JOGS past anyone else
    – – If the midfield is just AVERAGE, Fabian gets his touches up the field..
    – Jones was terrible – Yes, it was one of his worst games in a while. He didnt have the work rate he usually does..
    – – Does anyone think he’s gonna have 2 poor games in a row? Or do you think he’s got a bigger chip on his shoulder right now..

    We just lost to a top 10 team on a corner & because Yedlin put his hands up to his face on a cross…
    Deuce is NOT the problem folks..
    Put Nagbe in for Bedoya to start – no other changes, tell Bradley not to SUCK, let Jermaine unleash hell, watch as FabJo & Yedlin get up the flanks..

    We get 3 points Tomorrow. Period.

  9. Isn’t it funny how much we criticize JK for all the line up changes, but we change who we want to see in the line up almost every game? haha

    I like the idea of pushing johnson forward and getting nagbe in the game from the start. Not at the expense of bedoya though. Maybe a diamond with johnson and bedoya wide and bradley playing begind nagbe in the center? Im probably ready to move past dempsey but not sure another forward on this roster is better. Wood with dempsey up top, wood playing higher up.

    Lets god USA!!!!

  10. I like the idea of a more withdrawn role for Dempsey. Bobby Wood has earned the right to be the target forward up top. I don’t think Dempsey has the legs to be an out wide forward in a 4-3-3. In a 4-4-1-1 I’d give Nagbe a start and give a little more freedom to Fabian to push forward up the left wing since Nagbe is a better creator from the inside.


  11. The SBI lineup seems fine to me. All these people that want to sit Dempsey, our only proven goal scorer, in a must win game for guys with a a handful of goals combined seems crazy to me.

  12. Kaz I like your line-up, but I think it is vital to play Nagbe central.






    This midfield gives you plenty of possession and the skill/creativity going forward that you need to create more chances. I would also like to see how dangerous Dempsey would be coming in off the bench and running at a tired defense for the last 30 minutes of the game.

    • I have never been to a writers’ blog with so many spelling and grammatical errors. It is pretty shocking. Does anyone actually edit anything anymore?

      • Neither answer is particularly flattering — either no one is bothering to read it, or they are reading it and still letting it go. Then again, even my “real” local newspaper — the “newspaper of record” in my state — publishes stuff with embarrassing errors as well.

      • Yeah, people need to understand the difference between spell check and editorial reading of one’s work. I am all for speed of reporting, but how do you miss that you have a mistake in the headline?

  13. If go something like a 4-1-3-2 with same back line, Bradley as 6, Bedoya, Jones, Nagbe with them narrow and interchanging higher and wide with flow of game and Dempsey and Wood up top. Could also call it a 4-4-2 diamond with Jones highest and Bedoya and Nagbe free to play more centrally as desired.

    • Not in the way you’re probably worried about, but yes it “carries over” the same way it would in the World Cup. If he gets a yellow card against Costa Rica, he has to sit against Paraguay. If he doesn’t get one tomorrow but does against Paraguay, he would have to sit out a quarterfinal if we move on. But getting a single yellow card against either team will not send him off of that game.

  14. Without a doubt, this is the best lineup:







    • I don’t mind this lineup or the one JonnyRazor threw out. Might put Pulisic in instead of Bedoya. This group allows us to keep the ball and allows FJ and Darlington to interchange. We have to establish a rhythm. We are not athletic enough nor sound enough defensively to go long stretches without some form of possession. Yedlin still scares me. Not on the attack or 1 vs 1 defending. He scares me in his ability to stay connected to the other defenders, not to push up too high and give away good defending space behind him and staying tuned in mentally for long stretches

  15. Guzan
    Yedlin Cameron Brooks Johnson
    Bedoya Nagbe Zardes

    Dempsey needs to sit behind Wood. US needs somebody to control and distribute through the middle of the field.

  16. Dempsey.
    I think you play him against Colombia because he can score goals against big competition and no one else has shown they can like him. They will.

    Now it is time for the youngsters against the rest. I wish they would have brought JMorris.
    Unleash the young guys, they can play.

  17. —Wood———-Dempsey———-Zusi—-




    Zardes for Dempsey, and Bradley for Jones, in the second half.

    And we will be all over Costa Rica.

    • I don’t see the captain sitting after one bad game, if you look at the Ecuador, Bolivia, and Colombia games as a whole Bradley still has been better overall than Jones.

    • Zusi as an attacker? He doesn’t even play that role for KC.. He’s more of a set up guy. Good crosses and free kicks, best as a winger.

      • Take it easy Gary, the difference between that outside midfielder and wing forward is only a few yards. Our 4-3-3 can look like a 4-1-4-1 or 4-5-1 depending on how the game is progressing. I believe Zusi played that spot in one of the warmups as did Bedoya. I can’t believe I’m defending Bizzy, but FJ doesn’t play that position either and everyone is throwing him up front in the 4-3-3.

      • According to, Zusi has been playing up top in a 4-3-3, for SKC. They aren’t always correct, but they have consistently listed him there and had that as SKC’s formation throughout. I haven’t seen them play much this year though so take it with a grain of salt.

  18. ————-Wood————

    Subs if ahead Jones in MF, Bedoya slide FJ back to LB, Zusi late for Dempsey or Wood
    Subs if behind or even Zardes, Besler for Castillo (3-5-2) move Yedlin to Wing, Bedoya, the problem with this lineup would be who do you put in for a spark if you need a goal late.

    What I think we’ll see

    Subs if ahead Bedoya and Pulisic for Zardes and Wood or Dempsey,
    Subs if behind Nagbe, Pulisic and Bedoya for Jones or Bradley, Zusi and Zardes

  19. Without their center back and keeper it’s the perfect time to add creativity to the offense with nagbe and CP22. Sit zardes and Jones and 4-4-1-1 or go 4-5-1 with Wood up top

    • Remember last Summer when Jamaica was using their 3rd or 4th string keeper, or when Guatemala was using their back up this Spring?

  20. “The U.S. Men’s National Team’s Copa America got off to the worst possible start.” Talk about overreaching… The worst possible start would be a 4-0 blowout with major defensive breakdowns, no shot on goal and a red card. We were playing the 3rd ranked team in the world, and one of the goals was a PK call that could have gone either way. We were never expected to win this game.

    Honestly, our group play schedule is the reverse of WC 2014 with playing the hardest opponent first and working our way to the “easiest”. We’re still very much in this, and should get through if we play as we know we can.

    I like the lineup Ryan proposes, I don’t think we need wholesale changes. I do agree with Old School’s comment about Dempsey. As an individual player, he brings so much, but it’s getting harder and harder to find the right spot for him in the lineup without displacing Wood (or other players) from his ideal position.

  21. Wood must play in the center. He was lost out wide.
    Zardes must not start.
    FJ should play somewhere other than LB, but I honestly don’t know who should take that spot.

    • It’s probably too late now but I still think Bedoya could have done a job there. I know everyone jumps on Klinsmann for playing guys out of position and you would had to do it at the start of this camp. However he’s solid, works hard, good passer and I can see why you want him on the field but he’s just too rarely a real difference maker. Wouldn’t be any worse then playing Besler there.

  22. Castillo at LB, and move Fab to LW. Pulisic and Nagbe need to start. Get over this crap about age and how they need to slowly be mixed in to the group. They are 2 of our best players, definitely 2 of our most technical players, and need to start.

    GK: Guzan
    LB: Castillo
    CB: Cameron and Brooks
    RB: Yedlin
    CM: Bradley, Bedoya, Nagbe
    LW: Fabian
    RW: Pulisic
    ST: Wood

  23. My biggest problem with our lineup is Johnson at left back. He did a good job of limiting Cuadrado, but left back doesn’t bring out his best qualities, which are qualities our attack needs (combination play, movement, willingness to take people on, etc.). I know a lot of people don’t agree, but I don’t see Castillo as a huge downgrade defensively and I think Johnson’s attributes at left mid/wing outweigh Castillo’s defensive deficiencies.

    I’d like to see a front three of Johnson—Wood—Dempsey/Zardes.

    As the article points out, Wood is a center striker. He does the things you need from that position and he just doesn’t look comfortable out on the wing. As Old School pointed out above, Dempsey likely isn’t up to tracking back defensively. But for now, I have a hard time not including him in the starting lineup.

    • Agree that FJ is best utilized in midfield but Castillo has flat out stunk in most of his USMNT performances. Definitely a problem area and I’m not sure what the solution is.

      • I’ve thought Tim Ream has been solid when playing LB and it was a mistake leaving him behind. Fabian Johnson is our most talented player. Playing him out of his preferred position in defense shows a complete lack of creativity from Klinsmann and his staff. We have a limited number of attacking resources and are holding our most powerful piece back. Th

      • At left back, Tim Ream looked below average and out of position against Puerto Rico.

        Puerto Rico…

    • It may be that a 4-1-3-1 or diamond works better for Deuce. But JK has been working on the 4-3-3 for 2 years. He wants us to be able to play a 4-3-3 and so we will be playing a 4-3-3. In a 4-3-3, Deuce can only be the CF (everything else requires too much movement). Also, did you hear Jose Pekerman’s quotes afterthe game? The ONLY guy who worried Colombia was Dempsey.

  24. Absolutely agree old school. He doesn’t provide any pressure up top. Their defensive line was on our side of midfield for huge stretches, including when we were down 2-0

    • Perhaps switching jones and nagbe would allow nagbe to stay forward knowing besler won’t be pushing up as much and jones can combine with yedlin and bedoya with jones seating back after lobbing a ball down line for yedlin to cover etc. might work agains Costa Rica. Besler staying at home to mark their RW

    • This. Vs CostaRica i like sending Fabian up on the wing and give Besler minutes. Start either Dempsey or Wood up top.

  25. He’ll go down as my favorite national team member of all-time for who he is and how he’s performed but I’m not sure where Dempsey fits into this squad going forward. I don’t think he has the legs and work rate to play the midfield (or even out wide) anymore and his tendencies to track back to midfield for the ball leaves our attack toothless for too many times up top.

    Dempsey is an absolute killer and the type of guy you’d want on your side in a fight because of his heart. I don’t question his desire. I don’t question his ability. I just question where the hell he fits in on this roster.

    I feel like he should still be on the pitch, but it’s getting harder to justify why and where.

    • Good points. Maybe a 4-4-1-1 with Dempsey as a withdrawn forward. Problem is we have a number of decent players, but fitting them together isn’t always easy. Maybe you go with the usual back 4, then Zardes, Nagbe and Bedoya across the middle, with Bradley a bit behind them and Dempsey behind Wood in the striker roles.

    • While Dempsey isn’t my favorite player of all time for the USMNT, he is arguably one of the best we have ever had. But, similar to you, it is hard to figure out how he fits at his current level. He’s a step behind, so he has to move differently in order to get the ball. He won’t get behind players or make darting runs to beat offside traps. Now, Dempsey still has the trickery and skill on the ball that other players don’t or lack the experience to use effectively, so there is still value there, in addition to his overall attitude and desire. But, it’s getting harder to think of where he fits, like you mentioned.

      I think Bobby Wood should definitely lead the line, either way. Slowly, but surely, this will phase Dempsey out.

      As for the lineup, I’m not opposed to what we used against Colombia. Now, you can try the Nagbe for Bedoya or Jones at the start, or leave Dempsey out and put Pulisic on the left and have Wood lead the line. I can also see a change in formation like Gary mentioned. Either way, I think so long as we see the starters from last game used, minus one or two switches with the players noted just above, I think we should win.

      What I would like to see:


      JK will likely go with last game’s lineup (no issue with me) or adjust formation Wood, Dempsey, Zardes-Jones-Bradley-Bedoya, FJ-Brooks-Cameron-Yedlin, Guzan. I almost expect a Beckerman sighting though. Maybe we should start betting on JK’s lineups. That could be fun.


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