USMNT Goals to Accomplish
In recent memory, the USMNT find themselves in an unusual position. After dropping all six points at home against Mexico and Costa Rica, the US find themselves in fourth place with two to go (in Orlando on Friday against Panama and in Couva, Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday). Luckily for the US, they have a chance to jump into the top three with a win over Panama, as Panama is a point ahead of the US. And even if the US doesn’t jump Panama and finishes in fourth, they can still qualify for the 2018 World Cup via a playoff. But with that being said, what goals should the USMNT over these next couple of days?
Finish ahead of Panama
Obviously in order for Bruce Arena to figure out the starting 11 and key reserves for the 2018 World Cup, the USMNT first needs to qualify for the World Cup! If they don’t jump Panama, it won’t matter if someone steps up to prove they’re the other midfielder that should start next to Michael Bradley or if Guzan or Howard jumps the other and becomes the #1 option in goal. The US MUST jump Panama. If they don’t, things will get ugly for Arena and some of the veterans on the team.
Figure out who’s Michael Bradley’s midfield partner
Like I mentioned earlier, someone needs to step up in the midfield. With the US normally running a 4-4-2, they need to find Michael Bradley a partner in the center of the midfield. Kellyn Acosta appeared to be the answer earlier this summer, he’ll need to solidify that spot in the starting 11. He does have some competition to fend off, as Arena also has Alejandro Bedoya and Darlington Nagbe. And while I do believe that Acosta is the best option to play alongside Bradley, whoever comes out on top will have earned that spot in the starting lineup.
Tim Howard or Brad Guzan?
After the Belgium game in the 2014 World Cup, there was no doubt in my mind that Tim Howard would be the starting goalie in 2018. But like Alexi Lalas said in his rant a few weeks ago, that game was three years ago; he needs to step up now. Neither has been impressive so far in qualifying and that concerns me a bit. With all the uncertainty surround the USMNT right now, you would’ve like to see one of the veteran goalies step up and take over that #1 spot instead of it still being a revolving door between the two. I do still believe that Howard will be the #1 option next summer, Guzan can still has a shot at passing Howard.
There are a few other questions that need to be answered before next summer, but they can’t be right now. The first one that still needs to be answered is where is Fabian Johnson going to lineup for the US (wasn’t called up for qualifying). He normally plays on the left side of the midfield, but with DaMarcus Beasley’s age and lack of other left back options, Johnson might be forced to play in that left back spot.
And the final question I still have is what is the center back pairing? John Brooks is hurt and is definitely one of the two (or three is Arena changes it up like he did at the Azteca), but is it Geoff Cameron or Omar Gonzalez starting next to Brooks? Center back is the deepest position for the US, but the second and third options (in some order) haven’t been impressive and have made some critical mistakes in qualifying. Whoever Arena picks to start with Brooks will need time to get in sync with each other.
But like I said earlier, the US needs to qualify for the World Cup or these questions won’t matter.