Soccer Outsider: Previewing the USA-Honduras World Cup qualifier

socceroutsiderOn Wednesday afternoon, World Cup qualifying starts for super duper double-dog real for the U.S. men’s soccer team. The first round isn’t a big deal — at least it’s not supposed to be. Matches against Antigua & Barbuda aren’t supposed to be as exciting as they actually were. The first round is supposed to be relaxing — that’s why the matches are played in beautiful, sun-soaked Caribbean countries. You’re supposed to win by six goals and then hit the beach.

For once, I pretty much completely agree with Jurgen Klinsmann’s roster. That might be partly due to a lack of good options; with Steve Cherundolo injured, Clarence Goodson on winter break and Landon Donovan backpacking through the mountains of Tibet or whatever he’s doing, the decisions kind of make themselves.

I’m afraid that Coach Juergen Klinsmann is going to put out another wing-less midfield. You can’t put four central midfielders in a midfield for the same reason you can’t put four ska bands on a concert bill: not enough variety (actually, the optimal number of ska bands at a concert is zero). Yet I wouldn’t be surprised to see something like this:

————–Altidore———–Gomez—————–
Jones—————-Dempsey—————Bradley
————————Williams————————–
Johnson—–Bocanegra—-Cameron—-Chandler
————————–Howard————————–

There’s a decent amount of offense in this lineup, but for me there’s not enough width. Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones drift towards the middle, and Clint Dempsey only plays wide if you put him there. It becomes too easy to clog the middle, which is what most teams do against us anyway. I would tweak it just a little and do this:

————–Altidore———–Gomez—————–
Dempsey———Jones——-Bradley———-Zusi
Johnson—–Bocanegra—-Cameron—-Chandler
————————–Howard————————–

Basically, I prefer Graham Zusi to Daniel Williams, partly due to form and partly due to style (Williams has shown he is simply not a winger). I can’t be accused of hometown favoritism because I have the other two Terrapins (Maurice Edu and Omar Gonzalez) manning the Gatorade bottles. I put Dempsey on the left, where he often plays and plays very well. Left midfield is just as important as any other position; it’s not the dumping ground for the weakest part of your team like, say, the Department of Transportation (take that, Ray LaHood!).

The back line is pretty settled; the only real question is whether you prefer Carlos Bocanegra or Gonzalez. I haven’t seen Boca play recently, but if his form has dipped at all, I’d switch to Gonzalez. Herculez Gomez is finally starting for Santos and is a solid option. If Klinsmann doesn’t start and cap-tie Timothy Chandler, he is insane (which I already suspect). Cap-tying is the only thing in life more permanent than parrot ownership and Catholic marriage; let’s end the Timothy Chandler saga once and for all on Wednesday.

My prediction: a draw. A 0-0 draw. It will be a match so bleak that we won’t be mad that beIN Sport Grinch-ily stole it from us. To me, a draw would be a decent outcome, partly because road matches are difficult in CONCACAF and partly because it’ll allow me to nitpick Klinsmann’s decisions from my bubble of non-accountability (which, as a blogger, is basically my job). Like many fans, I’m wary of the national team’s direction right now, but I’ll start to feel better if we get a result in Honduras.

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