Projecting a first choice starting XI for the United States when everyone is healthy isn't too tough, but when two key players are missing? It's a bit rough. Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley, who would both be virtual locks to start if they were healthy, are not in the team to face Jamaica due to injuries. There's also the issue of Clint Dempsey's fitness to consider, because he hasn't been playing matches or even training with Fulham's first team.
A couple of other potential starters, Danny Williams and Geoff Cameron, play different roles for their club teams at the moment than they would presumably play for Jurgen Klinsmann on Friday. Brek Shea will probably start, but his recent outings in a U.S. shirt have been rough, even if he did set up the winner at Estadio Azteca.
With that, we give you our projected lineup for the game. The players in bold are virtual locks to start the match, while the players who are not in bold could very easily miss out on the starting XI.
Projected United States Starting XI (4-2-3-1)
GK Tim Howard; LB Fabian Johnson, CB Carlos Bocanegra, CB Geoff Cameron, RB Steve Cherundolo; CM Kyle Beckerman, CM Jermaine Jones; LM Brek Shea, CAM Clint Dempsey, RM Danny Williams; ST Jozy Altidore
Diagram and further analysis below the jump.
The team should look something like this, if that's the XI Klinsmann decides to field. Questionable players in red.
Let's talk about some of the other possibilities for the team.
Will Klinsmann definitely line up in a 4-2-3-1?
No! In fact, we could probably do very long features on this site advocating for something else based on the personnel Klinsmann has at his disposal. Klinsmann would tell you himself that formation does not dictate a style of play and vice-versa. There are more solid central midfield players and strikers on this team than there are guys whose best position is along the attacking band of three in a 4-2-3-1, so we could see Klinsmann deviate and start in a 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 formation.
Why are those guys in red?
I'm glad you asked.
Clint Dempsey: Simply because he might be out of form and not 90-minutes fit. If Klinsmann likes what he sees in training, Dempsey will start.
Danny Williams: Because, no matter how hard Klinsmann tries to make it happen, Danny Williams is not a right winger. He's played central midfield almost exclusively for Hoffenheim over the last year. He's also played just 45 minutes in their first two league games.
Brek Shea: He's back in form for FC Dallas and set up the winner at Azteca, but he's been generally poor in a U.S. shirt since Klinsmann took over. He's the team's only true left winger so he should probably get a start, but don't be stunned to see an out-of-position Jose Torres play there.
Geoff Cameron: Because he's played in the center of midfield since moving to Stoke City. Also, Maurice Edu is listed as a central defender, which is kind of scary.
So, who might play instead?
I'm very glad that you asked that question as well, voice in my head.
Clarence Goodson: He's starting for (and captaining) Brondby, and playing well. Don't put it past Klinsmann to give him another shot.
Maurice Edu: He could throw a wrench in everything, though he has no business starting. Edu hasn't even had a team for quite some time. He just joined Stoke City -- a move that might push Cameron to right back, center back, or the bench -- but he hasn't been playing. He could play as a defensive midfielder if Klinsmann opts for a 4-3-3. I pray he does not play in defense.
Michael Orozco Fiscal: I mean, would you put it past Jurgen?
Jose Torres: The most likely player to start that we left off our starting XI. Klinsmann seems to love the guy. He hasn't got it done in a U.S. shirt under Klinsmann and should be running out of chances, especially as Alejandro Bedoya and Mikkel Diskerud start to get regular playing time in Europe again.
Herculez Gomez: Herc could start as a winger in a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3, or he could partner Altidore in a 4-4-2. However, because of this, Klinsmann might see him as too valuable of a super sub to give him a start. Additionally, he is not currently a starter for Santos Laguna.
Ultimately, Klinsmann's team comes down to a guessing game
How are Jamaica going to play? They're usually a team that sits back and counters quickly and effectively, but they might try to play a different game on Friday. They drew Antigua and Barbuda last time out and lost to the United States at Gold Cup. Omar Cummings isn't in this team and Jason Morrison is battling a knee injury, so they don't have quite as much speed as usual. Jamaica might depart from their normal strategy and instead opt to pack the midfield and keep the ball a bit.
Klinsmann wants to dictate the game, not change his style based on his opposition, but he'd be foolish not to take Jamaica's tactics into account when picking his own team.
What do you guys think? Discuss who you see as the starting XI in the comments, and check out Ryan's video preview of the match.