USA Announces Roster for This Weekend’s World Cup Qualifiers

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From Last Word on Soccer, by Joe Hojnacki

The United States Men’s National Team has announced it’s roster for the upcoming World Cup Qualifiers against Mexico and Costa Rica. Many of the usual faces make an appearance with Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Jermaine Jones, Brad Guzan, and Tim Howard all showing up.

USA Announces Roster for This Weekend’s World Cup Qualifiers

Among the less familiar faces is Cameron Carter-Vickers, who is replacing the injured Geoff Cameron on the roster. The Tottenham Hotspur defender has been capped 17 times at the U20 level for the United States and is making his first appearance with the senior team. Should he see game action, he would be cap tied to the USA, preventing England (who had been rumored to have been keeping an eye on him) from swooping in at the last second.

Here’s a deeper look at the squad at each position

Goalkeepers

Brad Guzan (Middlesbrough), Ethan Horvath (Molde), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), William Yarbrough (Club Leon)

Guzan and Howard are the two regulars at keeper and I expect both will get a game here. Howard may be the fresher of the two though, having recently starred in the Colorado Rapids penalty shootout victory over LA Galaxy in the MLS Cup Playoffs. Guzan, meanwhile, isn’t the number one option at his club. He plays the understandable second fiddle to Victor Valdes at Middlesbrough. He has still been Jurgen Klinsmann’s number one guy, though. Howard, however, has been officially named the starter for this window, or at least the Mexico match.

Defenders

Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham Hotspur), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Monchengladbach), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United)

The lack of Geoff Cameron to anchor down the central defense, or even make an appearance out wide, is going to be the weak link in the American defense. John Brooks should still feature in both matches, but he will be without his usual partner. Instead, I am hoping to see Omar Gonzalez make his return to the team. The big defender has done quite well since the Galaxy shipped him off to Pachuca in Liga MX. I really hope he plays in the Mexico match as his familiarity with many Mexican based players could come in handy.

The full back situation is as bizarre as always. DeAndre Yedlin is more than capable of holding down the fort on the right side, but Fabian Johnson, while a strong left back, has proven time and again that his strength is further up the pitch. He will bomb forward with offensive runs if he hopes to be useful, but he will have to be careful not to lose track of his defensive responsibilities agaisnt a very dangerous Mexican attack.

Midfielders

Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Lynden Gooch (Sunderland), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Jermaine Jones (Colorado Rapids), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Caleb Stanko (FC Vaduz), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Expect the midfield to be comprised of the usual suspects in Bradley and Alejandro Bedoya. Sacha Kljestan, thanks to his current form and strong candidacy for MLS MVP, should also start. He would be most useful as the attacking midfielder in either a four or five man midfield. However, its unclear if he is Klinsmann’s first choice. He may opt for the experience of Jermaine Jones despite his injuries and age working against him. If Kljestan doesn’t make the staring XI, he will be a very valuable late game sub capable of turning the tide of a close game.

Christian Pulisic better start for the USA. He is the biggest wild card that Mexico is least familiar with. His presence out wide can add an extra dimension to the attack that no other player on the team can. If anything keeps him out, it will be Klinsmann’s desire to stick with experienced players for such a crucial opening to the Hex.

Caleb Stanko feels like a rather odd choice for the lineup here. He won’t play unless things get weird win injuries and his roster spot could be taken by somebody more valuable, like a true left back. The native of Holly, Michigan has only one cap with the senior team, in the final qualifier of the last round against Trinidad and Tobago, and hadn’t been part of any national team set up for three years before that.

Forwards

Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Aron Johannsson (Werder Bremen), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Bobby Wood (Hamburg)

This sounds a little strange, but the American forwards might be their strongest unit. They are fortunate enough to have three very much in form strikers. Jozy Altidore has found his hot form back in MLS. Jordan Morris is hugely responsible for rescuing the Sounders this season. Bobby Wood, despite a little hot headedness in Germany, is the one good thing going for Hamburg this year. Aron Johannsson, despite his promise, is the odd man out here and likely won’t see the pitch.

This is a great problem for the Americans to have. They can go with two forwards up top if they wanted to. They can have a long strike man to go along with a five man midfield and have plenty of bench depth to come in and smash a late goal.

Desired Formation

I would like to see the USA come out in one of two formations. First, their familiar 4-4-2 diamond with Bradley in the holding midfield and Kljestan at the number 10 would be a nice look.

Guzan

Yedlin – Gonzalez – Brooks – Johnson

Bradley

Bedoya – Pulisic

Kljestan

Wood – Altidore

Bedoya and Pulisic would play out wide to create chances for the two strikers up front.

Another formation option would be a flat 4-5-1. This could bottle up the quick Mexican midfielders and provide a shield for the short handed defense while still creating a wide attack going forward.

Guzan

Yedlin – Gonzalez – Brooks – Johnson

Bedoya – Kljestan – Bradley – Jones – Pulisic

Altidore

This formation would also create the bounty of replacement options at forward that can be so important in a close match.

This is a strong American team that is capable of picking up a minimum of four points to open the final round of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying. A win in Columbus, thanks to the history of Mexican trips to the Ohio capital, should feel expected at this point. There’s no reason the USA can’t hang another dos a cero on their opposition.

Travelling to Costa Rica will be a difficult proposition. It’s a difficult environment to play in against a very strong Costa Rican squad. A point would be excellent, but a loss should not come as a surprise.

The Mexico match kicks off just after 8:00pm eastern on Friday night from MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus. On Tuesday, November 14, the USA and Costa Rica get going from Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica in San Jose at 9:00pm eastern.