Jurgen Klinnsman is putting a lot of faith in a defensive backline that fell apart in Honduras barely a month ago. But this time, long time captain Carlos Bocanegra won't even be on the bench.
[Detailed Roster - USsoccer.com]
Klinsmann and the USSF announced the 23-man roster that will face Costa Rica and Mexico on Friday, March 22 and Tuesday, March 26 respectfully. Several other US regulars are missing due to injury, including keeper Tim Howard and defenders Steve Cherundolo, Timmy Chandler and Fabian Johnson. That means a variety of young defenders with only a total of seven international games (Omar Gonzalez the most experienced with four) will likely feature with Clarence Goodson (34 caps) and Geoff Cameron (12 caps). And without Tim Howard in net, longtime backup Brad Guzan (who's killing it with EPL side Aston Villa) will be between the pipes with MLS veteran Nick Rimando likely on the bench (Chicago Fire keeper Sean Johnson also is on the squad).
It is also possible that Maurice Edu, Jermaine Jones or DaMarcus Beasley (who played leftback against Trinidad & Tobago in a WCQ in 2009) could feature in defense as well at some point during the next two games, despite being natural midfielders.
Klinsmann and the USA will have a wide variety of options in midfield as well, with regulars Mike Bradley and Clint Dempsey joined by a host of playmakers including Brek Shea, Sasha Kljestan and Gharam Zusi. Several regulars are also up front for the USA attack, inlcuding Jozy Altidore, Eddie Johnson and Herculez Gomez.
I wasn't a big fan of Klinsmann's lineup against Honduras and with more injuries to the backline it makes too much sense for Bocanegra to starting in the backline. So leaving him off entirely means that something is wrong with Bocanegra health wise or he has fallen out of favor with Klinsmann. These are two crucial games coming up for the USMNT and almost a must win against Costa Rica in Denver, Colorado this Friday. Klinsmann is putting a lot of faith into a backline including young Omar Gonzalez, who will be a defensive stalwart in this squad with Geoff Cameron for the 2018 World Cup cycle, but he's being called up too early for 2014 Brazil. MLSers Matt Belser (Sporting KC), Tony Beltran (Real Salt Lake) and Justin Morrow (SJ Earthquakes) only have one international appearance each and while all three are good defenders, they're also completely unproven on the international level.
As always with the USA, it will be down to the midfield, more importantly Mike Bradley (who should get the captain's armband as well in my opinion) to control the pace of the game and shield the defense. If Clint Dempsey is featured up front instead of the midfield, his link up play with Altidore or Gomez will be the key. Dempsey is going to have chances of his own, but it's the ones he creates for others that I think drives the US attack. This is why I prefer Dempsey in the midfield, or maybe an attacking mid in a 4-4-1-1. Eddie Johnson also had a productive game against Honduras at left mid and has been tremendous up front for the Seattle Sounders early in MLS.
Either way, these next two games will set the stage for the rest of the US WCQ campaign and the USA can't afford to fall farther behind then they already are.