DENVER – On the subject of United States lineup tonight against Costa Rica, the big riddle to solve is the back line.
How to get the most from a cast of options that is frightenly light in international experience is the big order of the day.
It’s on Jurgen Klinsmann to get the very most from his selections – but it’s on us to perform the guesswork on what might happen in the chill (and possible wet stuff) tonight at Dicks Sporting Goods Park.
(Standard disclaimer: A “lineup prediction” for journalists who do their homework is really more “educated guess,” but at some point it’s just that … a guess.)
Since Klinsmann’s challenge is to get the very most from a group of defenders with 12 World Cup qualifier caps between them, I get the feeling that Geoff Cameron may slide out to right back, where he generally plays for Stoke City. Otherwise, Klinsmann is leaving one of his top defenders off the field, either Clarence Goodson or Omar Gonzalez.
Out left … it’s really anybody’s guess. Justin Morrow was OK in his national team debut two months ago against Canada. Of course, Klinsmann could play the wildcard here with Brek Shea or DaMarcus Beasley. If it is Morrow, he’ll need extra protection from whoever sets up farthest left.
Klinsmann’s options for holding midfielder are Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman. Beckerman is more of a pure holder than Jones, and he’s not quite as adept at penetrating passes from that spot. Jones looks like the better option for this one (while Beckerman could possibly be introduced alongside Jones to add further defensive grit Tuesday in Mexico.)
Michael Bradley usually operates slightly higher than Jones, wherever they line up.
Gomez could play along the left rather than DaMarcus Beasley; he sometimes plays along the outside for Santos Laguna. That would serve to get Jozy Altidore on the field, too.
Dempsey seems sure to operate beneath the striker, or beneath two of them if Klinsmann prefers something that looks more like a 4-4-2.