After playing the same lineup for three straight games and only making one change for the quarterfinal (a change that was necessitated by DeAndre Yedlin's red card), Jurgen Klinsmann's USMNT haven't had to make many decisions concerning their starting lineup. That's a good thing, because their simple 4-4-2 has worked pretty well so far in their run to the semi-final of the 2016 Copa America.
However, three crucial elements of the starting lineup will be suspended for Tuesday's monumental match against Argentina. Jermaine Jones earned himself a red card in the quarterfinal, while Bobby Wood and Alejandro Bedoya will be out on yellow card accumulation. This means Klinsmann will have to make some tough decisions.
Here are some ideas on what they could do:
Keeping the 4-4-2, this lineup would move Gyasi Zardes to center forward (his best position) as a direct replacement for Wood, allowing Clint Dempsey to stay in his favorable second striker position. Christian Pulisic would enter on the right wing in place of Bedoya, while Nagbe would play as an attacking midfielder with the protection of Bradley behind him like Jones did in previous matches.
The biggest change here would be moving Fabian Johnson to his best position, left winger, and inserting Edgar Castillo in as a left back. This would keep Geoff Cameron and John Brooks together in central defense — which is absolutely crucial — but I'm not sure how confident I am in Castillo to adequately defend Argentina's attacking firepower.
This is not a bad lineup, though I sort of doubt Jurgen will go with this because he's Jurgen.
Back to the 4-3-3 we go. Klinsmann puts Dempsey on the wing, which seems bad at first, but then you remember that he could be played as a lone striker, and that would be worse. Zardes would play striker, although I wouldn't bet against seeing Chris Wondolowski up there. If Wondo's the number-nine (which would not be good) then Zardes would be pushed back to the wing, where Pulisic could also be placed.
In the midfield. Bradley would go back to being a box-to-box player (could be better, could be worse), Kyle Beckerman would go back to his role of starting defensive midfielder, and either Nagbe or Graham Zusi (because Jurgen) would get the start ahead of those two. The backline would thankfully stay the same.
I see this as being likelier than the first formation, though it's not what I want to see.
I am not horrified by this lineup.
Zardes would be alright as a center forward, especially with Dempsey sitting behind him, and I like having Nagbe and Pulisic on the wings even though Nagbe is better as a central midfielder. Bradley could step forward and be a deep-lying playmaker with the support of Beckerman behind him, and the backline stays the same. It could be better, but it could be a whole lot worse.
My main problem here is that this lineup (and the 4-3-3 above) would be breaking the trio of Bradley-Cameron-Brooks that has been so successful. It would be hard to see that go, but it just might be necessary.
Worst-case scenario time. I mean, this apocalyptic right here.
Let's start in the back: Klinsmann takes Brooks out and puts Steve Birnbaum in because tinkering. He uses Beckerman and Perry Kitchen (who is thrown into the fire on his competitive debut and then gets subbed out in the 30th-minute Alejandro Bedoya-style) in defensive midfield behind the US's star number-six, Bradley, who is back to playing as the No. 10 that he is not. Dempsey is taken out of the starting lineup (Klinsmann's excuse is he wanted to play him as a super-sub) and Wondolowski is slotted in as a lone striker ahead Zardes and Pulisic.
I don't expect to happen. I know Klinsmann isn't stupid enough to take Brooks out (to be honest, nobody's stupid enough to do that, maybe besides Juan Carlos Osorio) and I seriously doubt Beckerman and Kitchen get in together. Dempsey will never be excluded because he's Clint Dempsey.
I just had to get that out of my system.
I like this one the best. Bradley stays in as a defensive midfielder in front of Brooks and Cameron, Nagbe plays ahead of the captain, Pulisic gets the start out on the right wing, Dempsey plays as a second striker next to Zardes, and Graham Zusi is on the left wing to provide defensive help.
Look familiar? That's because this is identical to the first lineup except for Zusi and Johnson playing in midfield and on the backline. I hope this is what Klinsmann does.
Have a preference? A totally different idea? Please yell at me in the comments. Give Klinsmann even more ideas on the off chance he is reading this.