Up against wall: USA ponders multiple lineup changes

Before Friday night, the outcome of Tuesday's match at Honduras did not matter as long as the USA took care of business against Costa Rica. That didn't happen, and the USA is suddenly up against the wall. It could drop to fifth place in the Hexagonal with a loss.



1. How many lineup changes will Arena make?

Head coach Bruce Arena made seven lineup changes from the team that beat Trinidad & Tobago, 2-0, to the team that tied Mexico, 1-1, at Azteca Stadium. A couple of factors played into his decision -- a day less of recovery necessitated by Mexico's participation in the Confederations Cup in Russia and the altitude in Mexico City.

A couple of different factors will play into how changes Arena makes on Tuesday:

-- The season is just starting for his European-based players, Geoff Cameron, Eric Lichaj and Tim Ream from England and Bobby Wood, Christian Pulisic and Fabian Johnson from Germany -- and his two Mexican-based players, Omar Gonzalez and Jorge Villafana, have been in and out of the lineup at their clubs since returning from the Gold Cup.

-- San Pedro Sula -- at least in the afternoon -- is one of the most difficult places to play. The USA was almost perfect in Honduras until the Catrachos moved their key home games to the afternoon in San Pedro Sula

Those changes on Tuesday could include:

-- Brad Guzan for Tim Howard;
-- Matt Besler for Ream;
-- DaMarcus Beasley for Villafana;
-- Kellyn Acosta for Wood;
-- Paul Arriola or Alejandro Bedoya for Johnson.

Guzan, Besler, Beasley, Acosta and Arriola all started in Mexico City after not starting in Colorado.

2. Who will replace Jozy Altidore?

The one lineup change we know for sure: Arena must replace Jozy Altidore, suspended after picking up his second yellow card of qualifying late in the game.

Wood -- good in open spaces on the counterattack -- would be the obvious choice, but he played the entire 90 minutes on Friday. With just two Bundesliga games in his legs, it's hard to imagine Wood starting or going 90 minutes again.

But Arena could combine Wood and Jordan Morris to get 90 minutes out of them and save Clint Dempsey in reserve like he has done for the last three U.S. games.

Then again, there's always Chris Wondolowski, who didn't dress on Friday but was in the squad for the very circumstances that took place: an Altidore suspension. Wouldn't it be crazy if Wondo ended up playing a role in deciding the game?

USA-Honduras: Yes, USA has long history of success in Honduras

3. Where will Christian Pulisic play?

After starting in the middle against Honduras and Trinidad & Tobago, Pulisic was moved to the right wing for the third home qualifier of Arena's reign and Darlington Nagbe played in the central attacking role against Costa Rica.

Pulisic was targeted by the Ticos and not much of a factor after a few every runs. If Arena returns to two in central midfield with Michael Bradley and Acosta, Pulisic could move back into the middle pushed up as the second attacker behind Wood or Morris.

U.S. Roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Atlanta United; 14/0), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids; 37/0), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake; 0/0).
DEFENDERS (9): DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo; 34/6), Matt Besler (Sporting KC; 11/1), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/ENG; 23/2), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca/MEX; 15/0), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas; 0/0), Eric Lichaj (Nott. Forest/ENG; 0/0), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 6/0), Jorge Villafana (Santos/MEX; 4/0), Graham Zusi (Sporting KC; 19/3).
MIDFIELDERS (9): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas; 4/0), Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 4/1), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union; 9/0), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC; 36/7), Fabian Johnson (Borussia M'Gladbach/GER; 17/1), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire; 0/0), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers; 8/0), Christian Pulisic (Bor. Dortmund/GER; 10/5), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 0/0).
FORWARDS (4): Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders; 40/18), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 4/0), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes; 0/0), Bobby Wood (Hamburg/GER; 11/4).
Note: Caps and goals in World Cup qualifying in parentheses.
10 comments about "Up against wall: USA ponders multiple lineup changes".
  1. Elvis Epstein, September 5, 2017 at 7:45 a.m.

    after Howard's play vs. Costa Rica, we now have a bit of a problem at keeper. Unless Guzan's form has improved, what should Bruce do? He should have had Hamid, Johnson, Gonzalez,.. or one of the younger keepers in camp.

  2. Kerry Solomon, September 5, 2017 at 8:35 a.m.

    There is quite a drop off in all positions beyond the top bunch. One simple point is....
    They need to have parallel support on the ball instead of running off towards and hoping that someone can send a perfect pass to them for a strike. This is basic stuff. Support the ball and when you get in the box, turn and take them on. Your odds are pretty good. 1) you get bested by the defender 2) you get a strike on goal. 3) you get a PK. 2 outa 3 ain't bad.
    AND, if you lose the ball in the box, chase, chase, chase and try to win the ball back. Quit standing around after you lose the ball.

  3. C Stephans replied, September 5, 2017 at 8:55 a.m.

    Kerry Solomon...it is funny to read your comment. That is what I keep telling my son's U11 side. Very relevant too. On both goals by CR, Bradley was jogging back behind the play. Overall, none of these options are really great. There has to be better players than these available to us.

  4. Chance Hall replied, September 5, 2017 at 12:33 p.m.

    Have to also agree with Kerry Solomon. We blew it on the basics. Only thing I would add, is keep your shape in the back. CR sliced and diced our defense with only one forward. How does that happen? Howard is still the best keeper we have. You know he would be out for blood if he were starting tonight. Guzan scares me every time someone closes on him. But, go USA!!!

  5. beth blanda, September 5, 2017 at 9:17 a.m.

    well the tactics need to reflect the environment.. this past match should have been more attack minded, being at home, the need to win and its timely urgency. costa rica had one forward, we had 4 in the back, why not 3 instead, with a 3-5-2, one holding mid (Bradley), 2 attacking mids central (nagbe & pulisic), and 2 wing backs who could stretch the field, attack with speed and push to get numbers up in their half to get ahead early on the front foot.
    press high defensively & collectively, predictable and again w/ commitment and high intensity like everything depended on it.

  6. Scott O'Connor replied, September 5, 2017 at 2:32 p.m.

    I agree beth. Had we played 3 in the back and let them stay home as a solid 3 man line rather than having Ream and Cameron like 50 yards apart just begging to be split. Costa Rica was all too happy to oblige us there. Tactically, I thought it was a stupid thing to do, basically playing with a back 2 because Villafana and Zusi were pushed forward trying (fruitlessly) to add to the attack.

  7. ROBERT BOND, September 5, 2017 at 10:07 a.m.

    gotta change CBs, no GK can stop everything......at least Altidore out gives us a chance to find someone who scores when it matters...

  8. Scott O'Connor replied, September 5, 2017 at 1:35 p.m.

    Difference in the game, however, was that Navas made 2 big saves and Howard missed his 2 chances (at least the first one was VERY saveable and would have had us playing even rather than from behind). Used to be our keeper that rescued us from those games, this time it was theirs rescuing them.

  9. ROBERT BOND replied, September 5, 2017 at 2:35 p.m.

    none of ours in the bigs now-take all the MLS guys and have a tryout.....

  10. Scott O'Connor, September 5, 2017 at 1:32 p.m.

    I think Bruce has to get Dempsey in the game. He played 20 minutes against CR. He should be on for the first 55-60 minutes so we can get the most touches out of him. He also plays with a chip on his shoulder and some needed attitude. Fabian Johnson was completely useless. He's not fit and should not be in the line-up for now.
    If Dempsey comes in at the 65th minute and it's already 1-0 or 2-0, he's not going to break down 9 guys behind the ball. He needs to score to put us in the lead early so we can dictate the game to Hondo.

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