USA-Mexico: Lots up in air on eve of Hex opener

Throughout his tenure at U.S. national team coach, Jurgen Klinsmann's starting lineup has often changed.

That's natural as injuries, form and time of year often dictated change. But he settled on a starting lineup that carried the USA to fourth place at the Copa Centenario. That is again up in the air as the USA heads into the Hexagonal, opening against Mexico on Friday.

Here is what has changed since June.

Howard in place of Guzan in goal. One of the changes that has taken place is that Tim Howard is again the undisputed No. 1 in goal, for the first time since the 2014 World Cup. After a self-imposed sabbatical, he has been back for more than a year now but with Brad Guzan on the bench at Middlesbrough, Klinsmann's decision was an easy one: put Howard back in goal. Especially since he had never seriously considered a third option.

Brooks partner at center back? Geoff Cameron is injured, forcing Klinsmann to find a partner for John Brooks at center back. There are several options: Omar Gonzalez, Steven Birnbaum and Matt Besler, in addition to Michael Orozco. The likely pick is Gonzalez, who has started in four of the seven USA-Mexico games during the Klinsmann era, more than any other center backs.

USA-Mexico (Klinsmann's U.S. CB Pairings)
Aug. 2011: Orozco, Bocanegra
Aug. 2012: Cameron, Edu
March 2013: Gonzalez, Besler
Sept. 2013: Gonzalez, Goodson
April 2014: Gonzalez, Besler
April 2015: Gonzalez, Alvarado
Oct. 2015: Cameron, Besler

Jones or Kljestan or both in midfield? Probably the biggest question Klinsmann faces is how to construct his midfield. If he goes with two players, who does he partner with captain Michael Bradley? Jermaine Jones is a Klinsmann favorite, but he started his first match in four months last Sunday. After being in the national team wilderness for more than two years, Sacha Kljestan has started the last three games in front of Bradley but broke his nose last Sunday. Klinsmann's other option is to start both Jones and Kljestan with Bradley in a three-man midfield, matching Mexico's three-man midfield.

Altidore or Wood or both up front? We know four players Klinsmann regularly started at the Copa Centenario won't start against Mexico: Guzan, Cameron, Clint Dempsey and Gyasi Zardes. Christian Pulisic will take Zardes' spot. Jozy Altidore, who was injured and missed the Copa Centenario, is a straight switch for Dempsey, though he is not the natural partner for Bobby Wood except in a 4-4-2 formation.
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