On Friday, the US men’s national team defeated Cuba 2-0 in a poor international friendly. The players aren’t really to blame for the result, as much as the field is. Horribly bumpy and unable to be watered since the stadium had no running water, it was truly fit for a U-8 level match-up.
While just a friendly, the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying kicks off in November with the classic Mexico battle in Columbus, Ohio. Yes, there will be drama and spectacular moments, but all of this is just a formality. The US has already qualified for World Cup 2018 in reality, so lets get to the important part. Who is starting in June 2018 for the Stars & the Stripes?
Part 1 – The Defense
Starter: Brad Guzan – After year’s of sitting in Tim Howard’s shadow, this is Guzan’s team now. He will be 34 in 2016 and likely still playing in either the EPL or the Championship. He will return to the key role for his club side and regain Jurgen’s top spot. The US still needs experience in the back as they will most likely defend more than attack still. Celebrate Brad, this is your one and only World Cup to lead the US defense.
Next up: Bill Hamid – Barring injury, Hamid won’t get his chance to shine on the big stage. However, just securing the #2 spot is a victory considering how much competition there is after Howard and Guzan. Hamid seems locked in at DC United, but a move to Europe would only further cement his chances as the backup.
Starter: DeAndre Yedlin – One of, if the not, most guaranteed selections. Yedlin will turn 25 during the World Cup and is one of the States’ few players at the top level. His speed and attacking efforts are already perfect for a defender, now he just has to learn to defend. He is already great, but needs to be a lock-down right-back versus the quality he will face in the World Cup. Two more seasons in England should have him in fine form for Russia.
Backup: Eric Lichaj
Starters: John Brooks and Steve Birnbaum – Brooks gets the ticket right now. Klinsmann loves him and with another two seasons of experience there doesn’t seem to be any way he isn’t selected. He would need to go on a Donovan-esque smile-finding break to be removed. Getting quality time in Germany, he will be even more sturdy for the World Cup his second time around. His partner could easily be about 6 different players. I’m giving the edge to Birnbaum’s reputation continues to grow each year, and will likely be sold to Europe by that point (Swansea’s new American manager anyone?). He took a viscous boot to the head in today’s match that I suppose is a legal play in Cuba?
Back-ups: Ventura Alvarado & Geoff Cameron
Starter: Fabian Johnson – Switched between a fullback and the midfield, the US needs to use Fabian in the left back spot. Having two solid center defenders and two defensive midfielders (check back next week), both Fabian and DeAndre need to be bombing up and down the flanks as is the meta of the global game. With over 50 caps already, he will also provide the senior leadership in defense for the predicted squad.
Back-up: Brandon Vincent
Stay tuned for parts 2 & 3 next week, predicting the midfield and strikers for the US World Cup 2018 starting line-up.