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Who should the USMNT start vs. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines?

Photo by Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports
Photo by Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

Just two games stand between the U.S. Men’s National Team and the next round of World Cup qualifying, and the process of getting there begins Friday with what could be a bit of a trap game.

St. Vincent & The Grenadines are far and away the least dangerous opponent in Group C play, but the USMNT cannot take Friday’s task lightly. Playing in a cricket stadium in humid conditions, the U.S. will face adversity in Kingston, especially if the team fails to get off to a hot start. An early goal in the teams’ last meeting put the U.S. on their heels early, even if the favorites did rebound en route to a resounding win.

Throughout the week, the U.S. has stressed the importance of scoring fast and often in what is essentially a must-win match. Two victories would seal a spot in the Hexagonal, while anything less opens the door for a shock exit from World Cup qualifying. Don’t expect Jurgen Klinsmann and co. to take many risks on Friday as the U.S. looks to simply take care of business against an overmatched opponent.

Here’s a look at one possible lineup Klinsmann could opt for against St. Vincent & The Grenadines:


USMNT XI vs. St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Here are some thoughts on the lineup:

When assessing the current USMNT roster, the back five appears the most set in stone. After months of debate, Brad Guzan took a firm grasp of the No. 1 goalkeeper position, showing well for himself through the Copa America. It wasn’t a perfect tournament, but a very solid one, and it paid off as Guzan earned a move to Middlesbrough. The positional battle is not over, for club or for country, but Guzan should be the man in net for these upcoming matches, even if Tim Howard has performed well since moving to MLS.

In front of him, the U.S. will need to adapt without John Brooks, who might have been the team’s best player this past summer. DeAndre Yedlin should slot right in at one fullback position, while Geoff Cameron remains a favorite to reclaim his spot in central defense. Alongside him, Klinsmann can opt for either Omar Gonzalez or Matt Besler. The latter’s presence on the Copa America roster helps his familiarity with Cameron, as well as his case for a start.

At left back, Fabian Johnson appears to be Klinsmann’s go-to yet again, as the Borussia Monchengladbach regular was once again listed as a defender. Johnson will certainly be on the pitch Friday at either left back or left wing. Should he be pushed up higher, he could be replaced by Kellyn Acosta or even Besler at left back following the Sporting KC’s standout performance at the position in this past summer’s quarterfinal against Ecuador.

The midfield is a bit trickier, especially given the suspension of Michael Bradley. The Toronto FC midfielder cemented his role as the team’s No. 6 this summer, and his absence leaves a big hole in the central midfield. With Bradley gone, Klinsmann has several options. He can rely on some combination of Alejandro Bedoya, Sacha Kljestan, Darlington Nagbe and Graham Zusi to man the midfield in a 4-4-2 or super-attacking 4-3-3. Or he could include Kyle Beckerman to hold down the fort, even against an underdog St. Vincent & the Grenadines side. Players like Perry Kitchen and Danny Williams are options one would expect to slide in, but their absence should open the door for Beckerman to earn some minutes on Friday.

Beckerman’s inclusion may not be a sexy one, especially against such a low-ranked opponent, but it does open several doors. With the Real Salt Lake veteran tucked inside his own half, Yedlin and Johnson have more freedom to fly forward as Beckerman forms a sort of back three with the two centerbacks. The USMNT should expect a bulk of possession on Friday, and Beckerman’s presence may take away a midfield option, but does add to the numbers given freedom to venture forward.

That leaves Klinsmann with the decision of who to pair with him. Given the fact that he wasn’t on the original roster, Kljestan seems unlikely to be in the starting XI but could certainly join the fray as a substitute. Zusi could see time on the wing or in the midfield, and his versatility may be better served off the bench as the game wears on. That leaves Bedoya and Nagbe. Bedoya has taken to a No. 8 role during his time with the Philadelphia Union and should fit perfectly in the central midfield. Meanwhile, Nagbe could be in line for his first USMNT start, a deserved one given his performance leading up to the Copa.

Finally, there’s the attacking third of the field. Jozy Altidore is all but solidified as a starter after being named captain, but the pieces put around him remain up for debate. Friday could be a good time to work on Altidore’s partnership with Bobby Wood in a two-striker set, but the Hamburg forward demonstrated that he can be effective from a wide role over the summer. It all remains very fluid, though, as Wood will almost certainly take every opportunity to cut inside and create.

With the absence of Gyasi Zardes, the USMNT has a lack of battle-tested wing options. Zusi could slot in out wide if called upon, but the lack of Zardes leaves the USMNT without one of the pool’s most dynamic and athletic attackers. However, going with a 4-3-3 gives Klinsmann the ability to throw another playmaker in the attack, like Christian Pulisic or Jordan Morris, giving one of the two valuable experience in a game that does provide plenty of pressure.

Overall, expect Klinsmann to stick with the familiar, at least for Friday. With a spot in the Hex on the line, the U.S. can’t take the match for granted, making it necessary to rely on a group of players that helped them throughout the summer.


  1. No Bradley, Dempsey, etc.
    We do not have a world class striker.
    We do not have a strong defense (at least one that can afford to have one in the attack).
    We have a number of player on form: Altidore, Orozco (yes, I said that), Sasha.
    And we need a team with some experience (over 20 years old) on the field.
    What to do…..
    Time to be creative. 3-2-4-1
    (Subs: Pulisic, Wood, Morris)
    Cameron can drop back into the central defense as necessary

  2. With Beckerman starting, I think you are essentially running Nagbe and Bedoya with 3 forwards and relying on FBs to bring your width. So Morris/Pulisic, Wood, Altidore up top. I think Puli will be a sub because JK is still “bringing him along slowly”

  3. I anticipate Klinsman going with the 4-4-2 below. Id love to see Kljestan get the start over Bedoya, but if Kljestan starts i would imagine JK keeps Bedoya on the field as well.


  4. i like the SBI line up, but who takes the corners? nagbe or johnson? Zusi is in pretty good form (playing some RWB too) and was instrumental in the most similar game 4 years ago (@Antigua). just seems to fit this game.

    looking forward to Jozy & Wood up top. the defense of beckerman, besler and cameron (Birnbaum maybe) should be fine and allow the fullbacks to run wild.

    • My only difference is I have Kljestan starting for Nagbe. Even though its been awhile Sacha has 46 caps, he played five seasons in Belgium, played in 34 Europa or Champions League matches, and he’s had much better MLS form this season. I think JK goes with his experience over Nagbe. He leaves Nagbe, Pulisic, and Morris to come off the bench if we need goals.

  5. “Bradley cemented himself as the team’s number 6.”

    You placed the words in the wrong spot and missed a couple important modifiers.

    It should read: “Bradley, as the team’s number 6, looks like he’s running in wet cement.”

    • Exactly! Bradley has been a liability for the past 3 seasons. Bad decisions, constantly moving the ball back instead of attacking, and when he does pass forward, he’s not decisive but he is inaccurate. His cachet (earned so long ago, I can’t remember his last good showing) has run its course. Time for some new blood.

      Give Nagbe a long look please.

  6. I’ve been hearing OPs critique the poor field at SV&G and am wondering if maybe we should consider sitting Jozy for this one. Doubt we will need him and it makes sense with his injuries, especially his history of hamstring injuries, to not risk him on such a poor field…unless we are losing or tied at the half. Otherwise, rest him for T & T.

    • Its all speculation as far as field conditions go. No one posting on here has any idea what the field will be like. Yes, it is unlikely it will be of the quality American players are used to, but there is no factual evidence to suggest its dangerous. From the pics USSF has been posting of training yesterday the practice facilities appear in good shape.

    • I wouldn’t mind seeing him in January, but he plays what might be our deepest position at the moment, deep holding midfielder. I haven’t seen play at all this season, but he seems more a Michael Bradley replacement. Bradley, Jones, Kitchen, Williams, Stanko, Trapp, Morales, and Hyndman all ahead of this guy. You could also name guys like Canouse and Zelalem that are younger and have more upside. Powers is 25 so he’s got to start making a name for himself. Hasn’t really gotten better since his ROY season, I mean your video is two years old that should tell us something.

  7. I actually think the lineup is terrible. Need to deploy a two stiker system with Morris and Wood up top. Bring Jozy in as a sub. Also a great game to move up Fabian into his natural position and give someone else a go at LB. We killed JK for playing people out of position and now we see people turn in projected lineups with players playing out of their natural positions. Where is the outrage? Morris and Wood up top. Nagbe in the middle behind them and Fabian out left mid. Dont care about the rest.

    • I agree with your two striker system, especially since FJ and Yedlin will be pushed forward for most of the match (which is why FJ is fine at LB, he’ll barely be behind the midfield line all night). Jozy is scoring at a better rate in MLS than Morris (1 goal every 178 minutes compared to 1 every 238 minutes), and of course has tons more international experience and success, and he has two feet (this is important because with 9 and 10 in the box Jordan won’t be able to get his right foot shot at times). Nagbe does not play underneath the forwards as a play maker, so have some self outrage.

      • My apologies for not correctly identifying myself. I am a JK homer and was not outraged like others. Just found it funny that others that killed him for it are not voicing their opinion here and moreover posting lineups with players out of position themselves. I want to see Nagbe further up the field and in the middle as a play maker to see if he can do the job. If you can to some experimentation against a team like St Vincents then you have no hope.

      • I think even most of the JK haters have given up on the FJ further up the field at least once they saw the roster it was pretty apparent where he’d be playing. Or the trust Acosta even less. I thought we might still see Besler there until Brooks went out. I think several Timber fans said Nagbe didn’t do well when he played in that top of the diamond, but I could be wrong.

      • “Jozy is scoring at a better rate in MLS than Morris (1 goal every 178 minutes compared to 1 every 238 minutes),”
        Scoring rate and Jozy Altidore don’t mix lol…..This is MLS we’re talking about here teams are not consistent, you don’t tally a player’s success by their scoring rate in this league or Wondo would be king. Morris has more attributes we need at an attacking force……. gifted speed, ability to create space, movement off the ball etc.
        But its the part-time players of St. Vincent & The Grenadines anyway….so either player should work

      • Not this season, American players only, Mullin leads followed by Jack McInerney, and then Jozy. Last season, the best American was some guy named Altidore, hmm interesting. Wondo has actually never finished highest among Americans in scoring rate, mostly because he’s too durable and rarely is subbed out.

        I’m using goals per 90 minutes or goals per minute not goals per game played because MLS doesn’t post that stat and I don’t want to do that much math.

      • hmm…as a self-diagnosed klinsmann “hater” (meaning i think he’s a glorified college recruiter/cheerleader), i have to correct you guys, in that fabian’s position hasn’t ever really been one of the controversial ones, at least as far as criticizing klinsmann goes.

        it’s long been understood that fabian can hold down any of the outside positions (i also think he’d be a great attacking mid). the real conundrum has always been a classic one: do you play him at his strongest position, or use him to bolster the team’s weakest position?

  8. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Klejstan underneath Jozy and Wood and Zusi on the wing, leaving CP and Nagbe still as reserves.

  9. Without Bradley and Jones, Beckerman is more than enough. He is not the quickest guy around, but he reads the game very well. He often fails to get the credit he deserves for snuffing out opponents attacks before they fully materialize. Of course, there are those times when something unexpected happens and his lack of athleticism comes to the forefront, importantly he does well at minimizing those chances.

    Morris or Pulisic? I think Pulisic is the better player while Morris is faster. Against a team that will likely bunker, speed is not the weapon it can be for a team that must rely on the counter so I agree Pulisic gets the start.

    • according to transfermarkt stats, bobby scores a goal every 3 games (6 in 24) for the us, while jozy scores every 2.7 games (34 in 93). but sure, bobby’s the real mvp.

      my opinion: in tough games, bobby and jozy should start together up top as central strikers; i think their playing styles pair very well, and i think bobby should be closer to goal.

      but in this game, i’m okay with a front 3 with bobby outside. our fullbacks will be pushing up high, and i can see bobby cutting inside with jozy playing as more of a false 9.

      • While unfair because Jozy has been injured for lots of big games… Jozy”s scoring rate comes against minnows, Wood has scored against top teams in tough games. So I wouldn’t use that as a distinction.

      • Scoring against Germany and Holland in friendlies is now worth more than scoring against Germany in a friendly, a hat trick vs Bosnia in a friendly and a Gol vs too ranked Spain in a tournament…..

        Wood scored against the Vincy Heat too… u can’t count goals against one player but for another player…

      • Altidore: 1 vs. Spain… Wood: 1 v. MX (cup game), 1v. CR. There were some qualifiers for Altidore, but I can’t find stats on which games he scored in… I just remember him not scoring Vs. MX. Anyway, I generally agree you need to count like vs like. I just think Bobby has done at least as much in much less time/fewer games.

      • bobby has 3 goals in 10 competitive matches so far (a goal every 3.3 games), vs mexico, costa rica, and st v.

        jozy has scored 16 goals in 47 competitive matches so far (a goal every 2.9 games), vs spain, cuba, el salvador, t&t, jamaica, panama, honduras, st v, guatemala, canada, and guadeloupe.

        so neither one has a great competitive record against top teams — mainly because we don’t often play top teams — but jozy has maintained a better scoring rate than bobby, and for a far longer time.

        my point is not (and never was) that jozy is objectively better than bobby right now; i think (and hope) bobby could eventually beat out jozy as the #1 striker. but to say that bobby’s done at least as much as jozy already (even if you consider mexico and costa rica “top teams”) is laughable.

  10. Can’t argue with any of the starters. It would seem that based on playing time, Howard should get the start, but either him or Guzan is fine. With Bradley and JJ out for this game, I’m actually ok with Beckerman there.

    The chemistry up top will not be great, just based on lack of familiarity, but this is a good game to pair Jozy and Wood. I think a 3-man front line might get crowded, with Wood preferring to tuck inside. Maybe put Pulisic or Nagbe at the top of a diamond midfield?

    • Guzan gets the start as it was already announced that Jozy is wearing the captain’s armband. Gotta think that if Howard is starting, hes the captain.

  11. Would nor mind seeing Morris over Pulisic. Morris has been starting while Pulisic has not seen a large amount of minutes yet. Plus Morris maybe better suited for that field.

    • CP has been playing in at least one friendly each week, including a goal against Manchester City so he’s not exactly stale. Plus Jordan is not very suited as a wing forward in a three man front.

      • Yeah, but I’d rather through Morris into a scrappy match on a crap field than risk putting our best young attacking midfield option out there.

      • Morris, not suited to a wing role? I think that is where he has played best. If anything I think Wood has not played best outside… but Altidore and Morris have both looked good and sometimes better coming in from wide positions and getting to the back post, and using their speed and strength on the wings… as opposed to finding space and understanding the spacing and timing nuances required of a number 9.

  12. I agree on the lineup. Wouldn’t mind it one bit. Though I can see Klinsmann going with Zusi over Pulisic, but I would rather roll with CP22.

    • Yeah. I have no issues with the suggested lineup. In fact, probably one of the best lineups given the roster. One potential difference could be OG playing (consistently playing for one of the best, if not the best team in Mexico), but JK is pretty set on having a left footed LCB, so I expect Cameron and Besler vs a Cameron and Gonzalez pairing. If you are against Jozy, you would want Morris. However, I think Jozy should start until he proves he can’t keep up. I have had my fair share of concerns with his play, but he is still one of our most consistent strikers. Granted, he hasn’t gotten to show that of late due to constant injuries. So, let’s see what he’s got. If someone can overtake him, so be it, but not until it is clear that someone is better.

      The ultimate question is what will JK do? I can see Orozco starting for whatever reason and also using Zusi over Pulisic. I’m not expecting too much more to change, but you never know.

      Going to be interesting as we start adding more players to the roster in the future (if JK adds them): Gooch, Zelalem, Green, Carter-Vickers, Villafana, etc.


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