Bruce Arena’s second tenure with the United States men’s national team began with an unspectacular 0-0 draw against Serbia last Sunday. While there were a lot of positives to take from that game individually, as a team the US still struggled to generate good scoring opportunities inside the box.
A flurry of late substitutes nearly saw Juan Agudelo score a winner, but his cutback was stuffed by Serbia’s defense in a possible game-saving tackle.
Today against Jamaica, the US will face one of the better CONCACAF sides not in The Hex, a team that just a year and a half ago knocked them out of the Gold Cup semifinals on home turf. But time has not been kind to the Reggae Boyz since then and this is now a side that is struggling tremendously.
Arena has already said he’s making serious changes to the US lineup for today’s match, including Luis Robles in net and Jorge Villafana and Walker Zimmerman in defense. The 4-2-3-1 setup the US used against Serbia also will be changed, and in keeping up with my proud tradition of rotating the squad in international friendlies, I think the US will line up like this:
USA PROJECTED LINEUP (4-4-2 Diamond)
Robles; Villafana, Birnbaum, Zimmerman, Zusi (Evans); Bradley; Lletget, McCarty; Feilhaber; Agudelo, Morris
Okay, a few exceptions to the full squad rotation idea. First, Michael Bradley stays in midfield because, well he’s Michael Bradley. Second, Steve Birnbaum stays at centerback because Matt Hedges had to leave camp with an injury. Hedges and Walker Zimmerman are the starting centerback pair for FC Dallas and it’s a shame we can’t see that tandem in action for the US today. Still, both Hedges and Birnbaum are fairly young and will benefit from the experience of today’s friendly.
Lastly, I’m going to keep Zusi in a right back but I would like him to split time with Brad Evans at that spot. If only because Evans deserves as many minutes as possible against Jamaica because this goal happened:
Now onto the rest of the diamond midfield. Bradley at the bottom doesn’t surprise anyone but it’s the two shuttlers in the middle that intrigue me here. Sebastian Lletget played well off the bench against Serbia and being an LA Galaxy player under Bruce probably helps his cause here. I want to see Dax McCarty get minutes with the national team as well but I was really hoping to see a midfield triangle of Bradley, Dax and Sacha Kljestan. Well, Kljestan has left camp because his family is expecting a child (Congrats Sacha!) and we’re going to miss out on some of that RBNY chemistry in the middle. That being said, Benny Feilhaber is a solid a replacement for Kljestan as you can find so I think this will work.
I expect to see Chris Pontius at some point in the midfield, possibly as a shuttler but perhaps later in the game out wide if Arena decides to drop back into a 4-2-3-1. The only guy on the roster that hasn’t gotten any minutes would be DaMarcus Beasley so I’d expect to see him at some point, if not to spell young left back Villafana.
I’m going to put the two kids in Morris and Agudelo up front because I want to see the USMNT play with two strikers, I don’t want to hear the name Jozy, and I’m a blatant homer and want to have a matchup section about Agudelo going up against teammate Je-Vaughn Watson.
THE MATCHUP ONLY REVS FANS CARE ABOUT: AGUDELO vs. WATSON
Ah, it’s wonderful to get some Revolution on Revolution national team action in preseason. Juan Agudelo is coming off a spectacular end to the 2016 season where he notched four goals and three assists in seven games in September and October. This surge in offense not only coincided with him being healthy but also the New England Revolution switching to a similar diamond midfield/two striker formation.
Je-Vaughn Watson is a still a high caliber player and his utility in defense and midfield are an asset for both the Revs and Jamaica. Watson has split time mainly as a right back and holding midfielder but has filled in at centerback for his club at times as well. It will be interesting to see Agudelo potentially attacking the flank of his teammate later today if Watson is deployed at right back.
The United States and Jamaica kick off from Finley Stadium in Chattanooga, Tennessee later tonight with coverage beginning at 7PM EST on FS1.