If you had a 4-5-1 without a true left-sided threat in the midfield as your Starting XI for Saturday’s Gold Cup opening draw against Panama, perhaps you could title this article “How will the USMNT line up on Wednesday.”
For the rest of us, a little guesswork is in order.
Now perhaps U.S. training sessions make it clear that Eric Lichaj has fooled all of Nottingham Forest, or maybe left-sided Kenny Saief’s injury really gummed up the works for Bruce Arena (who it must be said got fine work out of right-sided man Kelyn Rowe).
Enter Martinique, who topped Nicaragua 2-0 and currently leads Group B ahead of Wednesday night’s tilt in Tampa. Former Seattle striker Kevin Parsemain scored and Les Matinino definitely deserved their three points.
There’s something to be said about the lack of familiarity in a B Team such as the U.S. Gold Cup squad, but any slack leant to the side will have been exhausted in the 1-1 draw against Panama. Almost no one on the squad found too many bright spots in analyzing the outing, which instantly had many looking at roster selection more than anyone would like following a friendly and a group stage match.
Short of more training time, how can we introduce some familiarity into the bunch? There are some good steps to take via the club route.
— Big FC Dallas center back Matt Hedges won’t have any problems bodying up Martinique, and can be used next to any other CB. More important, he can link up with young center mid and FCD teammate Kellyn Acosta. The kid can get a bit of a security blanket.
— If Rowe’s injury isn’t a major one, how about using New England teammate Juan Agudelo in a center attacking position? Rowe was very good in attack against Panama, and Agudelo injected a missing ingredient of electricity when Arena introduced him in the second half.
Taken to extremes, you could use other club teammates (Cristian Roldan and Jordan Morris, Matt Besler and Graham Zusi), but we’ll stray from that for now.
Assuming health, there is no reason for Arena to avoid utilizing Lichaj any longer. He’s a clear upgrade at Zusi for right back, and probably for Jorge Villafana on the left (though Justin Morrow would be a more natural substitution should Arena lift Villafana).
Here’s how we’d like to see the Yanks arrive to Raymond James Stadium in front of goalkeeper Brad Guzan, who starred against Panama.
Lichaj — Miazga — Hedges — Villafana
McCarty — Acosta
Rowe — Agudelo — Pontius
Dax McCarty didn’t have as good a performance versus Panama as he did against Ghana, but Acosta still need a steady partner. Roldan could be that, but it’s a bit of a risk given his lack of caps and age at this point. Alejandro Bedoya was Arena’s captain on Saturday. so here’s another way he could go:
Lichaj — Besler — Gonzalez — Morrow
Rowe — McCarty — Bedoya — Pontius
Agudelo — Dwyer