USA-Costa Rica: Klinsmann faces key lineup decisions

U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann will have several key lineup decisions to make as the USA heads into its second game of the Hexagonal at Costa Rica, where it has lost eight straight qualifiers.

Scouting Report: Ticos ride momentum into U.S. encounter

His players have shown an ability to react quickly after setbacks -- 4-0 wins over Guatemala and Costa Rica after losses to Guatemala in March and Colombia in June -- and they won't want to face a long winter with no points after two games.

1. Who partners John Brooks at center back?

Against Mexico, Klinsmann started three center backs -- Omar Gonzalez, John Brooks and Matt Besler, from right to left -- but that formation was abandoned midway through the first half with the USA trailing.

Brooks should keep his spot but whether Klinsmann keeps Gonzalez or Besler (or introduces Steve Birnbaum) in a 4-4-2 remains to be seen. Gonzalez and Besler started at the Estadio Nacional three years ago when Joel Campbell terrorized the U.S. backline -- and tricked the referee into issuing a yellow card to Besler that kept him out of the next game, the 2-0 win over Mexico that clinched a berth in the 2014 World Cup.

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2. Where does Fabian Johnson play?

A lot about the U.S. formation will be fall into place once it is known where Fabian Johnson will play. He started on the left wing -- where he plays at Borussia Moenchengladbach -- in the 3-4-3, then moved to the right wing in front of Timmy Chandler when the USA reverted to a 4-4-2.

Klinsmann could move Johnson back to left back -- where he played at the Copa Centenario -- but that deprived the USA of Johnson's attacking threat. Klinsmann's dilemma underscores the ongoing problems he has at left back.

The other options: move Chandler from right back to left back (and start DeAndre Yedlin, whose stock has dropped in recent months at right back), keep Besler at left back, where he played until going off with cramps and was replaced by Michael Orozco, Klinsmann's favorite utility man in the back.

3. Does Jermaine Jones go another 90?

Jermaine Jones had not started a game in four months until the Colorado Rapids' playoff game night days ago. He played 90 minutes against Mexico and grew into the game after a rough start.

Klinsmann prizes Jones' energy, enthusiasm and ability to be a difference-maker. That still gives Jones the edge over Sacha Kljestan despite the latter's strong showing in September and October.

If Klinsmann is willing to sacrifice some of Johnson's attacking game, he could play Johnson at left back and reunite Alejandro Bedoya with Michael Bradley and Jones in midfield, where they played together at the Copa Centenario.

U.S. Roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Middlesbrough/ENG), Ethan Horvath (Molde/NOR), William Yarbrough (Leon/MEX).
DEFENDERS (9): Matt Besler (Sporting KC), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin/GER), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham/ENG), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca/MEX), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Moenchengladbach/GER), Michael Orozco (Tijuana/MEX), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United/ENG)
MIDFIELDERS (9): Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Lynden Gooch (Sunderland/ENG), Julian Green (Bayern Munich/GER), Jermaine Jones (Colorado Rapids), Sacha Kljestan (NY Red Bulls), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund/GER), Caleb Stanko (FC Vaduz/SUI), Graham Zusi (Sporting KC).
FORWARDS (4): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Alan Gordon (LA Galaxy), Aron Johannsson (Werder Bremen/GER), Bobby Wood (Hamburg/GER).

2 comments about "USA-Costa Rica: Klinsmann faces key lineup decisions".
  1. :: SilverRey ::, November 15, 2016 at 12:38 p.m.

    I say go for the win and throw Kljestan out there with Bradley in place of JJ - or play 451 with both out there and Pulisic-Wood as false wingers.

    No more Chandler, get Yedlin and Johnson outside with Brooks-Birnbaum center.

  2. Boris Spektor, November 15, 2016 at 10:12 p.m.

    0-1 already :(

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