What the U.S. starting lineup should look like vs. Belgium

What the U.S. starting lineup should look like vs. Belgium

Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Jun 15, 2014; Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, BRAZIL; United States manager Jurgen Klinsmann watches his team during their final training session before their opening World Cup game against Ghana at Estadio das Dunas.

Print
Email
|

by Jesse Yomtov, USA TODAY Sports

KING5.com

Posted on June 30, 2014 at 11:43 AM

After escaping the Group of Death and reaching the knockout stage for the second consecutive World Cup, the U.S. plays Belgium on Tuesday.

Coach Jurgen Klinsmann is optimistic that striker Jozy Altidore will be a part of the match, having not played since suffering a hamstring injury early in the opening game.

Klinsmann has some questions to answer heading into the showdown with the young, talented Belgians. Should Altidore start? Did Omar Gonzalez usurp Geoff Cameron’s starting job with his performance against Germany?

Here’s what the team’s starting XI should look like:

Goalkeeper – Tim Howard

No question here.

Right back – Fabian Johnson

He did well against Cristiano Ronaldo in the Portugal game and this time around he gets another daunting assignment in Eden Hazard, one of the world’s most dangerous attackers. With injuries across Belgium’s back line, coach Marc Wilmots has said that Moussa Dembele – a midfielder – could play left back against the U.S. If that’s the case, Johnson should be able to run wild on the right flank.

Center back – Omar Gonzalez

Gonzalez stepped in for Geoff Cameron against Germany and had a terrific game. The 25-year-old had countless effective clearances, notably a key last man tackle to deprive Thomas Muller a clear scoring opportunity.Cameron may have experience against the countless Belgium players in the Premier League, but it’s hard to imagine Gonzalez being benched after such a good game. That being said, Gonzalez has been at fault for a handful of goals during his time with the national team and is constantly guilty of ball-watching. He can’t afford to lose concentration on the big stage.

CB – Matt Besler

Entering the tournament, many questioned whether Besler would be overmatched against world-class opponents. Besler looked anything but overmatched in the group stage, turning in the best performances of any U.S. defender.

Left back – DaMarcus Beasley

After getting burned for 90 minutes against Ghana, Beasley was steady in the last two matches. Playing in his fourth World Cup, the 32-year-old is a calming force on the relatively young back line.

Left midfield – Jermaine Jones

Jones was by far the United States’ best player in the group stage. He’s covered a ton of ground all by himself, popping up all over the pitch to make big tackle after big tackle. At the same time, Jones has gone forward more often than in the past and has been a threat in the attack. Jones is going to need to get in the face of Belgium’s midfielders and keep them off balance.

Central defensive midfield – Kyle Beckerman

We’re still coming to grips with just how well Beckerman has played. The Real Salt Lake man did all the dirty work in the group stage, cleaning up the area behind Michael Bradley and in front of the back line. A player like that is rare. Just look at his heat map from the Germany game:

Central attacking midfield – Michael Bradley

No use harping on Bradley’s struggles in the group stage, but he was relatively tidy against Germany. Bradley completed 85% of his passes and was especially good playing medium and long-range passes. He has his work cut out for him against a technically sound Belgium midfield that could feature imposing figures such as Axel Witsel and Marouane Fellaini.

RM – Graham Zusi

The U.S. is going to need to attack from the right and Zusi is going to be a big part of that. No matter who lines up at left back for Belgium, they’re going to be playing out of position. Zusi and Johnson should overlap on the right and cause headaches for the defense.

Striker – Jozy Altidore

We have no idea how healthy Altidore is, but he might as well start if he’s going to play. What happens if he comes off the bench and aggravates his injury? Klinsmann would be forced to make a substitution for a substitute, or play a man down if he’s out of subs at that point. Considering extra time is a possibility, the team could hypothetically be down to 10 men all the way through the 120th minute. Either way, it’s unlikely Altidore will play the full game and it makes more sense to have him start.

ST – Clint Dempsey

Dempsey had a tough time as the lone striker in the last two group games, but he did manage to score a goal and create some opportunities for himself. With Altidore back in the lineup, it frees Dempsey up to make his movements off the ball and get into dangerous areas.

Print
Email
|