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Decision time looms, who will start for USA in Sunday’s Gold Cup final?

Jul 26, 2013, 10:40 AM EDT

FBL-CONCACAF-GOLD CUP-US-HON Getty Images

Is this Jurgen Klinsmann’s hardest decision as USMNT head coach?

It has to be up there.

As Sunday’s Gold Cup final against Panama draws closer, Klinsmann has an incredible selection conundrum to unravel.

With so many of his players performing to a level never seen before, the USA’s squad is stronger than ever. But, as tends to happen in soccer, you can only select 11 players to go out there between the white lines.

Klinsmann must have a good idea of who he will select, but there are certain areas where two or three players are vying for the same position. There will be some very disappointed men on the subs bench at Soldier Field when Sunday afternoon’s final begins.

(MORE: Strongest U.S. national team in history? Check out these three starting XI’s)

So let’s break this down by each position and see who may have the edge. As you’ll see, Klinsmann has plenty of options.

Goalkeeper: Perhaps the easiest decision of the bunch to start off with, Nick Rimando has done extremely well in the Gold Cup, thwarting El Salvador superbly when the US had a slender 2-1 lead in the quarterfinal. Expect him to get the nod between the sticks.

Defense: This will be a somewhat tricky decision for Klinsmann, as Clarence Goodson played so well in the semifinal on Wednesday night. Does he bring back Omar Gonzalez to partner Matt Besler? Those two were the first-choice pairing during the USA’s recent World Cup qualifiers and handled the pressure superbly. Left back is set with captain DaMarcus Beasley, although he has been found out a few times. And Michael Parkhurst will put in another solid shift at right back.

Midfield: Perhaps the only man guaranteed a spot in the US midfield is Kyle Beckerman. Real Salt Lake’s dread-locked genius was incredible against Honduras, reading the game superbly and cutting off the supply line to the Honduran forwards. His role as destroyer is safe. But the other central midfield spots are between Stuart Holden, Joe Corona and Mix Diskerud. That is a very tough choice. Holden may have the edge and he put in a great shift on Wednesday, but Diskerud and Corona have both shown more going forward. It depends if Klinsi will play a diamond or a flat four across the middle, Alejandro Bedoya and Jose Torres did well out wide against Honduras, especially Bedoya, but he may opt to leave out the winger and bring Corona in to the middle to create a more compact unit. Huge call for the center of the field.

Forward: Seattle Sounders forward Eddie Johnson has grabbed his chance with both hands and looks set to lead the line against Panama. And Landon Donovan should operate just underneath him. But will Klinsmann decide to play Donovan out wide and leave EJ up front on his own? And what about Chris Wondolowski? I think we will see the San Jose man come on in the second half, especially if the US need a goal to clinch the Gold Cup.

  1. outlawsoccer - Jul 26, 2013 at 11:06 AM

    What is the fascination with stu holden???????
    without Bradley this team is not what it could be
    same holds true with Dempsey and Joey A.

    • tridecagon - Jul 26, 2013 at 11:40 AM

      That’s exactly why this is so fascinating. Everyone knows that MB, Deuce and Jozy are A-team starters. The Gold Cup is being played with a B team (plus Landon Donovan, who is obviously an incredible player but wasn’t part of the A team in the last round of WCQ’s).

      The ability of the US to dominate even the regional minnows and rip off a 10-game winning streak with a B side doing much of the work means that US soccer has reached an unprecedented level of depth and talent.

    • mvktr2 - Jul 26, 2013 at 4:37 PM

      MmmmKayyyy it’s because Holden was leading the EPL in tackles/contested balls won before he got ‘johnny evansed’. Add to that the fact that going forward he’s better than anyone else in the pool in the middle of the park (would possibly be ahead of even MB sans-injury) and it paints a superb picture for where things could become WC2014 if Holden is in form along with MB, Jones, with Cameron providing cover/depth/options. The US could go into the WC with as much tactical flexibility as the team has ever had being able to deploy legitimate options with varied strengths as a luxury, not simply putting x-y-z players out there because it’s the best that can be done. Translation against a team like Brazil you sit Stu and pair JJ with MB because you need the toughness. Against a fairly good team say England, Slovakia, Russia, or Ghana perhaps you use the option of putting Holden on the pitch.

      Most importantly the reason for the depth on the US side aside from numbers is how the roster has been managed by Klinsmann & co. Competition is ultimately what often times separates great teams from good teams. When Alabama lines up against another good team like Va Tech or Notre Dame in football the fact that the 3rd stringers are pushing for playing time in Tuscaloosa vs the 3rd stringers are getting pushed around in Blacksburg/South Bend makes a difference in how fast players progress, how sharp they stay, and what kind of ‘edge’ they play with. It’s a tangible intangible in team sports and it’s working in the USMNT’s favor across the team for the first time in a long time, maybe forever.

      That’s why I like seeing Stu making noise, it’s why I like to see Mix playing quite well in spurts and I like seeing Shea bounce back from a terrible outing, Corona the same. Even Beckerman’s overall command of the GC pushes upward into the A group because if he’s willing to do the work and others aren’t Klinsmann won’t pause to send a message … because he can! Options are a beautiful thing!!!

  2. outlawsoccer - Jul 26, 2013 at 11:11 AM

    the world cup qualifying team is going to be good.
    I trust klinnsy, im not as impressed with holden as hes returning
    from injury as is klinnsy, I feel dixerud is the better option.

    eddie Johnson and clint Dempsey
    zusi Bradley Donovan Bedoya
    f. Johnson Goodson Gonzalez Cameron
    Howard

    there are a lot of interchangeable parts and depth
    meaning wodo torres and altidore up front
    corona dixerud Beckerman j jones
    Beasley besler Castillo orozco parkhurst
    rimando and Johnson
    these are all great subs and could represent our deepest
    world cup squad ever assembled, we all wish we had a couple
    of superstars, we do not. we have depth of mediocrity when
    compared to the top 5 soccer teams in the world.
    overall, its a start, this kind of mediocre depth will lead to
    the next phase of US soccer, a superstar. he is out there
    we will see him emerge soon.

    • tridecagon - Jul 26, 2013 at 11:40 AM

      Bedoya?!

  3. outlawsoccer - Jul 26, 2013 at 11:14 AM

    we will have to start Donovan at forward with eddie Johnson
    so then we put Dempsey and Bradley in the mid field center,
    joey cant play wing neither does wodo, but torres corona and
    bedoya are all very capable.
    our central team is very strong
    with Donovan and Johnson
    Bradley and Dempsey
    Goodson and Gonzalez
    Howard
    strong up the middle very very strong

    • outlawsoccer - Jul 26, 2013 at 11:17 AM

      but putting Dempsey in mid there requires more D than he would prefer.

  4. outlawsoccer - Jul 26, 2013 at 11:15 AM

    no one has offered a suggestion to getting
    all our best players in the game at the same time,
    most would be out of position.

    Dempsey doesn’t play wing. but
    Donovan Johnson
    Dempsey Bradley Beckerman Bedoya
    Beasley Goodson Gonzalez Besler
    Howard

    • aboutlastnight7 - Jul 26, 2013 at 1:09 PM

      I’m not sure how any talk of our “best players” leads to Beckerman and Bedoya on the field at all. While both have had good games during the Gold Cup, neither has played great all the time (although Beckerman vs. Honduras was the first game where I had to admit to myself that I was annoyed with him because he annoys me, not because of his play. He was pretty damn good.) Bedoya showed hustle and helped create some things through effort, but I didn’t see anything to move him even into the top three or four on the wing. If we totally ignored positions I think that our best 11 still looks a lot like the real starting eleven

      Dempsey/Altidore
      Donovan/Bradley/Jones/Zusi
      F.Johnson/Besler/Gonzalez/Cameron

      This isn’t the team I would field necessarily. I like players besides Jones in the holding role, specifically Danny Williams when healthy, and David Cameron if we found a full time replacement at right back (please Timmy stay healthy and get your head right), but I don’t think there are many people who are flatly better then the 11 above. I’ll accept arguments for Goodson and Beasley, but everyone else is clearly second to someone at their position right now.

  5. outlawsoccer - Jul 26, 2013 at 11:16 AM

    we need some D in the mid so we throw beck out there.

    im not saying for sure, but right now I don’t see any way
    to play a different group.

    someone has to play out of position.

  6. outlawsoccer - Jul 26, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    after watching the concacaf competiton
    1) the US should boycott cheating mob run soccer this is an example of that.
    2) the fans of south and central American soccer teams represent the worst of the human species
    3) soccer should be outlawed because the fans cant handle it without turning violent racist
    4) all soccer matches are determined by the calls and non calls of the referees and the players
    are completely unable to express themselves, this does not fly in America, authoritarianism
    is only popular here now, because of a dramatic population shift in the US as the darker peoples
    grow freedom disappears.

    • mvktr2 - Jul 26, 2013 at 4:54 PM

      I heard the klan rally is that way >

  7. tridecagon - Jul 26, 2013 at 11:45 AM

    Talk more, outlaw. I can still feel my brain.

    • mlsconvert88888 - Jul 26, 2013 at 12:30 PM

      Hey-O!

  8. JDRDone - Jul 26, 2013 at 12:30 PM

    Seeing how active Wondo was coming off the bench, and the pressure he can impose on the back line when protecting a lead, I’d leave him out and go with the EJ/Donovan combo on top (though the inverse with EJ coming off the bench probably works in a similar fashion; for this argument, I’ll take what we last saw as the better play). Holden brings poise in midfield that the others can’t, so starting him and Beckerman seems like a safer play; if things stay tight later on, you can always bring Corona on to add to the offense (much in the same way you can start Torres on one side, and have Shea in reserve).

    Rimando
    Beasley (c) Besler Goodson Parkhurst
    Torres Holden Beckerman Bedoya
    E. Johnson Donovan

  9. rhaaland - Jul 26, 2013 at 1:37 PM

    Okay, we get it, you like Kyle Beckerman. Maybe let’s go easy with the “genius” labels though. He plays to his strengths well and doesn’t try to do too much. But genius? Ease up, killer.

    • mdac1012 - Jul 26, 2013 at 1:52 PM

      I was thinking the same thing! If Beckerman is a genius, what is Pirlo? Beckerman has had a nice tournament but lets come back to reality.

      • Joe Prince-Wright - Jul 26, 2013 at 2:04 PM

        Okay, I got carried away.

        He made so many timely interceptions on Wednesday night, and just kept popping up.

        Beckerman has been a huge plus in this tournament. But can he oust Jones or Bradley? Or even Cameron in the holding mid role… probably not.

        Still, what about “Gold Cup genius?”

  10. boscoesworld - Jul 26, 2013 at 2:39 PM

    I have to wonder what game you were watching JPW. Holden turned in a “great” performance? Ouch! Not close really. He was pretty well dead in the second half. He was barely OK in the first. He was purely in the game to give Beckerman a rest in the second. Don’t get me wrong. He is one of my favorite players but to be objective, he does not deserve the start. Corona should be on the right and my niece Suzy could be on the right in place of Jose Torres. Maybe give Castillo a run over there since Shea is as inconsistent as Suzy.

  11. hildezero - Jul 26, 2013 at 3:09 PM

    @outlawsoccer

    “Dempsey doesn’t play winger”?

    Uuhhh… Yes he does…

  12. mvktr2 - Jul 26, 2013 at 4:41 PM

    I’d like to take this opportunity to simply say how freaking great Nick Rimando has been. His reading of the game has been flawless. Just top class stuff and a pleasure and blessing to have as a 3rd keeper.

    Signed non-RSL fan.

    • mlsconvert88888 - Jul 26, 2013 at 6:31 PM

      Totally agree, from another non-RSL fan.
      One of the things i love the most is the way he distributes the ball. Even when he launches it up the field, it seems he’s finding guys with green acres of space to push up.

      It’s nice, at least for a short while, instead of having to say, “man, f@#%ing Nick Rimando…” I get to say “F@#%ing Nick Rimando, Baby!”

      • mkbryant3 - Jul 26, 2013 at 6:50 PM

        And the dude has some sweet foot skills, a big bonus for a keeper.

  13. mvktr2 - Jul 26, 2013 at 4:51 PM

    Unless Omar was brought in mostly to send a message to I don’t think he misses this match. Conversely I don’t doubt that’s exactly what’s at play here especially with Goodsen playing so well. Klinsmann has been truly genius (to steal a term from above) in roster/player management thus far pushing the proper buttons to get desired results. Anyway I think it more likely that Omar plays because the coaches are wanting him more seasoned in more matches with something on the line. It’s what the younger players need.

  14. bishopofblunder - Jul 26, 2013 at 8:27 PM

    Given Holden went 90 minutes on Wednesday, I don’t think he will start Sunday. I predict a starting midfield of Beckerman and Diskerud centrally, with Corona and Torres out wide.

    I would expect Gonzalez to start the final (otherwise, why bring him in?), but who knows? Goodson and Beslar have looked good together. If it ain’t broke…

    Up front, I think it will be Donovan and Johnson. But it wouldn’t surprise me if Klinsmann started Wondo.

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