The first match of Bruce Arena’s second tenure as United States men’s national team manager didn’t go as anyone hoped. It’s hard to takeaway any positives from a boring and stale scoreless draw. I’ve seen some respected media members claim that the team’s shape looked more structured as if they had a better understanding of their roles. To that I’d sort of agree, but it’s just hard to lean on that narrative after just 90 minutes. The match on Friday against a decent CONCACAF side in Jamaica should tell a better tale.
We’ve already seen Jozy Altidore come out and wonder if playing with a lone striker is the right move or not, with Arena responding that he could change up the formation at any time. Assuming that he decides to stay the course and trot out the same 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 he did against Serbia, what changes could we see? Two starters from Sunday are guaranteed to be replaced with Jermaine Jones and Sacha Kljestan leaving camp. Here’s a lineup I’d like to see on Friday if the formation and philosophy stays the same:
With Kljestan unavailable that leaves a hole in the No. 10 position. In my eyes, the only two options to replace him are Benny Feilhaber or Darlington Nagbe. Nagbe’s role for the Timbers the past couple of seasons has seen him shift into a central role, predominantly as a box-to-box player to support Diego Valeri, but he has the ability to be the primary playmaker to rely on. We saw what he can do on the wing against Serbia, now it’s time to get a feel for his contribution in the center pulling the strings.
Replacing Jones is a little more complicated. The obvious pick is Sebastian Lletget, who came on a halftime for the veteran and did pretty well as a box-to-box midfielder. However, I’d like to see Dax McCarty inserted into the lineup for two reasons that both include Michael Bradley. The first is, McCarty offers a more defensive pure No. 6 option that would allow Bradley the freedom to move up and down the field as he pleases. He’s a defensive midfielder who needs a more defensive partner and that’s what McCarty offers. The second is looking toward the second half. Take Bradley out at halftime and replace him with Lletget no matter how the team is doing. It’s time to see a half of soccer that isn’t dedicated to finding the right scenario for Bradley to succeed.
Jordan Morris on the wing is something the Sounders did several times throughout their MLS Cup run. Specifically in the Western conference finals against FC Dallas where the move paid off significantly despite objections from yours truly. His pace and attacking mentality offers that dynamic aspect that Jozy alluded to in his 4-3-3 concerns.
The back line changes are all about seeing different options. Villafana looked good in his brief substitute appearance and Walker Zimmerman has apparently impressed in camp. Give those two a full run-out and give Luis Robles a chance in goal just as a reward for a long camp and being one of the most consistent performers in MLS for a long while.
If Bruce decides that it’s time to change things up and adhere to Jozy’s concerns over a lone striker formation here’s a lineup I’d throw out there:
It’s the same personnel except for the switch of McCarty and Lletget. Having both McCarty and Bradley in a narrow formation like this would seem too defensive, akin back to the four CDM days under Klinsmann.
Giving Altidore some striking support in Morris would make him happy and having Nagbe behind them doing his ‘sprint dribble past five players’ thing should open up some space for everyone.
It’s not the most ideal lineup, but it could be effective.
What do you think about these two options? What changes would you make if you were Bruce? Show us your tactical genius in the comments.