It’s a polarizing topic that even has FS1’s Copa America analysts split.
While US Hall of Famer Alexi Lalas is convinced Seattle Sounders star Clint Dempsey should be part of a two-man starting forward line for the US, former US women’s star Aly Wagner argues he should come off the bench for the USA.
So we asked our editors: Should Dempsey be a starter or should he come off the bench vs. Costa Rica?
ARIELLE CASTILLO: Only One Mr. Reliable
I know there are a few people chomping at the bit to chuck Clint, but going into a do-or-die game, cool heads should prevail. Yes, Bobby Wood and Gyasi Zardes would do well up top, but among the bunch, only Dempsey brings his level of experience in high-pressure, international play. When Dempsey delivers, he really delivers.
MATT DOYLE: Must-Win? Must Have Dempsey
Deuce should start. I understand the impetus behind talking about benching him -- he's a luxury player at this point in his career. But that luxury (goals in big games!) is one the US can't afford to be without in a must-win game, and a smart manager can structure the team behind him in a way that minimizes his defensive shortcomings.
ANDREW WIEBE: You Start The Man
I know it’s en vogue to suggest Dempsey’s time as a USMNT starter is over – if Klinsmann makes wholesale changes again, isn’t that just another unfamiliar XI? – but let’s get real here. Tuesday is do or die. Draw (meh, the US will take it) or win (knockouts are within reach) are the only results worth talking about. Who on this team can create something out of nothing? Who can spend 89 minutes looking disinterested then change the game in a split second? Who else has consistently come through with goals when it matters most? Deuce, that’s who. You start the man. Period.
SIMON BORG: Tactics Call For Change
When your back is against the wall, when the pressure is at its greatest, you go with what you know. And for more than a decade US fans have only known Dempsey and his 49 career goals. So I get the reluctance to make a change. It’s always safer to stick with the status quo.
But the specific match-up against Costa Rica calls for mobile players who can attack the space between their center backs and behind their marauding fullbacks who form a five-man defensive set. You need strong runners who can split the Ticos’ compact shape. Pitting a less mobile Dempsey all by himself against three Costa Rican center backs is setting him up to fail. When you’re in must-win mode, you don’t get cute. You game plan for the match-up.