1. Does Tim Howard return in goal? Howard says he's ready to return to the national team after taking a year's sabbatical, but will
Klinsmann take him back? You can make a case either way. Unlike, say, Landon Donovan, who took a break in 2013, Howard continued playing club ball, starting for
Everton, so there is no doubt about his readiness. On the other hand, Klinsmann gave Brad Guzan the starting job in his absence. And except for the semifinal
against Jamaica -- a big exception -- Guzan has played well enough to justify finally earning the No. 1 job after nine years as a U.S. backup.
2. Do John Brooks and Ventura Alvarado stay at center back? All things being equal, you would assume Klinsmann will stick with the youngsters, like he stuck with them at the Gold Cup. The only thing that might change Klinsmann's mind is if Brooks (at Hertha Berlin) or Alvarado (Club America) isn't playing well at the club level. There are plenty of alternatives, though. Omar Gonzalez has started the last four USA-Mexico games -- 0-0, 2-0, 2-2 and 2-0 results -- teaming with Matt Besler for the first time when the USA and Mexico played at Azteca Stadium in World Cup qualifying in March 2013. Geoff Cameron, who started when the USA beat Mexico, 1-0, in their 2012 friendly at Azteca, is starting at center back for Stoke City.
3. Does Timmy Chandler remain at right back? Chandler did not have a good Gold Cup and finds himself having to work his way back into the starting lineup at Eintracht Frankfurt after missing much of preseason. If Klinsmann had a better option at right back, he'd have used him. Brad Evans, who started the semifinals of the Gold Cup, is the closest thing to that better option and Klinsmann didn't take him to the World Cup. DeAndre Yedlin was strictly used in midfield at the Gold Cup. For the World Cup 2014 qualifiers against Mexico, Cameron and then Johnson started at right back. It would not be unimaginable if Klinsmann went with his World Cup pairing of Johnson and DaMarcus Beasley on the outside one last time. Whoever Klinsmann puts at right back will have to get the job done as that's the territory where Andres Guardado, Mexico's captain and best player at the Gold Cup, lurks.
4. Where does Jermaine Jones play? If Jones is healthy -- he started his first game for the New England Revolution since May on Saturday -- there is no way Klinsmann does not take him for the playoff game. But where does Jones play? Klinsmann admitted that the experiment with Jones at center back was over. If Bradley holds down one of the two central midfield spots, is there also still room for Jones? Theirs has been an uneasy central midfield partnership when they've been on the field together. One option would be to go with a three-man central midfield, like that employed at the 2014 World Cup, with Kyle Beckerman as the third player, and go with Dempsey alone up front.
5. Does Jozy Altidore get his starting job back? That scenario of a three-man central midfield and lone striker would solve the problem of what to do about Jozy Altidore. It has not been a good year for Jozy. He picked up a red card in the friendly against Switzerland in March. Then he got hurt playing with Toronto FC, which put him out of shape for the Gold Cup, where he was dropped after two starts. He returned to TFC, where he has scored just once, from the penalty spot, in five games, and was red-carded in the 3-1 loss to New England, forcing him to miss a sixth game. Altidore has just one shot, none on target, in his last two starts for TFC, 3-1 and 3-0 losses. Not the kind of performances that will get him back in the national team picture any time soon.