71313_isi_gomezherculez_usmntmj070513119 Michael Janosz/isiphotos.com
Gold Cup Preview

Kneed-to-Know Basis: Who Will Start Against Cuba?

Three American players with tender knees—Herculez Gomez, Stuart Holden, and Oguchi Onyewu—were left out of the starting lineup versus Belize. Will they start against Cuba? Jon Arnold addresses this.
BY Jon Arnold Posted
July 13, 2013
12:34 PM
IN PORTLAND, JURGEN KLINSMANN rested three players with a history of knee injuries. Will the trio start in Salt Lake City?

After a 6-1 win against Belize, Jurgen Klinsmann and his United States team will face an only slightly more difficult opponent. The biggest difference in how Klinsmann approaches this match compared to the opener might come down to the surface.

Against a weak opponent, Klinsmann rested certain players on Portland’s artificial turf to avoid triggering old injures. The grass pitch at Rio Tinto Stadium means the manager won’t have any such worries. But will the trio of forward Herculez Gomez, midfielder Stuart Holden, and center back Oguchi Onyewu be shoo-ins to take on the Cubans?

It varies by player,with Gomez the least likely to be in the first XI. It’s not that Tijuana’s summer signing has done anything wrong that should keep him out of the lineup, it’s that Chris Wondolowski did everything right against Belize, scoring a first-half hat trick. It would be harsh to bench Wondo, and beyond that Klinsmann might have motivation to keep the San Jose Earthquakes forward in the lineup. The manager might want all the opportunities he can get to evaluate if Wondo could help with his top team now that he’s scored his first (and second and third and fourth) international goals.

Onyewu did little in the pre-tournament friendly against Guatemala to demand playing time, and, like Gomez, his replacement excelled Tuesday. Michael Orozco didn’t have any trouble with the semi-professional foes in front of him and was even able to get in on the scoring activity. It would stand to reason that Klinsmann has seen enough of the hulking Onyewu, who hasn’t seen consistent club action since a brief stretch in the winter of 2011-12 (a stretch snapped by the knee injury that kept him off the JELD-WEN turf). That’s not the case.

The 31-year-old will get at least one more shot in the Red, White, and Blue, but he needs to have a lock-down performance if he has aspirations of playing more in this tournament.

Stuart Holden is the only member of the bad-knee trio who got playing time in the first match, making an appearance after the break for the second-straight match. Both times, Holden has looked like one of the Americans’ best players, creating lots more chances than the other options in central midfield.

He’s a sure-fire starter if he’s fully healthy, and many fans have indicated on their Starting XIs that they want to see Holden play a full 90—or at least start and go 70. It’s ultimately up to the manager, who knows what he has in Holden and has better insights on his fitness. On the one hand, the Bolton man has provided a real spark for the team. On the other, there’s no need to overextend him in another match that should be an easy win for the Stars and Stripes.

Expect to see all three get some time in Salt Lake City, but don’t fret if Holden isn’t starting. Any of the three veterans will be ready when, or if, they’re needed.

What are your predictions for this match? Who starts? Who wins? And by how much? Share your take in the Comments section below.

Jon Arnold is an ASN contributing editor. Follow him on Twitter.

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