It’ll be interesting to see who Bradley starts in this one. i felt that 10 of the starting 11 for the Guatemala game were pretty obvious (Twellman being the only exception), but with the short rest (only 1 full day after a very physical game in which the US had to finish with 10 players), no Onyewu, a weaker opponent, and sole possession of first place in the group, I see a lot of question marks for today’s starting lineup. Expect to see Howard back between the sticks again, but after that, it gets interesting. We will probably get a very different look in the back. I don’t expect the 32 year-old Frankie Hejduk to be back in the starting line-up after he went the full 90 at right-back on Thursday and picked up a yellow card. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Thursday’s starting left-back Jonathan Bornstein begin the game on the substitute’s bench after two average performances over the last week. This means that the 22 year-old Sheffield United right-back Frank Simek and the 21 year-old West Ham United defender may get the nod in the starting line-up today. Spector had a rather shaky performance last Saturday in the friendly against China while Simek came on very late in the same match. With Gooch suspended for his sending-off against Guatemala, I expect Jay DeMerit, who stepped in well against Guatemala on Thursday, to get his second career start for the National Team. DeMerit has performed extremely well for Watford over the last two seasons and had a solid National Team debut ina friendly against Guatemala in March. Gooch’s suspension presents DeMerit with a big opportunity. I would expect Carlos Bocanegra, who has captained the Americans the last two matches, to remain in the line-up in what should be an otherwise inexperienced back-field. Youngster Michael Parkhurst will probably be named to the substitute’s bench and very well may get his first cap for the United States. Although Bradley certainly has the options to continue to use his seemingly preferred 4-man backfield, considering the circumstances, I would not be surprised to see him go go with a three-man unit consisting of Bocanegra, DeMerit, and Spector with a pair of holding mids (Bradley and Rico Clark??). This group may lack some pace, but I certainly think it could work against a depleted Trinidadian side.
In the midfield, I expect Benny Feilhaber to return to the line-up in the linking playmaker role that he is quickly growing into, but he will probably see at least one or two new faces around him. Ricardo Clark, who I felt performed well in the January friendly against Denmark, could crack today’s starting line-up as a holding-mid in place of Michael Bradley or even along with the younger Bradley. In my little Gold Cup preview, I mentioned that I would like to see Bradley try Justin Mapp out on the right. I may or may not get my wish in that respect, but I do expect Mapp to see mintutes today, possibly in the starting 11 for Demarcus Beasley, who took quite a physical beating at the hands of the Guatemalans. Although I think Landon Donovan is at his best up front, he played very well out on the right Thursday and I would not be at all surpirse to see him back there today.
Bradley’s options up front are also very intriguing. I felt that Taylor Twellman played well against Guatemala. Although he didn’t score, he was very effective as a playmaker, combining well on a few occasions, opening up space for his teammates, and setting up the only US goal. However, the Twellman nay-sayers will still be looking for him to score in international competition. I do expect Twellman to get a rest today after a phyiscally demanding opening game and make way for either Brian Ching or Eddie Johnson. Johnson did not really impress as a substitute against Guatemala, but his recent form in MLS cannot be ignored. I expect Eddie to get start before the group stage is through. I am perhaps most interested to see how Clint Dempsey figures it today’s match. Coming off his game-winner on Thursday, Dempsey could begin this match up-front as an out-and-out forward (like Thursday), centrally as a withdrawn forward, out on the right as a wide-midfielder, or even on the bench after he, like Beasley, was the victim of some overly aggressive tackling by the Guatemalans. Hopefully, it will be a long tournement for this team and there’s no reason to wear down guys like Dempsey, Beasley, and Donovan this early. I would also not be surprised to see Landon Donovan up front for this match. I think that he’s at this best up front and I believe that it was more of tactical move on Bradley’s part by playing Donovan on the right. He put two bigger, more physical players up front in Twellman and Dempsey and slid Donovan out wide where he could find more space and avoid the physical pounding that he would have gotten playing centrally as an out-and-out forward. In other words, although Donovan played well on the right, I would not be surprised if he is back up top or in the middle as an attacking midfielder today.
With all of these uncertainties about the line-up, I don’t expect to come nearly as close to projecting the starting 11 as I did Thursday, but here goes…..