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Who should the USMNT start vs. Mexico?

Photo by Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports
Photo by Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports

The U.S. Men’s National Team’s rivalry with Mexico isn’t one that has to be explained. There’s a mutual disdain between the two teams as the two sides continuously jockey for the title of CONCACAF’s alpha dog.

On Friday, the two meet again in a match that could go a long way towards helping either side march towards the 2018 World Cup.

Regardless of Friday’s outcome, both the U.S. and Mexico expect to take the field in Russia in the summer of 2018. Both sides are supremely talented when it comes to CONCACAF play, making the two favorites to finish atop the Hexagonal round. However, the winner of Friday’s match will be given a massive boost for the start of the current round, as the two attempt to push up the table early to assert their dominance.

Quite simply, the U.S. will never take Mexico lightly, especially in a World Cup qualifier. Jurgen Klinsmann will be prepared to utilize all of the weapons in his arsenal, as the U.S. looks to start the Hex on the right foot within the friendly combines of Columbus’ MAPFRE Stadium.

Here’s a look at a potential USMNT starting XI we could see against Mexico:


Some thoughts:

Heading into Friday, there are three guaranteed starters. We know Tim Howard will be in the starting lineup because Jurgen Klinsmann said so. We know Michael Bradley will be in the starting lineup because he’s the captain and remains a vital playmaker and shield for the backline. Finally, we know Jozy Altidore will be in the starting lineup because he’s scoring boatloads of goals. Those three are done and dusted.

From there, everything is somewhat up in the air, even if some places are more secure than others. Christian Pulisic is a near certainty to earn the nod as he continues his ascendancy on the international stage, while John Brooks should start at centerback, even in the absence of Geoff Cameron.

Replacing Cameron is the biggest decision facing Klinsmann heading into Friday’s match. Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez have both proven sturdy options against Mexico in the past, while Steve Birnbaum has appeared to move higher on Klinsmann’s depth chart throughout the year. Klinsmann may be wary of starting two bigger centerbacks like Brooks and Gonzalez, but the latter’s familiarity with the Liga MX contingent of El Tri make him the best option for the day.

The fullbacks alongside of them will also be vital. Given Cameron’s absence, Yedlin should be penciled in at right back, unless Klinsmann opts to push him up the field in favor of Timmy Chandler. Should Yedlin remain back to deal with Mexico’s talented wingers, Alejandro Bedoya provides a welcome presence on the right wing, one that could help defensively against Mexico’s 3-3-3-1 formation. Meanwhile, on the other side, Pulisic’s presence pushes Fabian Johnson back while giving the U.S. a very dangerous 1-2 combo on that side of the field.

Bradley will all but certainly operate the No. 6 position, likely leaving one spot open in the midfield. Jermaine Jones insists he is healthy and ready to go, and Klinsmann certainly sees him as a potential difference-maker. However, given the fact that he’s played just three matches since the Copa America, Jones likely remains a better bench option, opening the door for Sacha Kljestan to remain in the lineup.

The final question lies at the forward position. Does the U.S. shift to a 4-3-3 or remain with the now-familiar 4-4-2? Klinsmann should opt for the latter, including Bobby Wood despite his recent suspension from Bundesliga play.

Overall, Klinsmann is a Cameron away from fielding his strongest USMNT XI. He’ll need it, as the U.S. faces one of its most difficult tests to open the Hex in a Mexico team that boasts both talent and tactical variety.


  1. Michael Bradley is not a playmaker nor does he offer defensive cover. What I wouldn’t give for some actual journalists in ussoccer.

    • He sucked so bad at being a playmaker, people were calling for him to play #6 role. Then when he got moved there he was the worst US player on the field. Bench is the best option for him at this point. US needs to move forward. Bradley is a thing of the past.

  2. IMO Jones & Bedoya will both start the game. JK likes to be a little conservative at the beginning of games. Jones & Bedoya provide the experience and team chemistry to get us off on stable footing. Look for both of them to be subbed off between the 60-70 minute mark.

    For those waiting/wanting the replacement of Bedoya in the starting XI….the time is coming, and sooner than many may think. Once Zardes is back to full health and Gooch builds a bit more chemistry Bedoya will first be shifted to the bench and then he’ll be off the team. By the time we role into the Azteca the midfield will likely look significantly different.

    The questions for today are going to be centered around the defense. Who starts…Birnbaum or Gonzalez and Yedlin or Chandler are the 2 major decisions. Everything else is fairly straight forward.

  3. Johnnyrazor is probably right but this is the lineup I would like to see……


    Kill them with pressure up front from the wings, and direct the pressure to the middle towards the spine of Jones, Bradley, Brooks and Gonzo.

  4. Altidore plays lone striker – Mexico wins (That will produce absolutely zero goals up top)
    Bradley and Jones tandum in the Midfield – mexico wins (this has proven to leave the USMNT toothless and defending all game long)
    Altidore and Wood tandum up top – Mexico wins (has never worked before against strong opposition, and even tho klinsmann will play them, it will not work now)
    experiment at LB – mexico wins (we should have brought players that play in that position regularly and use Fabian Johnson’s stronger trait….LM)
    if the chosen CBs are not in sync (Gonzo with Brooks, Besler or Birnbaum) – Mexico wins…big







  5. I think he will go back to well one more time. He will come out with a 4-2-3-1


  6. I don’t know why the lineup must feature Altidore and Wood. I personally have not felt that the combination has worked all that well. I think we’d be just as dangerous if Johnson and Pulisic were on the wings (Chandler at LB) and had more space to operate in rather than having both Wood and Altidore clogging things up. It seems like one of them always has to drop deeper anyway and neither are particularly good at it.

  7. I can’t imagine Jones not starting if he’s healthy, and we have heard nothing to suggest otherwise. As well as Kljestan has been playing, I have seen him disappear in big games and also wonder about his ability to play with a broken nose/ wear that cumbersome mask. Jones has always saved his best for the biggest matches, so I think he starts this one.

    I agree with the rest of the lineup. I don’t get the Bedoya hate, he has become a leader and important part of the team. We will need his ability to do the dirty work. Also think Wood will be fired up and looking to prove something.

    Can’t wait for this day to end so I can get ready to head to Columbus tomorrow!

  8. Jeez, guys. I somewhat like the idea of running chandler and yedlin on one side… but that is a very defensive formation for your first WCQ and at home. in a 3-4-3 the trick is to pin the wing backs deep playing defense and for that you need numbers forward pressing the back line. Look at what Chile did running a 4-3-3. If we have people flying about and pressing high, then Mexico will be in trouble if they go 3 in the back like in Copa Centennario. I honestly think at this point JK goes 4-3-3 with this lineup:

    Wood, Altidore, Pulisic
    Fabian, Bradley, Bedoya/Klejstan
    Chandler, Brooks, Birnbaum, Yedlin

    he might start Pulisic further up, and add Bedoya/Klejstan as a MF… but he wants people running at MX back line and forcing them to play direct… If MX can play a slow game and make US chase them then it will bode badly. If US can force mexico to boot the ball over their midfield and try to play an arial direct game, then I think we win big.

    Or alternatively everyone comes out in 4-4-2s because I think everyone is nuts thinking that MX comes out in a 3-4-3 on the road against their toughest opponent in the Hex. But a 442 simply pushes Pulisic back from a FW into MF, or it pushes Yedlin into MF (Chandler switch, FJ back) and so this lineup provides some tactical flexibility based on what JK sees at the start and in MX lineup.

  9. Mexico is likely to use its 3-3-3-1 which is just a fancy 3-4-3. I like the 4-1-4-1 against this.


    In reality Chandler plays deeper than CP, and Jones is deeper than Sacha. Think Jones as Rode for Dortmund and Kljestan as Gotze or Kagawa. Jones can lock onto Guardado and that leaves Bradley free to provide cover on Hernandez leaving FJ and Yedlin free to focus on the wings. If Mexico is allowed freedom to control the middle with the fire power they have it will only be a matter of time like the Concacaf Cup. That middle triangle has to be able to keep possession and link to the forward line. You could switch Chandler and Yedlin, but I think Chandler is better offensively.

    • I like it, packs the midfield and doesnt have 2 guys who play the same position in wood and altidore. Also I think having chandler, jones and bradley in the midfield lets pulisic have free reign to attack and combine with anyone. He is only 18 but its seems like its time to give him the keys to the attack

  10. I was watching Mexican television last night and they were debating whether Osorio should be fired or not if Mexico gets off to a bad start vs USA and Panama. Haha the games haven’t even been played yet and already planning for and debating the manager getting fired. Sheesh what’s wrong with them? It’s not like Mexico has been playing awful recently or anything like that.

    • Another update via Mexican tv coverage I just saw right now. Reporter spoke to Jones and Jones told him he is “absolutely starting tomorrow”. Make of that what you will. If you believe Jones then that means Sacha on the bench, unless they go 4-3-3.

      Also, Mexican press seems to think Chandler is gonna start at left-back with Yedlin at right-back and Johnson in midfield. But that could just be them being unfamiliar with USMNT. They didn’t cite a reference for that one.

    • Lost 7-0 and haven’t exactly looked impressive against pretty mediocre teams since then. Tied at home against Honduras and had to come from behind against El Salvador, didn’t look good last month against Panama and NZ either. But at the end of the day they’ve won 10 loss 1 and tied 2 this year.

  11. Biggest decision will be how Klinsmann tries to line up. Does he go with the 4-3-3 he seemed to want to work during Copa America? Clog the middle of the field with 3 of Bradley, Jones, Kljestan or Bedoya to counter Mexico’s greatest strength or 4-4-2 which has led to greater attacking success for the US.
    I also would not be surprised at all if Yedlin is pushed higher up the field and Chandler at right back. Klinsmann loved the hard working, athletic Zardes on the wing and Yedlin could fit that like for like more closely than anyone else.

  12. What will it take to get Bedoya on the bench? Last time out he STUNK and yet, in all probability will start again. The other thing is ….. I do not believe JK will not start Jones. I think Sacha does not start and Bradley and Jones start. Sacha is one knock in the face from being a bleeder and Im not convinced he’s even the best option for the AM position but for now, he is. Jones brings a physical style of play that could knock Mexico off it’s game. I think we need that

    • Although I have shaken my head in disapproval the times JK has started Yedlin on the wing, I think it would be a good fit for this game. Start Yedlin on the wing instead of Bedoya (not a fan of his) and Chandler at right back. The Sacha vs Jones and Gonzalez vs Birnbaum vs Besler are the only other toss ups. For me it’s Gonzalez all the way to pair with Brooks. Jones vs Sacha is a tough one. I think Jk will start Jones.

      • I’ve watched chandlers last 3 games and he is in incredible form. I’ve never been a fan until his last 3 games. Chandler actually plays higher up the field for his club team even though he’s listed as RB. I would actually start yedlin at rb and chandler ahead of him.

        I know starting chandler sounds crazy but he is on fire right now.

      • I see your point, though I think Bedoya provides much better service than Yedlin. If they want to utilize Yedlin’s speed offensively, they can push him up.

    • Bedoya isn’t that bad. Plus, he’s a workhorse. Now, would I start him, no, but I’m not overly upset by him starting as I can understand why.

      My expectations for JK:




      I think Chandler will get the nod over Yedlin, but I could be mistaken. I expect Brooks/Gonzo to be paired together and FJ at LB, unless JK throws him forward and moves Chandler to LB and leaves Yedlin at RB. Also, the second rendition could easily see Bedoya take the place of Sacha. I’d say the guaranteed players are Wood, Jozy, Pulisic, Jones, Bradley, FJ, Brooks, Howard. JK can pretty much interchange everyone else for somebody. I just don’t know if Jones is healthy and ready enough to play against a good Mexico team right now, but I just expect to start regardless. I hope he can keep up. USA!


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