Strongest U.S. national team in history? Look at these three starting XI’s


As the U.S. national team racked up their record-breaking ninth consecutive win against El Salvador on Sunday, people continue to debate just how good these Yanks are.

Skeptics say heavy wins against minnows in friendlies and Gold Cup games shouldn’t be looked upon favorably, while others argue that the incredible depth at Jurgen Klinsmann’s disposal now makes this the best pool of players ever to pull on a U.S. jersey.

Of course it’s hard to judge this team against the U.S. side in Italia ’90 or the 2002 World Cup quarter-finalists, as every era is unique and arguments constantly rumble on about which side is the best in history, how they rank against each other, so on and so forth.

But I think this may be the best group of players that U.S. soccer has ever seen.

That’s a huge statement. But I’m throwing it out there.

(MORE: USA set new record after eighth straight win, but what does it really mean?)

This isn’t based on huge wins against CONCACAF cannon fodder. To be frank, it was incredibly difficult to name a U.S. First, Second and Third XI without leaving plenty of big name players out of the picture.

There is a solid core of 35-40 players who could all perform extremely well for the USMNT when the World Cup arrives in Brazil next summer. Has the USA ever had that before? Three completely different lineups who could all do an extremely good job.

We all know what Klinsmann’s starting XI is right now.

There is maybe some debate about the left hand side, but every other position is pretty much locked down, as it stands. But there’s so much to play for, not only for the rest of this Gold Cup campaign, but during the next 11 months leading up to World Cup 2014.

Sadly, there are always a few players who play themselves out of the squad with poor performances. However, right now, so many are playing well and at their peak that Klinsmann has an incredibly hard task to pick a ‘B’ side… let alone his full-strength team.

But that’s a great headache to have, and one that almost every national team manager in the world would be envious of.

So I decided to break it down and constructed what I think would be the national teams three strongest staring lineups. And there’s a bunch of top quality reserves left over too.

Let me know what you think. I had such a tough time with this. Rather you than me, Jurgen.

First XI: (4-2-3-1) Howard, Cameron, Besler, Gonzalez, Beasley; Bradley, Jones; Zusi, Dempsey, Fabian Johnson; Altidore

Second XI: (4-2-3-1) Guzan, Parkhurst, Goodson, Bocanegra, Castillo; Beckerman, Kljestan; Davis, Donovan, Corona; Eddie Johnson

Third XI: (4-1-3-2) Rimando, Chandler, Orozco Fiscal, Onyewu, Evans; Edu; Shea, Diskerud, Torres, Wondolowski, Gomez

Reserves: Agudelo, Gatt, Boyd, Diskerud, Holden, Cherundolo, Morrow, Sean Johnson, Bill Hamid, Bedoya, Beltran, Bruin, Gordon and many many more…

Injuries leave host Russia limping ahead of World Cup

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MOSCOW (AP) With less than three months to go until the World Cup in Russia, the host nation’s players are dropping like flies.

A spate of knee injuries this year has left the Russians hurrying to find cover at the back and trying to replace a key attacking threat.

[ MORE: Zlatan leaves Man Utd ]

First, center back Georgy Dzhikiya tore his knee ligaments during a friendly in January. The same happened to Viktor Vasin a month later. Russia’s defense was already thin, so those injuries prompted calls for the 35-year-old Berezutsky twins, Alexei and Vasily, to return from international retirement. They refused to do so.

Now coach Stanislav Cherchesov must also seek a replacement for Zenit St. Petersburg forward Alexander Kokorin, who tore his knee ligaments in the Europa League last week. That puts more responsibility on the shoulders of Fyodor Smolov, now likely to be Russia’s undisputed first-choice striker for the World Cup.

“We’re not complaining about anything,” Cherchesov said Thursday. “Fate is often testing us in various ways but we always try to be ready.”

The injuries mean Cherchesov will be forced to experiment during Friday’s friendly against Brazil and Tuesday’s game against France, both at home. Short-term medical issues have ruled three more fringe players out of those games.

Here’s a closer look at the issues facing Russia ahead of the World Cup:


If you had to pick one Russian striker for the World Cup, it might as well be Fyodor Smolov.

On track to be the Russian league’s top scorer for the third season in a row, Smolov has been working on his English skills as he eyes a move to the Premier League.

Smolov was linked with West Ham during the January transfer window but opted to stay with FC Krasnodar, saying he didn’t want to abandon his team as it battles for a spot in the Champions League next season.

With Kokorin almost certainly out of the picture for the World Cup, Russia’s backup options include Anton Zabolotny, who is still settling in at Zenit after a recent move from newly promoted FC Tosno. The 22-year-old Alexei Miranchuk can play as a forward, but is better in a deeper role.


Russian players tend to stay in their domestic league, but there’s one big exception in midfield – Denis Cheryshev.

The winger came through the Real Madrid youth system when his father was coaching there and is now at Villarreal, but frequent injuries have dented hopes he can add some spice to the national team.

Now he’s fit again and in the squad to face Brazil and France.

Elsewhere in the midfield, there are the promising and creative youngsters Roman Zobnin and Alexander Golovin, but Russia doesn’t currently have a dominant defensive midfielder.


Cherchesov has a reputation as a difficult coach to get along with, and Russian media have regularly reported fallings-out with various players.

One of those outside the squad is Igor Denisov, who last played for Russia in 2016. He has been playing well in a defensive midfield role this season for Lokomotiv Moscow, the team at the top of the Russian league standings. Denisov and Cherchesov clashed during the latter’s time as Dynamo Moscow coach.

Also absent from the squad is forward Artyom Dzyuba. A talented striker who has scored 11 goals in 22 games for Russia but has a reputation for being hot-headed, Dzyuba was deemed surplus to requirements at Zenit and sent on loan to Arsenal Tula. In three games there, he has scored three goals and set up two more to put himself back in the World Cup contention.


Russia’s soccer team hasn’t escaped the country’s doping scandals.

Defensive midfielder Ruslan Kambolov is under investigation by FIFA for a possible doping case revealed by Moscow laboratory documents, but hasn’t been suspended.

The team’s schedule was disrupted Wednesday by drug-testing, which took more than five hours and delayed training. On Thursday, the team said five more doping control officers turned up to take samples from the team.

Wilshere injured, could play in England’s second friendly

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I have no idea what tendinopathy means, but Arsenal and England will be hoping it’s only a minor thing for Jack Wilshere.

[ MORE: Zlatan leaves Man Utd ]

The resurgent Gunners midfielder is going to miss at least one of England’s friendlies this international break after suffering a knee injury in training.

“Jack just felt some tendinopathy in his knee but it’s nothing too serious,” Southgate said. “We decided to leave him back at base and see how he responds, and we hope to have him with us on Saturday.”

England is in Netherlands on Friday, and returns to London to host Italy at Wembley on Tuesday.

Arsenal doesn’t play until April 1 when it visits Stoke City.

Zlatan confirms Manchester United departure

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic has confirmed myriad reports he’s leaving Manchester United with a perfectly-Zlatan Instagram message.

Ibrahimovic is expected to join the LA Galaxy next week.

[ MORE: MLS All Stars vs. Juventus ]

The words aren’t too important, but Ibrahimovic posted an old graphic of him in Greek god garb, arm-wrestling a devil. So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.

The living Swedish legend, 36, has been limited to seven appearances, one start, and one goal in returning from a season-ending knee injury, but finishes his Manchester United tenure with an impressive 29 goals and 10 assists in 53 games (deduct the seven and one for peak impressiveness).

Bale breaks Wales scoring record

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Gareth Bale has now unquestionably written his name into Wales history.

The 28-year-old Real Madrid scored a hat-trick for Wales in its 6-0 demolition of China, taking his overall tally to 29 goals, breaking Ian Rush’s record.

“It is right up there, maybe as the best,” Bale told reporters after the game. “I suppose when I was a little boy I never dreamed of being a record-breaker for Wales. It is a massive honor. I was not thinking about it, but now it has come it’s an incredible honor and one of the best things I’ve achieved in my career. On a personal note it’s great to break the record, but I could not have done it without my team-mates.”

Bale was unable to carry Wales to the 2018 World Cup, but he first became a National Team legend by helping take Wales to the Euro 2016 semifinals, scoring three goals along the way.

Here’s a look at Bale’s record-breaking goal.