So, now that the rosters have been set and people have finished whining about Brian Ching’s exclusion from the roster—get over it people, he belongs in MLS, not the World Cup (but then again, so does Jonathan Bornstein), one critical question remains, who will Bob Bradley select for the starting lineup. I’ll give you my picks, and also give you my choices for substitutes depending on how the game goes.
I am writing this before the Australia match, and hope to provide an update after that match.
Goalkeeper: Timmy. (Duh.)
Defense: Well, now it gets a little interesting. The key question here is do you start Gooch. I think that the Australia match will let us know whether or not Gooch starts, he needs to put in a solid 60 minutes against Australia, and show that he can jump and use both feet (he is heavily favoring his right foot, his left knee is the injured knee…watch for this against Australia.) to even be considered for this spot. The problem with starting Gooch is that you are committed to subbing him out at some point over the course of the match. I do not think he will be fit to go 90 on 12 June.
I think Bradley will keep Gooch on the bench, at least against England, and will choose to go with the central defensive duo of Goodson and DeMerit. DeMerit, even though he plays for a crap English side (Watford), still understands the English game and will be ready to perform. He had a solid Confederations Cup, and is ready to go at this level. Goodson has a bit more to prove at this level, but I think his solid performance against the Czechs and the Turks is more than enough to put him in the starting XI over Gooch at this point in time. (Again, a solid Gooch performance in the Australia match can change this.) At left back, you have to put the Captain, an EPL veteran from his years at Fulham, Carlos Bocanegra. At right back, the choice is between Specter, coming off an awful year at West Ham, and Churundolo. I say, start with the safer back, Cherundolo, simply because he will perform consistently at this level, and provide a solid, safe performance.
Midfield: On the wings the Yanks should have Landycakes and Holden. Holden, confident in possession, is ready for a solid performance. He is a talented player on the rise, and deserves the start. In the center, will be MB90, of course. The other spot should be Torres, who with his solid playmaking skills has shown to be better than Edu or Clark, the alternatives. This midfield is great in that it can be easily changed with one or two subs late in the game to either a very defensive or a very offensive lineup—something that is key in what will likely be a very close match.
Strikers: Here, I think Bradley will go with Dempsey in a withdrawn striker position, with him supporting Altidore up top in a more traditional striker role. Donovan and Holden will be given free reign on the wings, and Dempsey will be able to track back on defense. Since Bob Bradley will play somewhat defensively against England (how does a nil-nil draw sound?), expect only one true striker in Altidore.
To summarize, here is my starting XI:
Bocanegra, DeMerit, Goodson, Cherundolo;
Holden, Bradley, Torres, Donovan,
Now, lets take three scenarios. 60th minute, say, USA up 1-0, down 1-0, and tied 0-0. In each case, here are the subs I would anticipate (assuming that nobody is playing like shit…).
USA up 1-0
Yeah, okay, this probably won’t happen, but indulge me. Here, the back line is clearly doing its job, so lets let it be. I would probably pull Torres and put in Edu, he can play a better defensive game then Torres but still provide that spark. I would also consider pulling Holden, putting Dempsey back into the midfield, and putting on a striker, say Findley or Gomez. This strengthens the midfield, and gives the Yanks the best shot at finishing off the job.
USA down 0-1
Two changes. First of all, put on Specter for Cherundolo, he is a stronger player going forward and can provide an extra spark that can lead to a goal (see CC final v. Brazil). In addition, I would pull Holden, put Dempsey back into the midfield, and put on Findley. His speed can be brutal against England, and while he may not cover well on defense, he can certainly cause problems for England and open up some space for Altidore and Donovan to do the dirty work. If up, England will sit back in a defensive shell, and hopefully, quick changes will open up the match.
Okay, so you have figured out that I want to take off Holden in the 60th minute and put on Findley or Gomez. But beyond that, if we are holding 0-0, I say just pull Demps back into the midfield and see what happens. Maybe we get lucky, and maybe the fresh legs of Findley or Gomez can get the job done.
Either way, it will be interesting to see how Bradley treats the England game. I will say this, teams that play for 0-0 ties lose 1-0. Almost always. If the US wants to draw England, we must score, and if we play an ultra-defensive lineup, we will lose. Here’s hoping that Bradley risks a loss for a shot, just a shot, and the glory that would come if the United States overcame England. Hey, we are 1-0-0 against England all time in the World Cup, so here’s hoping we pull it off.
Sean McElroy is a contributing writer for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.