If you are a U.S. national team fan getting ready for Wednesday’s friendly against the Czech Republic—the team’s first since the World Cup— there is a good chance you really want to see the really young players get a run out.
Admit it. You hope Jurgen Klinsmann takes his six uncapped players, and four teenagers, and throws them into the deep end of the international pool to see who sinks, and more importantly, who can swim. As much fun as it might be to see Klinsmann treat this friendly like an impromptu soccer version of The Hunger Games, the reality is he has enough older, more experienced players in the squad to field a pretty solid lineup capable of addressing some questions of its own.
Questions such as which of this group’s veterans will step up to be real leaders? Klinsmann’s appointment of Jozy Altidore as captain of the match suggest he wants the Sunderland striker stepping up his role on the team, both on and off the field. That may seem a peculiar choice given Altidore’s reputation as not being the hardest worker in the group. Whether that reputation is fair or not, Altidore also has a reputation as a good teammate and leader among younger players, character traits Klinsmann must surely appreciate now that he has gone with a full-blown youth movement in an attempt to rejuvenate the player pool.
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Another question is how will the experience of the World Cup affect players like John Brooks and Julian Green? The Czech Republic friendly will offer the first post-Brazil look at Brooks and Green in U.S. uniforms, and both should have walked into this camp with more confidence than in past call-ups after having gone through the experience of a World Cup. Brooks and Green didn’t just play in one, they both scored in one, and it will be interesting to see how that experience helps them handle increased national team roles.
The goalkeeper position is being set up as a competition between Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando for the chance to take the vacancy left by Tim Howard’s year-long sabbatical from the national team, but it’s tough to see Guzan not winding up the starter considering his level of play for Aston Villa. Klinsmann has told reporters both will play against the Czech Republic, but it should only be a matter of time before he grabs the No. 1 jersey.
So what lineup can we expect to see face the Czechs? Here is look at the squad Klinsmann is likely to turn to:
Fabian Johnson, John Brooks, Michael Orozco, Timmy Chandler
The U.S. team in Prague will actually be able to field a strong back four, considering Fabian Johnson and Timmy Chandler are starting caliber fullbacks and Brooks showed in Brazil he can perform at a high level. With Brooks a preferred left center back option to Tim Ream, Michael Orozco seems well-suited to work alongside Brooks.
Chandler will have his chance to show he can step in and replace DaMarcus Beasley at left back, while also holding off a potential challenge from Greg Garza in the long term.
Alejandro Bedoya, Joe Corona, Mix Diskerud
Klinsmann has some good central midfield options, with World Cup snub Joe Corona back in the fold along with Mix Diskerud. If Klinsmann goes with a 4-3-3, he could go with a triangle featuring Corona, Diskerud and Alejandro Bedoya. A 4-4-2 could have Corona and Diskerud in the middle, with Julian Green and Bedoya on the wings.
Of the uncapped players, Klinsmann could give a look to Alfredo Morales, who starts for Bundelsiga 2 side FC Ingolstadt 04 in a defensive midfield role. He could help give the midfield some balance, and could free up Bedoya to play in a more advanced role.
Jozy Altidore, Bobby Wood, Julian Green
Altidore will serve as the target forward in whatever system Klinsmann turns to, with speedsters Green and Joe Gyau among his options to provide pace on the flanks in a 4-3-3. 1860 Munich forward Bobby Wood is another forward option to consider if Klinsmann decides to go with a 4-4-2, though getting a look at an Altidore-Green pairing would be intriguing.
Will we see much of the the likes of Rubio Rubin, Emerson Hyndman and Jordan Morris on Wednesday? Rubin was reportedly putting in work with what looked like a first-team group in Prague, but seeing any of the uncapped teenagers play more than a few minutes seems unlikely, with their call-ups more about getting the chance to introduce them to the national team setup than about expecting any of them to be ready to play significant minutes.
Their chances will come with time. As young as the U.S. squad in the Czech Republic is, we should see plenty of familiar faces, albeit in new roles, and in some cases, more important roles.