World Cup 2018 is less than two years away and the CONCACAF hex starts next month. The USMNT has a lot of options in midfield, but who will be starting?
Last week after the US earned a bumpy (literally) 2-0 win over Cuba, we began our look at who Jurgen might be starting in Russia in just under two years. First off, catch up on where we are by looking at the predictions for goalkeeper and the back four – USMNT World Cup 2018 Lineup Predictions Part 1.
Before going any further we should briefly discuss the formation. Far too often the US has gone with a 4-2-3-1 and played defensively against the bigger teams. The US needs to want to win the World Cup, not just defend until eliminated. To win, we should want not only to score but to possess the ball. Thus, I’m going with a 4-4-2 line-up to put more focus on the attacking end of the pitch.
Starter: Christian Pulisic – The boy wonder. Jurgen loves talent, but loves European experience even more. Pulisic has both and a long runway to grow. He needs to be in every single hex match to get time with the first team and prove that he can be a spark to consistently win tough matches. While the depth in this side is suspect for true right wingers, just get talent out there and it’ll shine through. A breakout performance against Mexico in Columbus in November will super charge that hype train.
Backup: Ethan Finley
Center Midfield (Defensive):
Starter: Michael Bradley – Bradley has been at the center of this team for years now, but will survive to the next World Cup. Many stalwarts like Donovan, Jones, and Beckerman have passed their best days for the US (on in Donovan’s case left out, retired, and returned – to the MLS). Bradley has stretches where he is solid but not great. However, someone has to come take the spot from him. He would need a very bad 2017 in MLS to lose is starting role. However, if Nagbe and Pulisic have a dominate 12-16 months ahead, especially in the qualifiers I could see either of them taking his spot.
Backup: Graham Zusi
Center Midfield (Attacking):
Starter: Sacha Kljestan – Gone from consideration to World Cup starter? Sacha is the MLS poster boy for consistent play leading to national team opportunities. His link up play with BWP and the Red Bulls attackers is the top reason they have been at the top of the league this year and last. He is in fine form, heaps of experience, and excellent in-game awareness. Nagbe is uber-talented, but Sacha is a better game manager. At his current level, I’d rather have Nagbe clipping at someone else’s heels (and spot). Plus he has the support of a prominent fan.
Backup: Darlington Nagbe
Starter: Alejandro Bedoya – Often gets overlooked by most of the coverage of the USMNT as he (a) isn’t in MLS, (b) isn’t a bright, promising young talent, and (c) came up in the shadows of much bigger personalities in the middle of the park. Bedoya offers everything Klinsmann wants. International experience, can attack and defends, better yet he wants to do both, and usually has a cool head. After Bradley, he is the most sure bet for a spot in Russia unless his form dramatically dips in the hex.
Backup: Brek Shea – The Orlando man was hurt for a long stretch and has been moved from midfield to a more defensive role. Having him on the Left with Fabian could give you two great overlapping options to interchange. If Break can have a strong 2017 in MLS, he may push into the spot from a versatility point of view during matches. This guy for the US in Russia – yeah.
— Taylor Sturm (@TSturmRS) July 24, 2016
Check back in later this week for part 3 of this series, predicting the attacking front two for the US at World Cup 2018.