Sacha Kljestan has become the new defacto playmaker in the midfield for the USMNT, Christian Pulisic has seemingly entrenched himself in the starting lineup as a teenager and other young players like DeAndre Yedlin, John Brooks and Bobby Wood have all had solid performances for club and country.
And despite all the new faces in Jurgen Klinsmann's side, the stalwart veteran presence of guys like Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley and Tim Howard are still anchoring a side that is very much in transition. But can this new guard keep the tradition of "Dos A Cero" alive?
Match Date/Time: Friday, November 11, 2016 at 7:45 PM EST
Venue: MAPFRE Stadium: Columbus, Ohio
TV Information: FS1, Univision
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go, Univision Deportes
UNITED STATES PROJECTED LINEUP
(4-4-2) - Howard; F. Johnson, Brooks, Gonzalez, Yedlin; Bradley, Bedoya, Pulisic, Kljestan; Wood, Altidore
The only real question here should be who starts in place of the injured Geoff Cameron at centerback, and I wouldn't even be against a Matt Besler-Gonzalez throwback partnership. The central midfield pairing of Bradley-Kljestan has worked very well together and all that has been missing is a wide midfielder to play opposite Pulisic.
Alejandro Bedoya has never quite carved out a true role in the USA midfield, but I've never had a problem with him out wide. In the current "diamond" formation with Bradley sitting back, he gets to be more of a two-way player which should suit him just fine. Graham Zusi wouldn't be a bad option either to start or off the bench either. I'd expect to see Jermaine Jones at some point late in the game as well regardless of the scoreline but his energy can help get a win or close out the match.
I am disappointed that Ethan Horvath is probably still the #3 goalkeeper behind Howard and Brad Guzan but at least the understudy will likely have the whole 2022 cycle to himself. The attacking options off the bench in Johannsson, Gordon, Green and Gooch provide a really good solid group of options depending on late game situations.
Assuming that he's still starting, I get to unashamedly enjoy watching El Tri left back Miguel Layun. Mexico's new formation now focuses on clogging the middle which means the US flankers in Pulisic and fullbacks Yeldin and Johnson could be a major factor. Mexico might not have a lot of luck playing in Columbus but this is still arguably the other best team in the region.
Mexico has flourished under Juan Carlos Osorio, graduate of the University of Southern Connecticut, with their only loss in his 15-game tenure a catastrophic 7-0 rout at the hands of Chile in the quarterfinals of Copa America. They would've likely clinched a full 18 points from six games in the previous round of CONCACAF qualifying but got to sleepwalk to a 0-0 draw in their final match with Honduras. Mexico struggled mightily four years ago in the previous Hex and had to qualify via a playoff against New Zealand. Don't expect the USA to be as fortunate this time around.
The US backline will have to deal with some combination of Chicharito, Peralta and Vela up front and a really loaded midfield. If the US is sloppy on the ball, particularly in their own half, it could be a disaster. I would rather have more of the USA's more technical players out on the field to start in hopes of good passing breaking down the Mexico formation and then relying on guys like Jermaine Jones to close it out. But there's also something to be said for starting with the chaos too, we'll see what Klinsmann has in store later today.
It's strange for this match to happen so early in the qualifying cycle, normally The Hex would not start until 2017 but a congested international calendar pushed two games into this window. The USA travels to Costa Rica on November 15th while Mexico heads to Panama.
We'll update the starting lineups and have live commentary throughout the match so come back at kickoff and join us for World Cup Qualifying action.