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Predicting the USMNT lineup vs. Panama

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Injuries and circumstance leave us with a lot of questions.

Honduras v United States - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

To say that Bruce Arena nailed his starting lineup selections on Friday night in the 6-0 win over Honduras would be an understatement. As soon as the official lineup hit social media fireworks and pyro went off, birds began chirping to the tune of “Hallelujah”, and everything was right with the world for the next three hours. Unfortunately, injuries will force the lineup to change. Here’s everything to keep in mind when thinking about possible lineup scenarios for the away match in Panama on Tuesday:

  • John Brooks, Jordan Morris, Sebastian Lletget, and Michael Orozco have all been sent home due to injury. While Paul Arriola is the lone addition to the roster.
  • Jermaine Jones will be available for selection after serving his one game suspension.
  • Playing away from home in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying is a different animal than playing at home. Expect to see some pragmatism.

With all of that in mind, here’s a possible lineup I see Bruce deciding on:

Shape/Mentality: We could see a similar formation as Friday night, but a lot more narrow and compact. Look for Darlington Nagbe and Jones to push inside to support Michael Bradley then break out on the counterattack when the U.S. recover possession. Another possibility is pushing Dempsey back into the No. 10 spot, Nagbe and Christian Pulisic to the wing positions, and Jones to the holding role next to Bradley in a 4-2-3-1 look. I’m not completely sure of the exact shape, but this personnel feels right for the situation. It’s a little more pragmatic than against Honduras, but it still packs an attacking punch.

Backline: This is honestly a complete guess. For me, Cameron looked rough at right back on Friday night. He kept getting caught in possession and turning it over in dangerous spots. I’m not a Graham Zusi fan, but he’s basically all that remains. Omar Gonzalez was the worst player for the U.S. on the field, so it makes sense to shift Cameron back to the center for some reliability. I purely picked Tim Ream because he was the choice off the bench when Brooks had to be subbed off.

This is surely to be wrong with Nagbe being replaced by Alejandro Bedoya or some such. Who knows, really? I’ll say this, Arena has earned my trust as far as lineup selection goes. With this being such a tough test, I’ll learn to live with whatever he chooses as I’m sure it’ll fit his gameplan, even if it’s not something I’m thrilled with on paper.

As far as what I’d pick? Just put Pulisic and Nagbe out there and fill the rest in. I don’t really care as long as they keep being trusted in big matches. Get your best players on the field. That’s my motto.

What say you? Like the look of this lineup? What changes would you make or do you hope to see?