The US national team's October camp is officially in the rear-view mirror, and now all the focus turns towards the upcoming World Cup Qualifier against Mexico in what US fans will hope is another Dos a Cero triumph. Much will be at stake when the North American powers collide in the latest chapter of their long-standing rivalry, and which players each team should start in order to prevail will be the subject of much debate.
For US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, there seems to be a plethora of options to choose from for the opening fixture of the final round of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying on Nov. 11 in Columbus. Klinsmann will naturally want to go with the strongest lineup possible for the showdown at MAPFRE Stadium, but choosing who does and does not belong in that group will be far from easy. Klinsmann himself even said, ahead of Tuesday's 1-1 draw with New Zealand, that he only had five or six of his starting XI to take on Mexico penciled in, according to ESPN color commentator Taylor Twellman.
From figuring out a center-back tandem to assessing who will start in goal to identifying what formation should be used, the German coach has plenty to mull over in the coming weeks as the highly-anticipated match draws near. All those aspects will be important as the Americans look to extend their World Cup Qualifying streak of Dos a Cero victories over El Tri in frigid Columbus, and those aspects will certainly be discussed plenty by fans and observers of both squads in the coming weeks.
Assuming Klinsmann sticks to his guns and goes with the more-often used 4-4-2 system than the 4-3-3 he deployed against New Zealand, here is the starting 11 we project will take the field vs. Mexico:
Tim Howard - Jurgen Klinsmann put a halt to the competition for the No. 1 spot in between the pipes when he named Brad Guzan the starting goalkeeper for the Copa América Centenario this summer, but the lack of minutes that Guzan has seen at Middlesbrough this season will certainly have Klinsmann reconsidering things.
With so much at stake vs. Mexico and little separating Guzan and Howard right now given how even their recent performances have been for country, form on the club level could be the deciding factor. That tips the scales in Howard's favor, as he has been starting and surely will continue to do so for the Colorado Rapids as the MLS season winds down and playoffs approach.
Geoff Cameron, Omar Gonzalez, John Brooks, Fabian Johnson - Three out of the four positions here seem up for grabs, especially right back given that Klinsmann was critical Tuesday of DeAndre Yedlin's performances in the US's previous two camps. If Yedlin's most recent outings have not convinced Klinsmann, Geoff Cameron seems the likely candidate to fill in by sliding over from central defense.
Moving Cameron to the right flank would leave a hole next to presumed center back John Brooks, and there is a bevy of options for Klinsmann to choose from here. Omar Gonzalez would appear to have the advantage over the likes of Matt Besler and Steve Birnbaum, however, given that he plays in Liga MX, is seeing the field regularly unlike Besler, and is experienced in World Cup Qualifiers unlike Birnbaum.
At left back, Fabian Johnson will probably continue to be the choice. It might be tempting to want to throw Johnson into the midfield vs. Mexico, but starting Kellyn Acosta against Mexico is asking a lot of the promising FC Dallas up-and-comer.
Alejandro Bedoya, Michael Bradley, Sacha Kljestan, Christian Pulisic - While Jermaine Jones could be an option in central midfield if he finally fully recovers from his injury, the partnership that Michael Bradley and Sacha Kljestan have developed in recent outings points to them getting the nod. Having the more attack-minded Kljestan next to Bradley allows Klinsmann to not have to use Bradley higher up the field, and gives the US captain the chance to play in the box-to-box role that he is better suited for.
Out on the left flank, starting Christian Pulisic should be a no-brainer. Julian Green may have helped his own case for minutes with his performances in the October friendlies, but Pulisic still seems to be a step or two ahead of the Bayern Munich youngster given that he sees the field for Borussia Dortmund regularly and has earned the trust of Klinsmann in recent camps.
The right side of the midfield looks to be more wide open, but Alejandro Bedoya will likely be the choice here. Not only does Bedoya have a two-way style of play that will be needed against El Tri, but he has also plenty of experience in big games and is seeing the field regularly for the Philadelphia Union.
Jozy Altidore, Bobby Wood - With Clint Dempsey out due to the irregular heartbeat that has ruled him out for the rest of the MLS season, the two forward positions are Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood's to lose. Jordan Morris, Aron Johannsson, Terrence Boyd, and Juan Agudelo are all options, of course, but none have done enough in recent international outings to prove they are worth starting over the in-form Altidore and Wood.
Howard; Cameron, Gonzalez, Brooks, Johnson; Bedoya, Bradley, Kljestan, Pulisic; Altidore, Wood.