Yes, this is a mostly full-strength roster Jurgen Klinsmann has called in for friendlies against Cuba and New Zealand. But with such weak opponents, there’s bound to be subs aplenty, and a couple of fresh faces (as well as some old ones in from the cold) just might see some game action. So with that, we give our lineup wishlists. They might not be stone-cold predictions, or really predictions at all, but at least they’ll be fun.
For me, the questions I'd like to see some answers emerge on are:
- Can Birnbaum cut it at this level and be a true option at center back?
- Can Perry Kitchen be a replacement for Michael Bradley when necessary?
- Is Lynden Gooch ready for this level?
- Same for Paul Arriola. He hasn't been consistently chosen at Club Tijuana. Is he ready for this level?
It's hard because some lineup choices are limited by the roster. There's not a lot of options at outside back for example. Personally, that's where I would have liked to see some new faces called in for these games.
(Editorial note: Rob described this as a 4-1-2-1-2, which seems like a way to get out of calling this a 4-4-2 diamond)
It's time to see what Horvath can do between the posts. Time is rapidly running out for both Guzan and Howard. It's time to identify a true backup. Arriola has impressed in every appearance for the national team so far. Give him a 75-minute run-out and see what he can do with a strong lineup.
Morris over Wood would draw the ire of a lot of people and it's never going to happen, but I believe that Morris is more dynamic and a bigger threat to opposing defenses. He's having a very good season and is in fine form right now while Wood has cooled off considerably. Give Morris and Jozy a chance to play together in one of these two friendlies.
I think Klinsmann goes for his strongest choice line up against little Cuba. Cameron and Brooks start (even if it's just one match) to get that chemistry built up. Same for Pulisic and Kljestan. Chandler got called in for whatever reason, and Fabian Johnson can play on the wing, so why not do that?
Adam Whittaker Snavely
No two ways about it: it’s time Horvath gets senior minutes, and these are prime games to get him in. I’m not particularly interested in messing with the defense. There aren’t any new defensive options on the roster I’d like to see, and unless something drastic happens, I don’t foresee any of my opinions changing on this group. Our starting back line is, in the grand scheme of things, not half bad, and all four of them will most likely find themselves in Russia should the U.S. qualify. Keep them together and keep building their chemistry.
The rest of the field is another matter completely. I’m sitting Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, Bobby Wood, and Sacha Kljestan in the name of excitement and getting some hard answers. Can Perry Kitchen finally (add like 8 “i”s when you read “finally”) take Kyle Beckerman’s spot as go-to defensive handyman? What’s up with Danny Williams these days? Just where are Lynden Gooch and Jordan Morris at on the international level?
So I came up with a 4-3-3 to test these things. Morris plays the center forward position he’s excelled at with Seattle. Gooch is the nominal attacking midfielder, although I imagine he’d play it as a box-to-box type of guy. I gave Williams the “Jermaine Jones” position of free-wheeling destroyer that can get into the offensive mix when he pleases thanks to Perry Kitchen sitting behind as a #6. And then I put Christian Pulisic and Paul Arriola on the wings for width, pace, and free-flowing creative juices. No, it won’t work against Mexico, but it would be fun.
Who’s on your line up wishlist? Break out the formations in the comments section and let us know!