Top Stories

Who Should the USMNT start vs. Honduras?

The U.S. Men’s National Team is once again in a precarious position. Friday’s loss added just a bit of doubt to the World Cup qualifying push with just three games remaining in the Hexagonal.

Now, the USMNT must bounce back in the first of those three games: a visit to Honduras. The USMNT took care of Los Caratchos, 6-0, back in March, but a trip down to Central America will pose a whole new set of challenges and difficulties.

One of those difficulties will be the absence of Jozy Altidore. The forward is suspended, forcing Bruce Arena into at least one change. One would expect several more after Friday’s performance.

With that in mind, here’s a closer look at one lineup Arena could opt to go with:

Some thoughts:

Let’s start at the top, because it’s the only position requiring a guaranteed change. Jozy Altidore’s suspension muddles the picture up top while taking away a key piece of the U.S. attack. Altidore’s hold-up play will be missed in a big way.

With that in mind, Clint Dempsey has to play on Tuesday. The match against Honduras is a massive one, and that type of match needs Dempsey. A lot of times, the term “clutch” is thrown around a bit too much, especially since you can’t really quantify it. However, whichever way you look at it, Dempsey is the player most prepared to play in this type of game. His hat-trick against Honduras in March helps his case.

Alongside him, one would expect a better game from Bobby Wood, but the question is how to complete the attack. Does Arena put Christian Pulisic out wide like he did on Friday, or does he tuck him in centrally like he did back in March? Given Pulisic’s performance back in the prior match, putting him in as a No. 10 makes sense to help drive the U.S. attack.

In midfield, Michael Bradley is locked in while Darlington Nagbe is a likely piece. With Pulisic inside, one more midfield piece is needed. Fabian Johnson’s health and Friday performance make him unlikely. Paul Arriola fits the bill, though, especially after a string of solid USMNT performances.

In defense, it’s pretty much a guarantee we won’t see a Tim Ream-Geoff Cameron partnership again after Friday’s mess. Arena could swap out one or both in response. Cameron’s fitness is still not  all the way there so early in the Premier League season, so you could see a familiar duo of Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler back in.

Finally, there’s goalkeeper. Following a rough performance against Costa Rica, Tim Howard’s spot is back up for debate a bit. It may be tempting to put Brad Guzan back in but Howard has more than earned a chance to bounce back from a poor performance.

Is this team attacking? Yes. Are there concerns in the midfield? Definitely. But, in a must-win match, Arena can look at a blueprint from March’s lopsided win. If the USMNT can come close to following that blueprint,  should be good to go on Tuesday.


  1. 4-2-3-1 please. Help cover some of our defensive deficiencies and use players like pulisic/johnson/nagbe further up the field as wingers. I’d like to see dempsey play underneath a striker and pulisic as a winger.

  2. I have the feeling that “No Altidore” means we are going to score goals






    Acosta for Bradley will never happen under Bruce but a game with no Altidore, Dempsey or Bradley with be a sight indeed, with Bradley and Dempsey in the second half to control and see the game through. Nick for Howard as Howard looked really flat and seemed like he couldn’t move, dive or even position himself correctly….like he totally lost his agility and reflexes!!! There is a reason why teams like Costa Rica, Jamaica etc keep us “on the ropes” and use average MLS players to beat us. Maybe the BEST INDIVIDUAL PLAYERS we select are not BEST FOR THIS TEAM

  3. 4-2-3-1

    Deuce still a super sub. Pulisic under Wood. Acosta paired with MB, hopefully giving him more protection to pick his spots to get up field. Nagbe tucking in… Morris stretching the flank D. More speed for the outside backs with Beas and Fab to deal with Elis.


  4. Yeah this site redesign is terribly annoying. Like many I come here mostly for the comments section and the opportunity to share observations with other US Soccer geeks. Impossible to have a conversation like this. And the bold font is just baffling.

  5. If the USA cannot stay connected like they did not vs CR, it could be a long night. CR showed that if you have a player who can spring a forward with good passes, defending deep with 8 works against the US. The US was unable to push the CBs into the attacking 2/3 much of the time much less in the opponents’ half. The forwards need to be more mobile to be available for shorter passes instead of relying on long balls into a crowd that is effectively 1 or 2 vs 6 to 8 defenders. So with all that said:
    Up front, Wood and Dempsey whose differences will pose more of a problem than Wood and Altidore did. Or just Wood up top and Dempsey more withdrwn
    While I think Pulisic is well suited as an outside attacker, I think he will be better used as a central attacking mid, especially since if he is out wide, it is easier to know were he will be and to double up on him all the time, in the middle, he and Dempsey cannot both be double teamed or it would open up the outside too easily. Outside mids, Nagbe, and Arriola (or Bedoya if we want a bit more experience). Bradley as holding mid and general orchestrator switching the filed or hitting longer balls.
    In the back, Beasley (or Villafana) on the left, either can get forward but Beasley still has the speed to not be forced to drop deep to defend. On the right, I thought Zusi did well vs CR and he has the speed to push up and get back (tired legs might put Lichaj there instead).
    In the center, I think Cameron and Besler would be the best pairing, but expect Arena will use Gonzo and Besler. Ream is a good player and really did nothing wrong vs CR, but his (and Villafana’s) lack of speed is likely a reason the US defense played too deeply.

    I suspect with something like this
    Nagbe Dempsey Pulisic Arriola
    Beasley Besler Cameron Zusi

    would compress the field and avoid the problem of getting stretched too easily like vs CR.

    Of course, the above risks playing the last game and does not take account of the different challenges Honduras may pose compared to CR. Still the star players for CR are better than the stars for Honduras and the difference those stars made was really what doomed the US in the last game.

    • Yikes, I’m glad I’d be unable to watch because I will be working. Myt heart stops everytime Morris tries to defend on the wing. It’s ok if you are looking for a goal and in control of possession, but for an entire game I don’t think I could take it. On the outside of a 4-3-3 sure, but not in the 4-4-2.

  6. Man. This new site format is terrible. Anyways, I think there has been a lot of finger pointing from the last game that seems a bit misguided for me. I understand the importance of the game and the loss was devastating in terms of qualification, but I believe we were better than what has been said. Was it great? No, certainly not, but the goals against came from errors, not some glaring gap in talent or overall play. We created some chances (not enough) and had an obvious penalty overlooked. Those are game changing moments. If we got the penalty, how different of a game would it have been? If we won, would we have complained as much? I doubt it. Just because we lost one game, doesn’t mean the coach, team, trainers, and anybody else needs replacement. Our best offensive and defensive played poorly as well. That isn’t going to help anything either.

    That being said, some changes will ensue, partly due to last game in terms of play, but also due to fitness. What will Bruce do? I don’t know, but this is what I would consider.


    You can also do the Johnson, Besler, Gonzo, Cameron back line.
    If a 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 are deployed, The personnel would be the same, just adjusted for the formation (with one potential change being Morris for Wood).

    • this is the type of comment that exudes logic, temprament and understanding of the sport that i agree with fully agree with. Obviously the team didn’t play well, but this doom and gloom outlook and the need to replace everyone or never play a player again because of a bad game is ridiculous. I’ve come on here several times and said a player needed to be benched for not playing well and with regard to circumstance, but never that the player shoul never play again because obviously anyone playing at this level can play, period! I just think there shouldn’t be so much rush to escoriate players or the coach because of one bad result, although a bad one, especially considering qualification is still in our hands and not down to the results of other countries!

  7. This is not a must win game, but a must not lose game. If we get a draw in Honduras, then we are still even on points with them and we lead by goal differential. If we can’t beat Panama at home in the next game after this, then we don’t belong in the WC. That leaves a win at T&T, which is much more doable than a win in Honduras. Draw, win, win, we end up in 3rd because Honduras would have to win their last two games by a total of 10 goals better than their opposition and since we would have beaten Panama, they wouldn’t catch us even with win,lose, win. So, you want to keep the score low and the game no worse than tied going into the last 20 minutes or so and try to win on counter attacks or a late push. But you want to take no real chances. I’ve already addressed the proposed lineup in another article. I don’t understand why you would bring on Beasley instead of Villafana ;since Villafana did okay after a few shaky moments at the start of the CR game. I would stick with Cameron since I doubt he will have two bad games in a row and he’s still our best CB. And if you replace any mid, it should be with a defensive mid such as Acosta.

    • I think you gave the reason for Beasley over Villafana. A draw is ok, but we can’t take a loss. Jorge is much better going forward than defending. Beasley is the safer bet if you are trying to keep the score low as in 0-0 or 1-1. I don’t know that Beasley should start, but I think he will.

  8. ——————-Dempsey——————

    I don’t really care about the FBs we might see Villa and Zusi again for me they are all about the same, but with playing in the middle of the day, I think we will see many new starters. Who knows with the goalkeepers.

  9. I would go with a 4-5-1 with Wood up top, Pulisic underneath, Nagbe and Arriola/Bedoya on the wings, Bradley and Acosta in central midfield, Cam and Besler central defense, and Zusi and FJ as the outside backs. Dempsey, Morris, and Bedoya/Arriola as the subs. This is my lineup of choice for all games moving forward (Yedlin and Brooks would be in if not injured). We need to pick a team, a lineup, and let these guys learn to play correctly together in that formation. If there is one major takeaway from the game the other night, it is that we are not good enough to keep changing how we play and who plays together.

  10. I expect Arena to go with as veteran a lineup as possible. I think we’ll see Bedoya over Arriola, Beasley over Villafana, Omar and Besler as CBs and possibly Cameron at RB though probably not. I won’t be surprised to see Howard in goal, but I don’t think he deserves it.

    • i don’t know bro, Geoff had way too many turnovers vs Costa Rica, i’d be nervous as hell to play him anywhere no less midfield after that showing. Am i saying Geoff is a bad player, ofcourse not, he’s one of our best defenders, but as a manager you have to make tough decisions and his play the whole of the Costa Rica game left a lot to be desired postionally and and with the ball!


Leave a Comment