The USMNT won its first match ever at Azteca last night, making this as good of a time as any to check in on the squad’s progress for 2014. Last night’s effort did not resolve any questions, though it may have raised some plausible alternatives.
Goalkeeper: Tim Howard will start as long as he’s healthy. The U.S. goalkeeper pool has thinned out with Kasey Keller, Brad Friedel and Marcus Hahnemann not available for the national team. The other options are Brad Guzan, who has made just 24 appearances since arriving in England in 2008 and a number of MLS veterans.
Back Four: The defense has been and will continue being the biggest concern for the U.S. heading into Brazil. It is the area with the greatest liability and the least depth. Absent any other positive attribute, Klinsmann has opted for experience, relying on Carlos Bocanegra with either Clarence Goodson or Oguchi Onyewu. Both fullback sports have been a continual revolving door.
The unit did stand out against Mexico last night, largely because Klinsmann started three midfielders to counter Mexico’s athleticism. Fabian Johnson, who started at right back, is fast becoming one of Klinsmann’s first choice players. Geoff Cameron who looked capable of slotting in at center back, should he maintain that form. Maurice Edu looked precisely like a player who had not played central defense since 2008. Edgar Castillo did not have a bad day passing the ball. Orozco Fiscal came on as a substitute and scored the goal, though one wonders how he was in position to score that goal.
Ideally, two of Cameron, Ream and Omar Gonzalez (just back from injury) would step forward to take the central positions leaving Johnson to play right back and someone, anyone to fill the chasm at left back (or vice versa). More likely, one of the two 35-year-olds, Cherundolo and Bocanegra, could be starting.
Midfield: Michael Bradley is pivotal. The American midfield could not pass without him. The most likely formation will be a 4-3-3 pairing him with two of Jones, Beckerman and Edu. Jones offers depth to his play but little consistency. Beckerman offers little depth but is consistent. Maurice Edu is most often…just…there. Dempsey and Donovan should still be the wingers/auxiliary forwards, though it is hard to tell where Landon’s head is right now. We’ll discuss Stuart Holden when he sees a soccer field and remains on it for a reasonable period.
Striker: It is still Jozy Altidore, who finally has found a stable home in Holland with AZ Alkmaar. He scored 15 goals in the Eredivisie last season and scored twice in his first match this season against Ajax. The older options are basically just filler. Juan Agudelo has fallen off the face of the earth.
D: Johnson – Bocanegra – Cameron – Facepalm
M: Edu – Bradley – Jones
F: Donovan – Altidore – Dempsey
[Photo via Getty]