Welcome back to the Thursday Q&A series, where we focus on one particular topic – today's being the start of World Cup qualifying in CONCACAF – and ask you to react, share, and discuss in the comments section. However, feel free to ask about anything game-related (MLS, USL, NASL, USMNT, CanMNT, etc.) over the next several hours.
Friday's World Cup qualifier for the US men's national team against St. Vincent & the Grenadines (7 pm ET; ESPN | WatchESPN | UniMas | UDN) in St. Louis marks the official beginning of another cycle.
Beginnings are a time for optimism. They're a time for renewal, and a time for the shedding of old skins. They're a time to be daring and inquisitive and opportunistic.
And the optimistic side of me looks at this US roster and likes the pieces. More importantly, I'm going to be optimistic (results pending) that Jugen Klinsmann will finally start using camps to build cohesion through planned, incremental progress rather than using camps for either 1) ruthless weeding out of dissenters, or 2) wild and aimless experimentation.
I'm going to believe that, after four-and-a-half years in charge, Klinsmann is ready to start building an attacking, proactive side that plays primarily out of a 4-3-3. This was his stated goal upon taking the job, and now is as good a time as any for a gulp of Kool-Aid.
Here is the lineup I'd like to see from the US:
There are a few of issues here. The most obvious is that Morris would be playing a pretty new role, and that Johnson has not looked comfortable at right back for the US in more than a year. I think it's safe to say, at this point, that it's not his natural position.
It is, however, the position Klinsmann seems to think is his best one, so let's pencil him in there. As for Morris... obviously he's been mostly a forward throughout his career, but just as obvious is that he has the tools you'd want from an inverted winger. Starting him on the left is a risk I'm willing to take because I think he'd offer field coverage and off-the-ball penetration to balance Zardes's more conservative attacking game on the other flank.
The other issue is, of course, central midfield, as starting Nagbe in his first appearance contains a certain amount of risk. I'd argue, however, that failing to put an adequate amount of skill and attacking intent into central midfield brings greater risk, and the US have been paying the price for that over the past 18 months.
A few notes:
• I think it's crazy that Ethan Finlay and Eric Lichaj are not part of this group. Finlay is a multi-faceted attacker who can solve multiple issues with his field-stretching, goal-scoring and chance creation, while Lichaj is a solid and experienced fullback who'd allow Johnson to move to his more natural wing position.
• I'm disappointed that there's still no clear back-up for Beckerman. Danny Williams, Alfredo Morales, Wil Trapp, Perry Kitchen, Matt Polster, Victor Ulloa... there's plenty of choices, and plenty of need.
If the US have a multiple-goal lead (and we should -- Vincy Heat are true minnows), I hope Klinsmann burns a sub to cap-tie Matt Miazga.
• I don't hate the Clint Dempsey omission for this game, though it sure does worry me for Tuesday's trip to Port-of-Spain.
Ok folks, I'm around for the next few hours to answer a few questions. Let's have at it!