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Who should the USMNT start vs. Costa Rica?

Photo by Trevor Ruszkowski/USA TODAY Sports
Photo by Trevor Ruszkowski/USA TODAY Sports

After falling to Mexico in the first match of the Hexagonal round, the U.S. Men’s National Team is facing pressure heading into Tuesday’s clash with Costa Rica. Another loss would see the U.S. fall further behind the pack early into the World Cup qualifying stage, while a win would all but erase the frustrations that came on Friday night.

With that in mind, Jurgen Klinsmann has several choices to make, especially after botching Friday night’s tactical selections. Los Ticos are as tough as any team in CONCACAF, and Klinsmann will have to get his selections right if the USMNT doesn’t want to start on the back foot.

Tim Howard is out, forcing Klinsmann into at least one change for Tuesday’s clash as Brad Guzan is expected to join the starting XI. A formation switch will likely cause several others, as the U.S. looks to get back on track to close the international break.

Here’s a look at a possible lineup Klinsmann could go for on Tuesday night:


Some thoughts:

Let’s start with tactics, especially after Friday’s first half bloodbath. Two additional days of practice won’t suddenly turn the USMNT into Italy, and trotting out the three-at-the-back formation should be a non-starter. Given the stakes, the opponent and the team’s confidence following a frustrating loss, Klinsmann should stick with the tried and true.

That ideology should carry through to both tactics and player selection. Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood cemented their spots as the USMNT’s forward tandem on Friday night and it would be absolutely shocking to see anything other than their two names listed in the striker positions. Despite an up-and-down match, Michael Bradley also figures to be in the midfield with a vital role in keeping Costa Rica at bay.

Questions remain over Bradley’s partner. On Friday, at least at the start, the partnership between Bradley and Jermaine Jones looked to be a disaster yet again. The two settled as the game wore on, but it’s vital to remember just how bad that partnership has looked through years and years of tinkering. It still doesn’t fully work, especially if Klinsmann is going to jam square pegs and round holes with formational changes.

One piece that certainly does fit is Sacha Kljestan, who has partnered Bradley several times in the past few months. The two tend to play off of the other’s strengths and weaknesses very well and have always seemed to have the chemistry the Bradley/Jones combo lacks. Klinsmann should give Kljestan the start, especially given Jones’ recent return from injury, while saving the Colorado Rapids midfielder for a second half energy edition.

Christian Pulisic shined in a more free role on Friday, and one would expect him to tuck in again on Tuesday night to create havoc for Costa Rica’s back three. On the other side, questions remain, but Klinsmann has options. Julian Green and Lynden Gooch may be a bit too naive and wet behind the ears for a clash with Costa Rica, but veteran options like Alejandro Bedoya and Graham Zusi give Klinsmann several experienced choices.

Finally, there’s a decision to be made at right back. Klinsmann hasn’t been high on DeAndre Yedlin in recent months, but the Newcastle star could be useful weapon to keep Costa Rica honest. Still, given his recent comments, Klinsmann will likely go with Timmy Chandler, who will need to make the most of his chance after an inconsistent effort against Mexico.


  1. Bradley and Kljestan think of the game in the same way at least partly because Kljestan played for Manny Schellscheidt at Seton Hall. Manny was a mentor to Bob Bradley. Bradley also coached Kjlestan at Chivas. There is a connection there.

    I think they had little to learn to know how to work together, and had an understanding even before they became members of the USMNT this time around.

  2. Curious to what people think if bedoya doesn’t get the start again and then gets left on the bench for the likes of gooch or green is that the end for him especially if FJ is going to be playing more on the wings now and I said if FJ is going to play more on the wings not saying he will be

  3. Am I the only person who thinks it was an absolutely horrendous decision to start JJ against Mexico? I’m not really seeing it discussed, instead just seeing general questioning of how MB and JJ are able to play together. IMHO JJ was a step behind for nearly the entire game, and was honestly lucky that he wasn’t sent off. there were numerous times where he committed a stupid foul, or appeared to JUST miss committing a senseless foul. Kljestan should have started and SHOULD start tonight.

    • I think he was actually meant to start, but he was having breathing issues due to his broken nose suffered in the playoffs.

      I totally agree with you though!

  4. So, I know this is a long shot, but I don’t have BeIn or NBCU, and no sports bars have them either (I live in MT, so yeah, not happening). Does anyone know of any other way to watch the game?

    • allows you to stream Bein, they have a 24hour free trial so you could use it for tonight. NBCU is on Directv so if you are in a decent sized town in MT they might have it and just not know it. It was in my package when I had directv and I had a mid range package. I think it was like channel 408 or 410. I’m sure there will be streams around once the game starts, but they get shut down rapidly as it isn’t exactly legal.

      • Thanks Johnny! I’ve got cable, and NBCU is listed, but an expensive ad on. Unfortunately there isn’t a large enough soccer audience up here to motivate any sports bar to add soccer-specific channels. Thanks for the help!

      • Good luck, I meant some bars or restaurants have directv and might not know they have Universario, I don’t believe it was on the basic.

      • Also cricfree tv, but you have to watch out for the stupid pop-up, so stream in incognito (makes it easy to x out of it)

    • If you have Verizon wireless you can watch the game for FREE on your phone through the go90 app. The data is also exempt as a Verizon customer too!

      Good luck!

  5. Some interesting facts about USMNT

    1) Our central play maker is Sasha Kljestan
    2) Bradley shouldn’t be a guaranteed starter in every game
    3) Our key winger is Pulisic, followed by Fabian Johnson
    4) Our best Defensive midfielder on the team is Jones
    5) Our best Defender on the team is Geoff Cameron followed by John Brooks
    6) Our savior between the sticks for the USMNT is not Brad Guzan
    7) For USMNT to succeed Fabian Johnson’s role on the team should be LM
    8) Julian Green, a player good enough by on the 18 man roster for one of the most dominating teams in soccer, should have a major role on the USMNT
    9) There is a certain player, (1) playing at a higher level than most midfielders currently on the team (2) getting minutes playing in one of the best leagues in the world (Ingolstadt, Bundesliga), why isn’t he part of the team in any capacity?
    10) USMNT needs to play players or get players that play in the same positions at club for country
    with that being said SBI’s line-up is on point if Bradley is swapped out





    with Julian Green coming in at some point

    • Any line-up calling out Jones as your pure #6 is suicide. He will leave the back line incredibly exposed while he is out hunting. Yeah, it’s great to see him upend someone in a tackle, but he is pulled out of position way too easily.

    • 1. Probably, but not much competition
      2. See #4
      3. Obviously
      4. Neither Bradley or Jones are a true DM, hence why the don’t work well together. So if you see them for what they are #8s not #6s. No one has really stepped up and said its my job. Williams has a good game and then has 3 bad, Hyndman is far from ready and hasn’t had consistent minutes for his club in 2 1/2 years. Zelalem looks a year or two away in the friendlies he’s played. Morales see #9
      5. I’d go Brooks then Cameron, but I watch a lot more Hertha than Stoke so might be biased
      6. I know no one who thinks that he is, not even Klinsman, why else would he keep saying Guzan is the #1 but Howard will start
      7. Only if we can figure out someone at LB or the 3 man back
      8. Green is only in the 18 for Bayern when someone else is injured (but Coman is now out for a couple months) still think he has shown enough to be in camp and considered for time, but he’s only played in 2 cup matches all season and he only played in the US tour because Muller and Lewandowski were resting after Euros.
      9. Morales has lost his spot at Ingolstadt. They have only been in the Bundesliga for two seasons and look primed to go down this season. He has never shown great quality when playing for the Nats.
      10. Few national teams have everyone who plays the same position for club and country if any. It just doesn’t happen that way, too many formations and other great players on either team. Germany has been using Kimmich as a RB and Gotze as a CF, at the WC they played with 4 CBs. There were 4 or 5 Mexican players on Friday that were playing positions they don’t typically play for their club. You said Cameron is our best CB, but he hasn’t been playing CB for Stoke.

      • I see your logic
        5. “I’d go Brooks then Cameron”….” You said Cameron is our best CB, but he hasn’t been playing CB for Stoke” – True. But when you play as a CB and as a RB, you get to understand both positions and their roles and responsibilities, and he’s played both at the highest level (EPL)
        6. “I know no one who thinks that he is” – I’m glad you don’t think I was biased
        8. “Green is only in the 18 for Bayern when someone else is injured” – no USMNT striker is good enough to be on the team, let alone in the starting 11
        9. “Morales has lost his spot at Ingolstadt” – yes but he plays (comes in as a sub recently) for Ingolstadt in the Bundesliga, not MLS.
        10. “Few national teams have everyone who plays the same position for club and country” – 1) Players in our pool have trouble mastering their current positions let alone mastering another 2) Whatever Mexico is doing is working for them because they use it to beat us again and again. Yes, Mario Götze plays as an attacking midfielder for Borussia Dortmund and the Germany national team (what he is known for) and can also be deployed as a striker or winger. So, he is known and capable to be deployed in midfield and up top (and be effective).

    • Bizzy I am a advocate too for Morales as well as Williams . From what I have heard on Morales is that he has not had good performances in a nats kit. My thing is that he has not had many games where we play against quality teams. Williams I feel like shows up every time we play a good team. Both should be on the team ass well as Lichaj and Arriola. Arriola I feel like should be used as a cm sub. If Kitchen had not played bad against New Zealand he could be a potential replacement.

      • I agree… but most of these players have had a bad run because of where they were placed, formation they were put in or the players they put around them….and when they didn’t excel they were dropped from the team….yet some players that are on the team and racking up caps can have back to back (to back) games where they played horribly yet still get a pass and call up

        that’s why they USMNT camps should be huge, calling in most players going full 90 and those in top league to, at the very least, battle for a spot again and again. The USWNT remain one of the best in the world because they go by who fits the position the best and who performs well in camp, not by number of caps. The USMNT need to take notes. Our pool is huge and this is not including MLS, so why are we limiting ourselves to certain players or not playing every possible angle…???

        Alfredo Morales (Ingolstadt 04), Danny Williams (Reading), Lichaj (Nottingham Forest), Spector (Birmingham City), Arriola, Bornstein (Yes lol), Palmer-Brown (Porto), Villafaña (Santos Laguna), Boyd, Carter-Vickers (Tottenham Hotspur), Gooch (Sunderland), Gyau (Borussia Dortmund),Hyndman (Bournemouth), Hämäläinen (Queens Park Rangers), Kiesewetter (Fortuna Düsseldorf), Murphy (Sheffield Wednesday),Novakovich (Reading), Patterson-Sewell (Gil Vicente), Ream (Fulham), Rubio, Rubin (FC Utrecht),Zelalem (Arsenal), Sergio Duarte (Nacional) and the list goes on and on!!!!

      • Arriola is a little different in that he is young, his Nat appearances have been against Puerto Rico and the meaningless game against TnT after the game was essentially over and TnT had quit. He is back as a late sub for Tijuana so he’s not getting a lot of time currently either. To my knowledge he’s never played CM either for US Youth or Tijuana, but if you meant RM sure.

      • Bizzy half the guys you named are playing with the B or reserve sides and couple of them not getting many minutes there either.

      • Johnnyrazor that’s true but that why its a camp / trials. For one, the competition will create the pressure needed for other players to improve (eg. Altidore), so just because they are on a reserve team or something doesn’t mean they cannot be the missing piece for the USMNT (if they can’t cut in then they are dropped…simple)

  6. I don’t really care if Jones or Bradley plays, but it can’t be both. Neither of them is a great option, but i think the real issue is they need someone creative/possession focused in front of 1 of them (like Sasha). I think this will help with the attack/possession and then in turn help with defense because they will in theory have the ball more.

    Also, loved the technical ability attacking when johnson was in the midfield. US looked pretty solid when johnson, pulisic, altidore, and wood were up top. Now just put sasha behind them and drop one of the defensive mids!!! I would put besler or chadler at left back and keep johnson on the outside in midfield.

      • I prefer this idea. Sacha is a half step slow for this level. Always has been. How bout a 4 -4 -2:
        RB (u pick) Birnbaum Brooks FJ
        Bedoya Jones
        Jozy Wood

        I look for Pulisic to have a good game, now that he has done the Mexico thing. He knows he missed a chance or two the other night.

        Do they still have that awful turf in Saprissa???

      • Byrdman: They now play at the new Estadio Nacional. I believe we played the qualifier there last time too. Grass field with covers over each side to keep it loud, but no bad turf and no chainlink fence around the sides. Saprissa replaced their turf with grass last year as well.

  7. At RB I’m comfortable with either Yedlin or Chandler. The change I would make to the SBI proposal is to substitute Birnbaum for Omar G. I thought Omar was the best choice for the Mexico game, but he had too many give aways, most unforced.

    • I agree with this. It would help with possession, which will be important tonight. You can’t just boot the ball forward and absorb wave after wave of pressure all night against a team like CR.

  8. This explanation that the Bradley-Jones duo has “lacked chemistry” has grown extremely tiresome. The fact is, Jones has had many excellent performances while MB has struggled in nearly every big game the US has played in the last two years, even when MB plays the #6 role. Can we please move on and/or provide a more penetrating analysis/critique of his utility?

    • Position Win % Avg. GD Avg. Shot differential Possession
      Not No. 6 43.75% +.63 -4.75 49.51%
      No. 6 71.43% +1.39 +2.77 55.01%

      Those are the numbers with Bradley as the #6 and not as the #6. Bradley has been made into a bit of a scapegoat in my opinion. Besides who else is there to do the job? Klinsmann clearly doesn’t rate Williams and Kitchen wasn’t called up. I think we need to accept that he just might be the best person for the job at the moment

      • Sorry the table posted funny. But the gist is Win % is better, GD is better, Average shot differential is better, and possession is better with Bradley in the #6 role

      • I’ve been a huge Bradley supporter in the past but he has been terribly inconsistent for the last 2+ years. I think he functions best as part of the 3 man midfield with Jones + 1more. Unfortunately we have not been able to create much in the attack with that setup.
        I’d be curious to see us play a very narrow midfield of Bradley, Pulisic, Jones and Kljestan with FJ and Yedlin overlapping to provide more width. Almost a 4-2-2-2?

        I also don’t believe we have a true contender for Bradley’s position which has protected his spot in the lineup despite inconsistent play. He is our best option in my opinion.

      • I’m calling for Bradley’s replacement, but some of your data is also effected by Bradley’s poor play in his other positions. Those calling for his ouster aren’t debating his position they are debating his inclusion.

      • So you are saying we suck whenever he is on the field? We just suck less when he is #6? Both win percentages are unacceptable in CONCACAF.

  9. 4-4-2 caused CR fits this Summer, the only change that we might see is Birnbaum for Gonzo, and JK was saying Timmy is still his RB. Could see Green for Bedoya (and switch JG and CP’s sides but I think that’s more likely in the 2nd half). I think we’ll try to play defensive until half and then try to turn it up in the 2nd to get the result.

    • Sounds about right. I think there is a chance of Jurgen putting Yedlin in for Bedoya in the second half instead of an actual offensive option like Green however.

  10. I think your line up what we’ll see but I would prefer 4.3.3
    Green – Altidore – Pulisic
    JJ – Bradley – Sasha
    FJ – Brooks – Gonzo – Yedlin

    • I’d love to see this as well. The only change I’d make would be Bedoya for JJ. JJ looked like he was a step behind the whole game on Friday.

  11. 1) the 4-4-2 is where the United States will feel most comfortable fielding but it should be deployed in the diamond formation. This will allow Bradley to be a true #6 ( hopefully this will take away all excuses for his poor play) and for Kljestan to be at his most dangerous creating behind wood and altidore

    2) Zusi should be nowhere near the starting lineup. He offers nothing in attack and it will be a clear sign Jurgen is playing for the preverbal “result”

  12. Michael Bradley is America’s version of Wayne Rooney, except that Rooney was actually a world-class player at one time. I don’t understand why Bradley has become undroppable after being so poor for over 2 years.

    • That’s a good analogy.

      If we’re choosing between Bradley and Jones, I’d choose Jones. He was much better on Friday. Bradley has just completely regressed for the USMNT since he returned from Europe.

    • Agree 100%. At one point in the Friday game I remember a 3 on 0 down the left side and Bradley gave the fricken ball away. How can you give the ball away on a 3 on 0?

    • Taking out which player you think is better, its unlikely after his long layoff that Jones is recovered enough to go another 45-60 minutes at a high level.


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