March 2010

Projecting The Yanks’ Starting XI

Wednesday’s match in Amsterdam is a peculiar one for us Yanks fans. A peculiar one that we’ll all be watching closely because Holland is without a doubt the best competition this team will face prior to grappling with England in what I can only hope will eventually be dubbed “The Revolution in Rustenburg.” This fixture was far less strange when it was first scheduled, the idea being that Bob Bradley would send out his projected World Cup first teamers to tangle with one of the best soccer sides in the world. With nearly half the Yanks’ projected starters on the training table, the match has taken quite a turn before even kicking off. Now the game looks like half test drive and half opportunity for fringe starters to make their case for first minute caps in South Africa.

The possible double meaning of this game does put ol’ Bobbo in a predicament though. Does he take the test drive approach and field the best team he possibly can, or does he take the player evaluation approach and flood the field with fringe starters hoping someone makes their case for unseating an incumbent? Both options work for TYAC editor-in-chief Dan Seco’s former Maryland classmate Maurice Edu, but that’s neither here nor there. Simply put, I say field the most competitive lineup possible against the Dutch in hopes of securing the victory. The selection process was much harder than it was for the El Salvador friendly, but these are the guys that should get the start.

Goalie: Howard

Defenders: Pearce, DeMerit, Bocanegra, Spector

Midfielders: Donovan, Edu, Bradley, Holden

Forwards: Altidore, Johnson

The formation and the world class goalie are givens, but aside from our most promising young striker ever getting the start up front, almost everything on this roster is subject to debate. Landon Donovan could switch sides of the midfield or even be deployed as a shadow striker or center attacking mid. Jon Spector could start at any of the four fullback spots, or not at all. Why these 11 players? Here’s how I see it.

Goalkeeper: Moving on.

Defenders: The defender spots were by far the hardest to cement for me. In the end, after pondering almost ten different combinations, I had to ask myself this question: Who are the two best center backs on this roster? The Dutch attack is relentless and we can’t afford to have a weakness right in front of Howard. DeMerit and Bocanegra are the right answers. I understand Boca plays left back for Stade Rennais, but he’s played more center back for the flag. Boca, Gooch, and Jay are all better central defenders than Clarence Goodson, and frankly the prospect of the slight IK Start defender jockeying for position with a motivated Ruud Van Nistelrooy terrifies me.

That leaves the two side back spots up for grabs, and puts the manager in a selection dilemma. While you’d like to start Spector on his native right wing and put another Bocanegra on the left, the laws of physics and the government’s stance on cloning will not allow it. Also, since Cherundolo will most likely be healthy by this summer you might entertain the idea of starting Spec on the left where he’s been playing slightly out of position for West Ham and maybe give him a shot at winning the job on that side of the field. But alas, we’re looking to win this match, so put Spector on the right and pick ‘em between Pearce and Bornstein. Jonny B’s done so much more to win that spot in the last year, but I’m intrigued by Pearce’s best U.S.A. game EVER last week and want to see what he does against a far-from-El Salvador-level offense. Does this selection also speak to my lack of confidence in Bornstein? Yes.

Midfielders: My middy selections basically boiled down to a choice between DaMarcus Beasley and Stuart Holden, and I think I chose wisely. I think. (Too much thinking, I’m no Peter King).

The central midfield was relatively easy to sort out. MB90 is a mainstay and Ricardo Clark is usually selected to pair the coach’s son. He’s hurt, so we’ll just insert a more athletic/higher upside version of RedCardo, Maurice Edu! Done.

Donovan automatically assumes one of the flanking midfield roles, and though he usually plays left side for the U.S., both David Moyes and Bob Bradley know he rampages on the right just as well. So does Beasley start on the left with Lando on the right? Or does Lando stay left with Holden slotting into the Clint Dempsey position on the right? Holden’s form over the past twelve months has impressed me more than Beasley’s World Cup pedigree and recent return to form.

We do need to see Beasley perform as a sub in order to assess his chances for making the plane. The same goes for José Francisco “Gringo” Torres. I expect both to be brought on for injections of energy and offense sometime in the second half. Alejandro Bedoya, like Frank Simek amongst the defenders, is an afterthought.

Forwards: Pretty simple here. We want to score so Jozy starts. And while Eddie Johnson hasn’t shown quite as much progress at Aris as Freddy Adu, he has shown improvement. This includes improvement on his biggest weakness – the worst first touch of all time. But seriously, it looks to be getting better, so I’ll take him over the Robbie Findley I saw fail to do anything dangerous with the ball last Wednesday night in Tampa.

That’s my assessment. What do you think constant reader? Show me your starting XI!

Jon Levy is a managing editor and senior writer for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at or @TYAC_Jon.

Jon Levy

  • I agree with all your starters, cept EJ. I would give Findley another run up front.

  • Like the calls all ’round. Tough backline to pick.
    I love that Edu might get a real shot.
    I think we could see a swap at either (if not both) outsides: Lando/Stu and Pearce/Spector.
    Good call up top: I think Findley needs to be shelved until after the Cup. Both Bedoya and JFTorres have shown far better skill and composure and both are seeing club action. Not that either would start in place of Findley, but I would give a roster spot to either before I gave one to RF. EJ can already do what Findley does… almost as poorly too. (Man, do I sound like Debbie Downer). Findley’s time will come provided he adds some skill to that speed.
    Actually I’d love to see JFT slot in as a CAM in front of two CDMs (yeah, 5 MF’s but hold on!!!) giving the either flank the opportunity to move into the attack as a second forward in the comfort that a CDM could shift to help with defensive cover. Playing a lone striker in front of JFT doesn’t really excite me though, as what makes him truly dangerous is the threat of the pass. The flanks would have to be VERY active; fine for Lando and Stu (or even Bedoya), but Clint?
    Great news: I hear ‘dolo joined the boys in camp! You know how Pearce looked last week? Yeah, that’s ‘dolo average game… plus we already know he can defend!
    Either way, I’m glad we’re not lining up against Jaap Stam tomorrow.

  • or

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    Dude is scary.

  • Amy

    Certainly moving Torres into the 11 and playing a 4-5-1 may be the tactical surprise tomorrow. I think Doug has identified the biggest concern with doing that– which is taking Dempsey out of the World Cup to some extent. We know how difficult it is for him to get involved when he can’t drift to the middle. That said- it solves our concerns at forward (for now) and allows the huge talent that is JFT to play.

    Also agree with Jon’s 11– though if Stevie C is training and healthy he should play.

  • I completely agree on the Dolo issue. If he can go I’d probably give Spec a run out at LB in place of Pearce or Bornstein, but none of those guys is lockdown over on the left.

    And Jaap Stam is a badass, probably idolized by guys like Nemanja Vidic and Martin Skrtel growing up.

  • I don’t think Dolo is on the roster, I think he just popped in to train with the boys as he nears full recovery. Jermaine Jones stopped by in plain clothes (he is not ready to hit the pitch just yet), which is nice to see.
    If JFT were to get the call in the middle and Bobbo employs the expected 4-4-2, who then anchors the mid? Junior or Edu? Seems Jr. gets the call which means JFT for Edu/Rico/JJ/Mastroeni(heheh)/et al.
    Defensive liability, or in this case do you hope that the best defense a good offense?
    I’d almost like to see JFT get a run up front as a withdrawn forward but I think he would have to fight the tendency creep backfield toward something resembling a CAM. (which is why earlier I said, “eff-it… 4-5-1”)