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How does the USMNT line up when its only wide players are fullbacks?
Even though there is no D.C. United game this weekend, you are not spared your regular Wednesday lineup prediction post. With the United States Men's National Team playing this Friday against Antigua and Barbuda and then again on Tuesday against Guatemala, we turn our lens to Juergen Klinsmann and his lineup choices. If you have beIN SPORT's English channel, you can watch the game this Friday in the luxury of your own house; if not, get yourself to a bar that does.
The main talking point that has emerged as the Jozy Altidore talk has died down is the fact that Landon Donovan and Brek Shea both had to withdraw from the team, with no replacements in sight. If ever there was a time to call in Chris Pontius, just so that he could feel the atmosphere of meaningful international matches, that time would be now. Without any replacements, the team remains very thin on the wings and reliant on the fullbacks, Fabian Johnson and Steve Cherundolo, to provide width. Regardless of the formation in which the team lines up, that will remain the case.
These are the 11 players that I think will be on the field, probably in this formation. While fans complained about three defensive midfielders in the first game against Jamaica, Klinsmann's comments about Michael Bradley leave me to believe that he will see Bradley's inclusion as enough of an attacking change to address those concerns. He has shown no willingness to drop Jermaine Jones or Danny Williams, so I do not imagine we will see Sacha Kljestan in his more favored central role.
Another possible permutation with these same players could look more like a 4-4-2, with Graham Zusi and Danny Williams as the "wide" midfielders and Clint Dempsey playing more centrally behind Herculez Gomez. In either case, the middle of the field is going to be packed with players either stationed there or with players cutting in, like Clint Dempsey.
Other recent comments from Klinsmann about these games suggest a more direct style, getting players into the box and whipping in crosses, rather than the possession style that he has preached throughout his tenure. But without wide midfielders, those players serving the balls will have to be Johnson and Cherundolo. I am confident in their ability to cross the ball in, and against Antigua and Barbuda they should be easily able to get forward enough provide that service. As CONCACAF qualifying continues, we shall see if that is good enough for the next round.
In the comments, give me the answer to this two part question: who do you want to see (and in what formation) and who do you think Klinsmann will put on the field?