Welcome to this week’s edition of the Upgrade, a new series tracking MLS players in EA SPORTS FIFA 17. Check out the previous installment here. This week we’re putting together some USMNT lineups for their Friday night World Cup Qualifying match against Honduras (10:30 pm ET, FS1, UniMás).
Last week, I thought my hands were shaking because of caffeine, but as the days tick away and the shaking gets worse, my new theory is that I’m pretty nervy about these matches. And things could go a few different ways tonight.
Unfortunately for the USMNT, a number of injuries have risen up and put a number of usual faces out of commission for this call-up. Still, it's fun to play around with a few different permutations in the world of FIFA 17, using only USMNTers and evaluating them by their player rating.
What could actually happen tonight
I know a lot of you will roll your eyes upon seeing Alejandro Bedoya as Michael Bradley’s central midfield partner, but Bedoya brings the kind of unreal stamina and ability to link passes that you need to make this kind of lineup work. He’s not flashy or incredibly quick, but he’s a solid player who has great range.
You also might be surprised to see DaMarcus Beasley over Jorge Villafaña, but even though DMB is fast approaching 35 years old, age is just a number. And in FIFA, it’s just a data point. The dude can still fly. His acceleration rating is 81 and his sprint speed rating is 80, and his stamina is rated at 81 as well. Not only can Beasley kill it on the overlap, he can do it the whole darn match.
The front four of this lineup is built around pace and power, and both Darlington Nagbe and Christian Pulisic are a ton of fun to play with.
This is a well-balanced lineup and I think, in real life, it could provide the structure and experience needed for this squad to prevail under very high pressure. In FIFA 17, it might be a lineup that’s on the meat-and-potatoes side of things, but the odds are that it won’t get cracked open on the counterattack against a speedy team, which is a very good thing. Up top, there is more than enough firepower to get the job done.
What I'd rather use in FIFA
I had to think about this one a little bit. In FIFA 17, center backs are really important, so even though Geoff Cameron is the best individual right back replacement on this roster, he’s also one half of the best center back pairing. Gotta keep that spine intact, folks.
So, at right back, I put Graham Zusi, because why the heck not. I want him swinging in crosses, connecting with the midfielders in the attacking half of the field, and maybe getting a couple of shots off more than I care about whether or not he has the wheels to recover on a quick counterattack from Honduras. His attacking upside is greater than his defensive shortcomings are.
My next dilemma was who to put in front of Michael Bradley. I was torn between Sebastian Lletget, who impressed me a ton during his first outings with the USMNT, and Sacha Kljestan, who has the attacking attributes and chemistry with Nagbe and Pulisic to really be a game-changer in these upcoming matches.
I went with Kljestan. He has the edge on Lletget in passing, mental, non-speed physical, and defending attributes, and has proven himself capable of hitting the final pass necessary to turn promising attacks into goals. For what it’s worth, I really hope we see Lletget get some minutes in the real-life match.
One more FIFA line-up, purely for fun
Ok so I know what you’re thinking: Jermaine Jones in goal? No way, my guy! Well actually, as his international career has progressed, he's moved further and further back on the pitch, playing as a center back as recently as 2015. The natural progression of this trend means that before long, he’ll find his way into a pair of goalkeeping gloves.
Okay, not really, but now we're just talking about the fantasy world of gaming. Imagine, if you will, opposing forwards going up for headers against Jones, who is a human helicopter blade? I don’t think so. He wins that battle 10 times out of 10.
As for the rest of this lineup, I think it speaks for itself. It’s very balanced, has great chemistry, and possesses the kind of heart, grit, determination, and underdog spirit that makes the USMNT special. Also, this match is being played at Avaya Stadium, which Wondo’s San Jose Earthquakes call home. You really can’t overstate home field advantage in a situation like this, people.
Anyways, that does it for me. I’m mostly confident in Bruce Arena to put out a strong lineup, and I’m equally confident that the U.S. will get the job done under pressure. If they don’t, I will continue to take my anger and disappointment out on opposing teams in FIFA 17.