After having some time to settle down after yet another horrendous result in the CONCACAF Hexagonal for the USMNT, it’s time to look forward to Tuesday’s all-important eighth match in Honduras. You’re angry, I’m angry, everyone’s angry about the Costa Rica match. I don’t think you’ll find too many Americans who are happy with the performance by the players or the tactics by the manager. With that said, this isn’t the time to play the Blame Game. No matter how corny it may sound, everyone’s attention needs to now turn to getting a favorable result in San Pedro Sula.
The time for blame will come, especially if the path to qualification is made even more difficult by another poor showing on Tuesday. I thought about writing a long drawn-out “don’t panic” post but it would’ve been a lie. I’m on the verge of panicking, as we all should be. No amount of criticism directed at which ever cause you choose to take up will help get an improbable three points in Honduras.
Poor performances and a big suspension leaves Bruce Arena with some difficult lineup decisions for this match. Jozy Altidore, who for my money was the most dangerous attacking player we had on Friday, is out due to yellow card accumulation. What to do? Here’s my best guess at a lineup.
Tim Howard ... wasn’t good against Costa Rica. Is Father Time creeping up on Timmy? Are his best days behind him? Both of those are distinct possibilities. The problem is, there’s no better alternative in camp. Brad Guzan is mistake prone and Nick Rimando is just as old and not really going to be trusted by Arena in this type of match. Howard will likely get the nod again unless Bruce really believes in goalkeeper fatigue. Then we could see Guzan like we did in Mexico.
Speaking of not good, the showing by the U.S. center backs against Costa Rica might have collectively been the worst I’ve ever seen. Geoff Cameron turned the ball over like he was a cook at IHOP and Tim Ream thought he was playing left back and no one told him otherwise. It was a putrid performance and changes have to be made.
I expect Matt Besler to be brought in for Ream right off the bat. Not that I think it’s an upgrade, it’s just a change out of necessity due to performance and fresh legs. Cameron’s situation is a bit more tricky. It was his heroic performance against Mexico that earned us a point at Azteca, but he’s coming off arguably his worst match for the USMNT. Could we see him shift over to right back and Omar Gonzalez come in at center back? Graham Zusi didn’t exactly cover himself in glory on Friday and his inexperience will be worrisome in a tough away environment. For me, I think that’s the move.
Jorge Villafana’s name can be added to the rough outing list against the Ticos. Do you bring in a veteran like DaMarcus Beasley? Fabian Johnson doesn’t seem match fit, so he’s likely not a candidate even if he helps the team the most in defense. It’s a coinflip but I think you stick with Villafana to give you some kind of width going forward.
I think we’ll see the return of the trusty 4-2-3-1 in this one. Michael Bradley will obviously be holding, but who will his partner be? Kellyn Acosta and Dax McCarty seem to be the two best candidates. It wouldn’t shock me at all to see Bruce go with the veteran.
Darlington Nagbe didn’t have his best game, deployed in a weird midfield role on Friday. He had a few promising moments where he dribbled past several players to open spots for his teammates, but for me, he’s better as a wide player at this level. His inability to compete physically in the midfield and challenge for aerial balls is not ideal. Push him out wide to the left and let him do his usual thing of keeping possession and breaking pressure.
This is a tight spot and will most likely be a tight game. You need someone who can pull something out of their butt and produce a piece of magic. That’s why I think we’ll see Clint Dempsey get the start and drop into that No. 10/supporting striker role.
Christian Pulisic had a bad game. It actually happened. It wasn’t a mirage or a nightmare. He’s still 18 freaking years old. It’s going to happen. Obviously, he’s still our most talented player and there’s no way you leave him on the bench in any important match at this point. He goes out wide again.
Pour one out for the homie, Jozy. His hard work and determination against Costa Rica was lost in the poor result. His awful choice to shove a player and pick up a yellow card did even more to cover up his good performance. He’ll be missed. Bobby Wood will have to pick up the slack. Wood’s hold-up play was okay on Friday, but his distribution killed several attacks. He’ll need to be more precise and clinical in his decision making as the lone striker. This is a role he’s familiar with, so it makes sense to give him the keys.
Here’s what my lineup looks like on paper:
This is sure to be wrong. Please tell me what I got wrong or why I’m not very smart for picking what I did. What lineup would you like to see trotted out there?