US national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann is faced with a number of unpleasant decision to select his final starting lineup of 2014, a team to face Ireland in Dublin on Tuesday.
The team, as it stands following the release of four players to the MLS teams, is not a great roster of players who fit into a team together. It’s got just one true, international-caliber central midfielder and a number of younger winger/forward hybrids all vying for one starting spot and one 20-minute sub appearance.
There’s plenty of talent up and down the squad, but how does each piece fit into a starting 11? My best guess at Klinsmann’s final starting 11 of 2014:
Goalkeeper and defenders — Nick Rimando, Fabian Johnson, Geoff Cameron, Matt Besler, Greg Garza
The No. 1 keeper starts the first of a two-game run of friendlies, and the top in-camp backup takes the second. That’s been the MO under Klinsmann for a couple years now.
For the first time in his brief USMNT career (four appearances), Garza struggled a bit in Friday’s high-tempo game against Colombia. Tuesday offers a great opportunity for Garza to display the lessons he learned against the current FIFA No. 3 team in the world, and grow as a player. Don’t be surprised when Timothy Chandler inexplicably starts at left back, instead.
Cameron still doesn’t have a full-time position at Stoke City, but his best position for the USMNT has long been center back. Problem is, there’s a number of players — many of whom are much younger — even with, or ahead of, the 29-year-old. He’s still the USMNT’s second-best center back, behind Besler. The Besler-Cameron duo would be great for results going forward, but could slow the development of players like Omar Gonzalez and John Brooks.
Midfielders — Kyle Beckerman, Mix Diskerud, Miguel Ibarra, Alejandro Bedoya, Bobby Wood
Wood has become a go-to choice off the bench for Klinsmann ever since the World Cup. He’s not done much of note in those games, but when Klinsmann favors a player, he gives him run-out after run-out. It feels like it’s about time he gives him a surprise start.
While Ireland pose a lot less threat going forward than Colombia, Klinsmann will still attempt to set up a team capable of controlling the game in the middle-third and limiting chances, rather than go all-out and try to pin the Irish deep with attack after attack. Problem is, to do so, he’ll have to drop Diskerud deeper in the midfield and play Bedoya centrally.
It’ll likely look and work like a mess — with the usual exception of Beckerman — until a change is made after 60 minutes of dysfunction.
Forward — Jozy Altidore
He’s been the guy at center forward for the last five year, he’s the guy now and he’s the guy for the next five years. He needs minutes. He’s not going to get minutes anywhere until the next international break. He played well against Colombia. Need we go on?
What he also needs is a strike partner, as evidenced playing alongside Rubio Rubin on Friday. Wood’s natural tendency from wide left will be to cut inside and play off Altidore. Put a highly technical player or two around the high work rate and hold-up play that Altidore provides, and it might just work.