61413_isi_handsup_usmntjd061301311 John Dorton/isiphotos.com
The Hexagonal

Hands Up! Who Wants to Start Against Honduras?

DaMarcus Beasley is suspended. Geoff Cameron doesn't have a set position. Landon Donovan is on the beach. So who should Jurgen Klinsmann start against Honduras Tuesday night?
BY John Godfrey Posted
June 14, 2013
1:43 PM
Back to front, here is one man's take on the roster issues facing the United States in its third and final June World Cup qualifier.

Tim Howard is the No. 1 American backstop. I get it. And he has earned the right to the label. But is he any better than Brad Guzan? Or is he just the incumbent?

Deep in the bowels of Estadio Azteca, I asked Jurgen Klinsmann about Guzan’s tremendous performance against Mexico on March 26, where El Tri sent 17 shots in his direction. None, incidentally, got past big Brad—much to the chagrin of the 85,500 in attendance.

"Brad’s performance was huge," Klinsmann said at the time. "He stepped it up. Great communication. He was very vocal. He gave them a lot of confidence throughout the whole last 10 days. He made it clear that if anything happens to Tim, [he’s] more than a No. 2."

More than a No. 2, but less, apparently, than a No. 1.

Fair enough. But a question lingers: Does Guzan deserve a shot against Honduras on Tuesday? The U.S. has secured six points. There is no meaningful drop-off in quality between Howard and Guzan. If, as Klinsmann said, Guzan is more than a No. 2, shouldn’t he get a chance to prove it in another Hex match? I would love to see it.

This is a bit more complicated. The U.S. backline gave up seven goals in two friendlies leading up to the three June World Cup qualifiers. Yes, the exhibitions were against two tremendous teams in Belgium and Germany, but still—that’s just awful.

Then again, as Klinsmann said after the Belgium match, getting spanked by better teams is a great way to expose your flaws.

“There’s a lot we can learn from these opponents,” Klinsmann said. “This is why we play teams like Belgium, like Germany, like Russia or like Italy, because there’s so much that you can read from those games. Obviously you want to win them and when you lose them it’s not such a big pleasure, but I’d rather play Belgium 10 more times than El Salvador 100 times because that’s where you learn.” So, Klinsmann learned a few things in these matches and responded accordingly:

  • Clarence Goodson started and played 69 minutes against Belgium. We haven’t seen him since.

  • Edgar Castillo got 34 minutes against Germany and looked lost in the defensive zone. He didn’t accomplish much in 14 minutes against Jamaica and stayed on the bench in the Panama match even though DaMarcus Beasley 1) could have used a rest late in the second half and 2) drew a stoppage-time yellow card that will keep the veteran out of the Honduras contest.

  • Michael Parkhurst? Parked on the bench. (Sometimes you learn things in training, too.) He has not seen one minute of action in the last four games, and it’s hard to imagine that changing now.

    Given all of that, who gets the nod Tuesday?

    First off, Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez must stay together in the center. Have they been perfect? Nope. Has Gonzalez maintained his intensity for 90 minutes in any of these matches? Nope. Should Klinsmann sit the big guy in favor of the other big guy, Geoff Cameron? No way.

    The U.S. defense has conceded exactly one goal across two Hex matches this month. That is very, very good. Besler and Gonzalez deserve a lot of credit for that, and they also deserve a chance to build on the relationship they are developing. Keep them there, and keep your fingers crossed that they will get many more reps together as the 2014 World Cup approaches.

    So what about left back? As mentioned, Beasley is out due to yellow card accumulation. I think it’s time to push Fabian Johnson back from left wing and let him reclaim that spot—temporarily or permanently. Johnson is the best left back in the U.S. system by a wide, wide margin. And while I admire Klinsmann’s decision to try him out in the midfield, the U.S. has an abundance of talent in that position and very few top-notch fullbacks. Starting Johnson at LB gives the U.S. the best chance of success against Honduras, and it needs to happen.

    On the right side, you have three less-than-perfect options. Parkhurst hasn’t played. Cameron, while a right back for Stoke City, seems much more comfortable in the midfield when wearing Red, White, and Blue. And Brad Evans, despite his heroics against Jamaica, is a central midfielder for Seattle and was exposed at right back repeatedly against a toothless Panama attack.

    Get well soon, Steve Cherundolo!

    Get your shit together, Timothy Chandler!

    And for Tuesday’s match, I say go with Cameron.

    Assuming Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley reprise their dual-defensive roles in the central midfield, both Cameron and Johnson would then be authorized to push forward and use their superior speed and passing skills to attack from the flanks. Evans does not have that extra gear that allows him to charge out of the back, and you can pretty much guarantee that if Evans plays on Tuesday, Honduras coach Luis Fernando Suarez will follow Panama’s example and expose that right flank.

    Bradley, Jones, and Zusi are locks—and they should be. (We also have funny photos of all three of them). It sure would be nice to scribble Landon Donovan’s name into the lineup, but he chose Cambodia over camp and is now forced to sit and watch and wonder with the rest of us. If he's not on the beach, that is.

    So… Brad Davis? Stuart Holden? Sacha Kljestan? Joe Corona?

    And even though I prefer him at forward, Eddie Johnson?

    Any of them could do a serviceable job, but I bet Davis’ crossing ability earns him the gig ahead of the other three. If the Yanks can 1) maintain possession in the center of the pitch; 2) work the ball to Zusi on the right and/or Davis on the left; and 3) send in dangerous crosses on a consistent basis, victory will assuredly follow. Nobody on this roster, nobody in the U.S. player pool, delivers better crosses from the left than Brad Davis.

    What’s more, Davis is smart enough to recognize when Fabian Johnson is making a darting run forward out of his left back position, and savvy enough to know that he has to cycle back to cover for his speedier, sneakier colleague on the left side of the pitch. It could work. It should work.

    I’m going to go out on a limb and say Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore both start.

    What's that? No—I have nothing more to add on this topic. I'm going silent—just like Jozy.

    OK, that's my take. I encourage you to poke holes in it, respond to it either in the Comments below or with our awesome Starting XI tool, and otherwise join the conversation.

    John Godfrey is founder and editor in chief of American Soccer Now.
  • Post a comment