Sunday, March 26, 2017


With all the missing regulars, am I being greedy to want a win in Panama?

Four more players, including starting left center back John Anthony Brooks, have been released to their clubs. Only Paul Arriola has been added to the mix, so the USMNT now has 23 guys available for selection on Tuesday. You may know them as...

G - David Bingham, Tim Howard, Nick Rimando

D - DaMarcus Beasley, Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron, Omar Gonzalez, Tim Ream, Jorge Villafaña, Walker Zimmerman

M - Kellyn Acosta, Paul Arriola, Alejandro Bedoya, Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Sacha Kljestan, Dax McCarty, Darlington Nagbe, Christian Pulisic, Graham Zusi

F - Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, Chris Wondolowski

So what do we do now? Panama is bound to be angry after losing to Trinidad & Tobago on Friday, so we'll need another big effort to win at their house.

As good as what was essentially a 4-1-4-1 worked against Honduras, and considering how Panama's midfield tends to make plays from deep positions, I'd be inclined to stick with it. But a few changes are required. This is my suggestion:

Replacing Brooks with Besler is a no-brainer. And as he has a good left-side connection that goes back a ways, I'll agree with many of my colleagues that Beasley's cool experience should step in for this road test. As usual, Bedoya kept things safe and running smoothly on the right side against Honduras, so let's stick with that (as much as many of you will balk).

In the international game, building continuity is often as important as skill or tactics, and I certainly wouldn't want to make too many alterations to a group that won 6-0 the last time out.

- Greg Seltzer


jaredlaunius said...

Interesting that you're going Besler at LCB rather than Ream given he replaced Brooks on Friday. Is this just your preference, or your guess at what will happen? I'm inclined to agree with you as, if nothing else separates the two, Besler has played in way more big spots for the national team than Ream. Just unsure if Arena agrees, as it was Ream off the bench Friday. Perhaps he was protecting Besler knowing the game was already in hand and that he'd need him Tuesday?

UnitedDemon said...


I honestly don't remember liking a LB more than Villafana in the last few games... ever. It's a low bar, as left back has never been a particularly strong position. But I see no reason to sit him. He's lacking in experience? So let him gain experience.

DaMa said...

I think I agree that on the road qualifier I would go with Besler over Ream. As mentioned by jared, I wouldn't be surprised if it was Ream as he was first sub for Brooks against Honduras, but that sub was in a game long gone. Could certainly have been just getting a guy some experience with an entirely different story for a road start.

As much as the same logic seems like it might hold with DMB, I think there is a big enough difference in quality btw Villafana and DMB for experience to lose out here. I don't know how fit Jorge is so not sure if this is too quick a turn around for him to go back to back 90's so maybe that comes into play. Even with the fullbacks being asked to mostly stay at home in this formation (which I agree definitely played like a 4-1-4-1), I just think Jorge is clearly the better player.

I also don't love Bedoya on the right but I guess you can rely on him to do the work and stay where he belongs. Jones probably doesn't have the discipline to play that position and help cover a relatively slow RB. Really too bad Lletget got hurt, that role really fit him (or FabJo) well.

Timmy said...

Stupid question...when did we start dressing 23 instead of 18? Couldn't figure that out last game.

Dr.Jon said...

There are so many fluid pieces that I have no idea who Arena will play and you could make all kinds of plus/minus arguments for:
Can you really ask Dempsey to do another 60-70 minutes?

#8 Jones or Bedoya


-----Dempsey ------

Nagbe ----------Pulisic ----------Arriola

------------ Bradley ----------

Villafana-----Ream ------ Gonzalez----Cameron

Areana did bring in Ream before Besler, so maybe he rates him higher?
I am not sure DMB starts at LB after how decent Vilafana was....
Do you sit Jones?? He doesn't fit so well anymore. Jones for Bradley is doubtful.
Bedoya or Arriola? Wasn't Arriola playing LB for a while in Mexico, too?

I guess we will see. Hard to pick a lineup when you don't know the game plan.

Adrian said...

I'd pick Villafana over Beasley. The only way to get experience is to actually play. Villafana and Nagbe worked great together, maybe leftover from their time in Portland together. And Villafana is very strong individually - I see no reason to break up that partnership.

I wouldn't start Dempsey - I don't think he has the legs to do it. I could see starting Klejstan there instead, or maybe Jones - give Jones a license to roam around destroying things for 60 minutes, with Bradley providing stability behind him.

Either way I'm excited to... go to sleep at a reasonable hour and wake up Wednesday morning and watch highlights.

DaMa said...

@Dr. Jon: the other option for Jones is bringing him in central midfield (presumably to deal with a very physical Panama midfield) and move Pulisic out wide where Lletget started. That, of course would play way different than the 4-1-4-1 and would bring up old questions of how do Jones and Bradley work together. My guess is, in that case, it looks more like a 4-2-3-1 (with Bradley still playing the 6 role and Jones a bit more freedom) or even a 4-2-2-2 as both Pulisic and Nagbe tend to cut inside a lot anyway.

Arriola has been playing RWB in Mexico this year and reports have him playing quite well. That being said, road qualifier is a tough place to put faith in him as a starter even if it is at RM and not RB.

jaredlaunius said...

I'm fine with Jones being a bench option to terrorize tired midfields if Bruce thinks that's a good idea, but at this point it's hard for me to see where he starts if Bradley, Nagbe, Bedoya, and Acosta are all healthy. Each is significantly more disciplined than Jones and, even if they don't have his motor, each also brings something Jones doesn't and with much less risk. It's a new generation – time to move on.* I'd honestly rather see the likes of Kitchen, Williams, and/or Hyndman pulled in at this point than continue to run Jones out as a starting CM.

*Note: this evidently doesn't apply to Clint Dempsey, who is a god, it seems.

Patrick said...

With so many no-brainer starters not available, there is no reason not to go with your lineup. I think Jones or Bedoya where Llejet was is fine.

I do think you need one passer from CB. Brooks was the guy in the Brooks/Gonzales pairing. Not sure Beasler is that good at distribution. Ream might be the pick unless you slide Cameron back to CB and pair him with Beasler or Omar.

I don't think Arena is the kind of coach that would drop Omar after one sub-par game. You don't become the kind of coach players love doing that.

I'd be perfectly fine with just starting Friday's line-up again and adding Ream for Brooks. Or putting Zusi at RB and moving Cameron to CB. Does Panama have to wing threats that Honduras had? But if I had to guess, I would think Pulisic goes to RW and Jones comes into the central midfield. 4-2-3-1





I'd love to see Acosta instead of Jones, but maybe in June.

Dr.Jon said...

The more I think about it against a tough tackling Panama team Jones has to be the #8

Unknown said...

our formation in the last game was really more of a 4-3-1-2, with nagbe and lletget both acting as center-mids when we lost the ball, sliding inside to support bradley. pulisic didn't have to slide back as much, and in offense he was flaring wide because nagbe and lletget were often central.

if we stick with the same tactics, i like bedoya there, because he's the same kind of flex-style player as nagbe and lletget. i don't like jones there because i don't think he works as well moving wide, and arriola is probably not as suited when sliding towards the middle.

Altidore - Dempsey
Nagbe - Bradley - Bedoya

Unknown said...

Demps, to start or not to start. That is the question.

Demps is 100% heart he will run and gun for 90 minutes with out a complaint in the world. I could see him starting and doing a solid 60-70. Could also see him coming off the bench and dragging the USA to a win, if needed. The good thing is that Bruce has options and they are all good options.

Greg Seltzer said...

Lots of questions to get through, I like it.

@ jaredlaunius:

First off, the Clipboard and these line-ups are always my preference, and never a guessing game. Now to your main question, I might prefer Ream against a more mobile attack, but Panama tend to play it physical. So I want Besler, who as yo pointed out has more big game experience.

@ UnitedDemon:

I'm not married ot the Beasley choice, but he does have such a great connection with Besler. Nobody loved Villafana's recent outings more than me, but this is one time I could go for the veteran. Or not, it isn't a strong leaning.

@ Timmy:

They went to a full bench last year some time IIRC.

@ Dr.Jon:

"Can you really ask Dempsey to do another 60-70 minutes?"

Good question, and that is probably the limit of what I'd ask from him - hopefully taking him off with a lead to protect.

"Do you sit Jones??"


"Bedoya or Arriola?"

Arriola has played some RB for Tijuana. But Bedoya's possession work and defensive intensity make him my choice for the right side.

@ Adrian:

If Dempsey can't start again, I'd go for Kljestan in his place, switch to a 4-2-3-1, shift Pulisic wide right, and give Acosta the second DM slot.

@ jaredlaunius:

"I'm fine with Jones being a bench option to terrorize tired midfields"

Same here.

@ Patrick:

While Besler is not a particularly incisive passer (like Brooks and Ream are), he does tend to move the ball along safely.

@ Dany Tzvi:

I have seen many people identify the Honduras formation as a 442 diamond, or some such other two-striker set. Not sure what any of these people were seeing. That surely was not playing like two-striker set.

And as you can see from the aggregate touch chart, Pulisic certainly did not spend so much time out wide. But I totally agree with you on the Bedoya or Jones or Arriola as RW topic. You basically took the explanations right out of my mouth.