The United States is in another virtual must-win situation on Friday against Antigua and Barbuda, and given that they're a team mostly made up of USL Pro players, it would be fairly embarrassing if they failed to do so. Jurgen Klinsmann could stick with the same lineup he played at home against Jamaica last time out, or he could get a bit more attacking.
Klinsmann has a lot more to think about for this match, thanks to changes in player availability. Landon Donovan, Fabian Johnson and Edgar Castillo are all out, while Michael Bradley has returned. Klinsmann has also called in two new strikers that he could potentially turn to. No matter what he wants to accomplish in the match, he will need to make some changes.
In the diagram below, the players in black are considered locks to start the match. The players in red are not. Because of the recent injuries to Donovan and all of the left backs, along with the return of Bradley, there's more red here than black. Also, the formation/formation notation here doesn't matter a whole lot. Klinsmann could pick these 11 players and line them up in a 4-3-2-1, a 4-3-3, a 4<4>2, a 4-3-1-2, etc. The players and how they play matter a lot more than the formation in this case.
Projected United States starting XI (4-1-3-1-1)
GK Tim Howard; LB Michael Parkhurst, CB Carlos Bocanegra, CB Geoff Cameron, RB Steve Cherundolo; DM Danny Williams; CM Graham Zusi, CM Jermaine Jones, CM Michael Bradley; CAM Clint Dempsey; ST Herculez Gomez
Danny Williams and Graham Zusi were our best players last time out. Why are they in red?
They would be among the first names on the team sheet if I was picking this team, after Cameron and Dempsey, but I'm not picking the team. The last game against Jamaica was Zusi's first start, and Williams has not been a guaranteed first choice guy in the center of midfield under Klinsmann. I guess this is me being overly cautious with my prediction.
Is there a chance we see Alan Gordon or Eddie Johnson from the start?
I think there is, but I'm certainly not going to predict it. Though I suspect Alan Gordon has been called in specifically for hold-up play/other dirty work late in games, and perhaps specifically for the Guatemala match, I wouldn't be surprised to see that Klinsmann had specific plans for the new strikers in this match. Maybe one of my projected midfield three gets dropped for a striker? It is only Antigua and Barbuda, after all.
Why is Captain America in red, you big stupidhead?
Because he's currently playing in the second division of Spanish football. Let's be real, playing in the middle-lower portion of La Liga these days isn't any more impressive than playing in France, Russia, Brazil, etc. I'm not going to call an old guy playing in the Segunda a lock to start. Sorry.
Out of all the red players...
Most likely to start: Michael Bradley - He's only in red because he's coming off an injury and was not available for the last two qualifiers. Klinsmann might like how his team played in Columbus against Jamaica without him. His recent absence is the only reason he's not considered a lock.
Most likely to not start: Danny Williams - I could see Klinsmann taking him out for any of Maurice Edu, Kyle Beckerman or a more attack-minded option. He played very well as the most defensive midfielder against Jamaica, so I don't want to see him dropped, but that's certainly not his natural position. I don't know if he has a place in Klinsmann's plans for this match.
Most likely to start in a different role than projected: Graham Zusi - He played pretty wide, almost like a true right winger, against Jamaica. Klinsmann's lineup could end up looking like more of a 4-3-3 than the one I've projected, with Zusi playing higher up the pitch and wider.