The United States' friendly against Russia is an interesting pre-hexagonal test, but certainly not one that is going to reflect how the team is going to play when competitive matches roll around, or what players will play in those matches. Due to MLS playoffs, Liga MX playoffs and general fatigue, Jürgen Klinsmann is without a number of his top players. He's going to try something relatively new against Russia, but what does that entail?
We certainly don't know, and neither do you. It's more or less impossible to predict whether or not Klinsmann wants to get a look at the team in a completely different formation than they're used to playing in, or how much he wants to toy with his starting XI. Is he going to run out a team where more than half of the players are making their first start of his reign? Is he going to play a team as close to his first team as possible? It's tough to tell, and the hour-long discussion that takes place between lineups dropping and kickoff on Wednesday should be a fun one.
Because this is a very isolated friendly with a number of star players left off the roster, this edition of our lineup projections is going to be a bit more hopeful than usual. The below lineup is closer to what I would like to see than what I think Klinsmann will actually do. The opposite has been the case for previous editions of this post. Also, because this is an isolated friendly, I'm not differentiating between who is certain and not certain to start. No one is certain to start.
Projected United States starting XI (4-4-2)
GK Tim Howard; LB Fabian Johnson, CB Carlos Bocanegra, CB Geoff Cameron, RB Timothy Chandler; LM Sacha Kljestan, CM Michael Bradley, CM Mikkel Diskerud, RM Joshua Gatt; ST Jozy Altidore, ST Herculez Gomez
Let's address all of the potential problems with this setup one by one.
Isn't Mix a No. 10? You're seriously playing him in a 4-4-2?
Also known as the question asked about Michael Bradley for five years until three straight teams didn't play him as a No. 10. I'm not going to pretend that I watch all 90 minutes of Rosenborg's matches, but Diskerud plays as a central midfielder for Rosenborg -- much deeper than most of us are used to seeing him -- and he looks comfortable there. I think that a Diskerud-Bradley pairing in the middle is feasible in the near future, and I really would love to see them get a game together.
Can a Gomez-Altidore pairing work?
Some people think we've already seen enough evidence that these guys do not make a good partnership. Maybe I'm an eternal optimist, but I think we're going to see a lot of situations in the hex where it's advantageous to have two guys with the skill sets of Altidore and Gomez on the pitch at the same time. Klinsmann prefers guys with more technical skill (Gomez) and better work rate (basically every striker in the USMNT player pool) than Altidore for good reason, but Jozy is obviously quite useful. He's generally most useful with a strike partner who works hard. This should work in theory.
What's up with the arrows?
Obviously, Kljestan is going to come inside a lot if he starts on the left wing. Fabian Johnson's very fit and good at bombing down the flank, and should make up for this. Josh Gatt is more of a true winger, and I just put him in because I want to see him. I wouldn't be surprised to see two narrow/central wingers with Gatt on the bench. It makes sense with Chandler in for Steve Cherundolo.
Where could this end up being horribly wrong or shockingly right?
In a lot of places, actually.
Most likely to not start - Sacha Kljestan: Yes, I am even watching. Sorry, dude.
Odd man out most likely to start - Danny Williams: He's extremely versatile and he's been rock solid under Klinsmann. He could start at central midfield or right midfield, regardless of the formation or other personnel around him. I just think Klinsmann might take the chance to get a look at other players because he knows exactly what he has in Williams.
Most likely to start in a different role than projected - also Sacha Kljestan: He's been a central midfielder, not an attacking midfielder or wide player for Anderlecht. He could very well get a start in that spot, even if all past indications have been that Klinsmann isn't considering him for that role.