The United States start the journey to the 2018 World Cup in Russia on Friday at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, MO against Saint Vincent and the Grenadines on Friday.
The CONCACAF World Cup Qualifications is entering the fourth round and only six out of the remaining 12 nations will move on to the HEX. The Americans will have to face the three counties from group C a total of six times before the round is over. However, the Yanks will first have to take care of business at home as they host the Vincy Heat.
American head coach Jurgen Klinsmann brought a squad with a mixture of youth and veterans. With Clint Dempsey not in the squad for these two matches, captain Michael Bradley will have to lead the USMNT to a victory against the little Caribbean Nation. The United States have been in the middle of the funk to put it nicely.
The Yanks have not won a game since September 4th when they defeated Peru 2-1 at RFK Stadium. Since that game, the U.S. have lost all three games and have been outscored eight to three.
The struggles for the Yanks began when the 2015 Gold Cup started, since the tournament the Americans have gone (W-D-L) 4-2-4. Before the tournament the U.S. had an impressive 5-1-2 record and it seemed that they were going to defend their title.
However, the Gold Cup was debacle and Klinsmann now finds himself in the most uncomfortable position in his five-year tenure as the manager of the national team. The bad part for Klinsmann and the rest of the team is that defeating the Vincy Heat will not relieve any of the pressure. In fact, anything shorter than a big victory at home in front of what is predicated to be 45,000 American fans at Busch Stadium will be considered a loss.
That being said, Klinsmann will have to put an offensive line up and go after the Caribbean Nation from the start. The last thing he wants is to allow the Vincy Heat to gain any momentum that might produce a goal.
Here is the lineup that makes the most sense: The Yanks will be playing an aggressive 4-4-2 on Friday. This group of players is designed to keep possession and finish their chances.
Goalkeeper: Bill Hamid
It is a new cycle which means pass the torch to the new leaders. Hamid has been out standings for his club D.C. United, especially in the 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs. United was eliminated by the New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference Semifinals with an aggregate 2-0 defeat. However, in three matches his club played in, Hamid did his part by making 15 saves.
To start this new cycle it makes sense to let Hamid grow into the future role of the number one goalkeeper for the U.S.
Defenders: Geoff Cameron (RB), Matt Miazga (CB), Matt Besler (CB) and Fabian Johnson (LB)
Yes, against Mexico Cameron looked outstanding as a center back. However, just like Hamid is the future in the goalie position, Miazga is the next rock in the defense. Let the youngster get his first taste of World Cup qualifying with veterans next to him.
Between Cameron, Besler and Johnson there is a combined a 102 caps. To let the Red Bulls starter get his first senior cap with all the veterans is a safe bet.
Midfielders: DeAndre Yedlin (RM), Bradley (CDM), Gyasi Zardes (LM) and Darlington Nagbe (CAM)
Let Bradley return to his number six role and put newcomer Nagbe as the creative mastermind. Nagbe has two speedsters on the wings for his disposal and if he loses the ball, Bradley will be there. These four can single handedly give the Americans the perfect start to the road to Russia.
Forward: Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood
These two have yet to play with each other upfront, but the possibilities are endless. The speed and creativity of Wood will help Altidore get space to make a run in the box. This might solve the partner issue of Altidore, but it will take time.
This group will produce goals and a show for the fans. However, it is risky since there will be two players getting their first cap in a World Cup Qualifier. But if there ever is a game to take that risk it is against Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
Now here is the lineup that Klinsmann will most likely place on the field. It will be a 4-4-2 as well they will be slower but they will have more tenacity.
Goalkeeper: Brad Guzan
Defenders: Johnson (RB), Besler (CB), Cameron (CB) and Tim Ream (LB)
Midfielders: Jermaine Jones (RM), Kyle Beckerman (CDM), Zardes (LM) and Bradley (CAM)
Forwards: Altidore and Wood
This starting eleven will win the game but it will be by a slim margin and with no real excitement. However, with so much pressure on Klinsmann to get a result he will place the players the he trusts.
However, no matter who starts the game, the main goal will be to control the midfield and score early. If that is accomplished then it will force the Vincy Heat to come out of their defensive shell.
If the Yanks do not score early, then the match will turn into a slugfest. There will be less passes completed and more fouls committed. A slow and ugly game will go in the favor of the Caribbean Nation. However, to hold down the Americans at home will be a grand task for the Vincy Heat to accomplish.
Prediction: USA 3-1 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
With the Americans starting a less explosive offense out on the field the Caribbean Nation will be able to slow down the tempo, temporarily. However, eventually the USMNT will break through and win the match.