[HEXAGONAL COUNTDOWN] Not for first time in the Hexagonal, Jurgen Klinsmann will have to shake up his starting lineup. For the first Costa Rica match, he made five changes from the team that had lost to Honduras, 2-1, three of them changes that were forced on him because of injuries. For Friday's game at San Jose's Estadio Nacional, he'll probably have to make two injury-related changes from his preferred lineup during the Hexagonal in addition to dealing with a most welcome dilemma: if and where to start Landon Donovan.
RIGHT BACK. For the now infamous Snow Bowl match against Costa Rica in Colorado, Klinsmann had to
change keepers -- Brad Guzan in place of Tim Howard, out with a back injury -- and replace both of his outside backs.
Geoff Cameron had started the Honduras game in the middle of the backline but played both of the March qualifiers at right back after Timmy Chandler pulled out at the last minute with a hamstring injury. He's only played there once since then -- in the 4-2 loss to Belgium in late May -- but is
likely to replace the injured Brad Evans, out with a calf injury suffered in MLS play over the weekend.
Klinsmann has used Cameroon successfully as
a center back and holding midfielder but he would seem to be the likely choice ahead of Michael Parkhurst, who started at tight back during the Gold Cup.
Neither Cameron nor Parkhurst is the attacking threat that Chandler, the injured Steve Cherundolo or even Evans is. But between the two, Chandler would
get the edge because he is starting at right back for Stoke City. Parkhurst has yet to suit up this season for German club Augsburg.
Klinsmann started DaMarcus Beasley at left back for the first time in the two March qualifiers, and he has stayed there ever since in qualifying except for the Honduras return match for which he was
suspended. Klinsmann has expressed satisfaction with the play of Beasley, his captain at the Gold Cup, and Fabian Johnson at left midfield, so for once the USA
looks settled on the left side.
STRIKER. Jozy Altidore, who missed Sunderland's game on Saturday with a
hamstring injury, accompanied the USA to Costa Rica and was declared fit to work out. In the public training session on Wednesday at the Dos Pinos dairy complex, Altidore did work out on Wednesday,
but he was seen wearing running shoes as he jogged.
If Altidore is not
ready to go, that leaves Klinsmann with basically two choices: Eddie Johnson and Aron Johannsson. Both have been playing
very well the last month, though the likely choice would be Johnson, who has scored in four of the last six U.S. matches, over Johannsson, who has never played in Central America, let alone in the
The only other possibility would be to to move Clint Dempsey up top and start Donovan in Dempsey's spot -- the spot Klinsmann used him
at during the Gold Cup when he scored five goals and added seven assists.
If Klinsmann wants to use Donovan in the counterattacking role he excels at, this would be a way in which to get
Donovan into the starting lineup.
RIGHT MIDFIELD. The only other possibility would be for Klinsmann to start Donovan at right midfield, where Graham Zusi has started in four of the last five qualifiers, all but the Panama match in Seattle for which he was suspended.
Zusi was injured during the
MLS All-Star Game on July 31 and only returned to the Sporting Kansas City lineup two games ago. A week ago, Klinsmann seemed to downplay concerns about Zusi's sharpness when he spoke with the media
after he announced his roster for the Costa Rica match, saying he expected Zusi -- and Dempsey -- to be ready to go.
Zusi responded with the winning goal Saturday for Sporting KC in its
2-1 win over Colorado, confirming that it will take a lot to keep him out of the U.S. starting lineup -- even if he has one Landon Donovan on his tail.