The United States kick off their Gold Cup campaign on Tuesday against Belize, who are participating in their first ever Gold Cup. They were surprise qualifiers from the Central American region, grabbing fourth place to finish ahead of Panama in the Copa Centroamericana and qualify comfortably.
A caveat: Most of the players on Belize's team are full-time police officers or members of the military. They have a dude who plays for UC-Riverside. That is the extent of the analysis I have on Belize. I don't know how much we're going to learn about these players on Tuesday.
Without any further ado, our projection.
As always, I will respond to a series of strawman comments and statements.
Is there a chance we could see a random jumble of players?
Absolutely. While Canada's loss to Martinique is a cautionary tale about the surprising quality of teams in this tournament, Belize is almost certainly this tournament's weakest side. A second U.S. XI would be heavily favored and should not struggle to get all three points. Do not be surprised if the above lineup is completely wrong and Klinsmann decides to field the players who won't get many opportunities before switching to his first choice team against Cuba and Costa Rica.
What's with the lines?
In the middle of the first half against Guatemala, Klinsmann switched to a 4-4-2 formation with Donovan going up top and Corona going to the right wing. Even if the U.S. doesn't go for a full-blown change of formation, expect a lot of interchanging between Donovan and Corona.
Joe Corona wasn't good against Guatemala
Correct, but Klinsmann's called him into World Cup qualifying teams for a reason. He probably sees him as a guy who can help the main squad and probably wants to get him some playing time. I'd rather see Stuart Holden or Jose Torres next to Kyle Beckerman in midfield with Mikkel Diskerud in and advanced role, but I bet we see a lot of Corona at the attacking midfield spot in this tournament.
Mix as a deeper midfielder?
He's played in a two-man center behind an attacking midfielder at Rosenborg and he did well in that role against Guatemala. I think he should play next to a more defensive player if he's playing in a midfield two, and I think he'll make a better partner for Beckerman than Torres if this is the direction that Klinsmann goes in.
Could Wondo or Bruin get some love?
This wouldn't surprise me at all. Even though Herculez Gomez has been a regular for Klinsmann, he's 31 and his form has been sporadic. Bruin and Wondo both looked great in their cameos and have been consistent over the last season and a half in MLS. Don't be too stunned if Klinsmann wants to give one of them a look from the start.
Can we just be done with Gooch?
Yeah, I'm not a fan of this current version of Gooch either, but Klinsmann seems to want to help him get back to fitness and give him every chance to get back into the team, like Holden. I'm holding out hope that Gooch is a D.C. United player shortly.