[BRAZIL 2014]There will be at least one change in the U.S. starting lineup against Portugal on Sunday in Manaus. Jozy Altidore is out, and he'll likely be replaced by Aron Johannsson or Chris Wondolowski. But will there be other changes in the U.S. team from the one that started against Ghana in Natal? Here are four other possible lineup changes.
Six other players are certain to start:
-- Tim Howard in goal;
-- Fabian Johnson right back;
-- Geoff Cameron at center back
-- Jermaine Jonesand Michael Bradley in midfield; and
-- Clint Dempsey (mask or no mask) up front.
The case for change is based not the performance of the other starters in Monday's match. The only starter who had a subpar game -- for him -- Monday night was Bradley, but he remains the most indispensable field player in the U.S. lineup.
Coach Jurgen Klinsmann and his staff will have to weigh the physical toll Monday's game took on his players and consider how many fresh players to insert into the lineup for Sunday's match, which will be played in much more difficult conditions, the heat and humidity of Manaus, dubbed "inhuman" by Italy coach Cesare Prandelli after the Azzurri's win over England, and against an vulnerable opponent, Portugal.
The evidence so far is that European teams similar in the makeup of the USA -- Italy, England, Switzerland and even the Netherlands -- lacked the freshness in their second matches they showed in their opening games. (The exception was France, whose coach Didier Deschamps had no reason to change a winning team after the Bleus buried Honduras, but he made two lineup changes against Switzerland, and both new starters, Olivier Giroud and Moussa Sissoko, scored in the 5-2 win.)
Here are the four other possible changes:
1. LEFT CENTER BACK. Klinsmann said Matt Beslerwould be ready to go against Portugal even though he had to leave the Ghana at the half with tightness in his hamstring. But his late-game heroics aside, John Brooks showed a physical presence at the defensive end that makes him a potential starter in the U.S. back four for many years to come. The history of the World Cup is filled with stories of players who have come out of nowhere before or at the start of the tournament to earn places in the starting lineup and blossom.
2. LEFT BACK.Playing in his U.S. record fourth World Cup, DaMarcus Beasley passed his first test at left back with flying colors. Ghana attacked him down its right wing with Christian Atsu, who was totally ineffective. But how heavy are Beasley's legs for the bigger challenge ahead: Portuguese winger Nani. If the Turkey friendly was a warmup for Portugal, that means Klinsmann will start Timmy Chandler, but the soon-to-be Eintracht Frankfurt defender struggled mightily in the last 20 minutes against the Turks in New Jersey. How he'll handle the Amazonian conditions of Manaus is a big, big question mark.
3. HOLDING MIDFIELD.Like so many teams have done with success at the World Cup, the USA in effect had a five-man backline against Ghana with Kyle Beckerman as cover in front of the back four. He had an excellent game, breaking up just about everything that came at him but also calmly getting the USA out of pressure with his simple but accurate passing. Like Beasley, the question is whether Beckerman has the legs to handle the conditions at the Arena da Amazonia. Klinsmann's alternative would be to place Jones back in Beckerman's spot and insert Brad Davis at left wing. Just like he did against Turkey.
4. RIGHT MIDFIELD.Alejandro Bedoya started against Ghana and was the USA's most effective attacker in the first half. After the break, though, he was bothered by a hip pointer and cramps and eventually gave way to Graham Zusi. If you go by whom Klinsmann started against Turkey -- again -- that would mean Zusi will start. Whoever starts on the right side of midfield will have perhaps the key role in the game. For that side of the field is both Portugal's strength in attack -- with Cristiano Ronaldo -- and its weakest on defense -- exposed by Germany.