After Bruce Arena’s first camp back in charge, the USMNT came away with a victory over Jamaica and a draw with a weak Serbian side. Some players stood out, while others showed they are unfit for the national team. Overall, this camp was a good evaluation of the MLS player pool. Even though this camp was only a January Camp, which tends to be more about fitness, there are several things to watch come World Cup Qualifying.
Things to Watch for the Next Round of USMNT World Cup Qualifiers
What formation does the US lineup in?
Against Serbia, Arena rolled out a traditional 4-2-3-1 formation, while against Jamaica, they played a 4-1-3-2. Under former manager Jurgen Klinsmann, the US played a 4-4-2, 4-3-3, and 3-5-2. Clearly, Arena has a plethora of formations at his disposal.
The formation will depend on his strategy, but a two forward set up would maximize two of the US’s in-form players, Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood. Either a 4-4-2 or a 4-1-3-2 would best suit these players.
Here is one possible lineup:
Who starts in goal?
Right now, the USMNT doesn’t have a clear starter in goal for the first time in the 21st century. Tim Howard is injured, and may not be ready for WCQ. Brad Guzan is sitting on the bench at Middlesbrough. Ethan Horvath transferred this January from Molde to Club Brugge and hasn’t played yet. Finally, ever-reliable Nick Rimando is always available to be called up, even though Jurgen Klinsmann had begun to push him out at the end of his time in charge.
If Howard is hurt, Guzan will most likely start. However, Rimando may start due to him receiving regular playing time. If Howard is healthy, he will be the starter.
Where will Fabian Johnson play?
Fabian Johnson is the USMNT best left back, left winger, and arguably best right winger and possibly best right back too. Johnson is so versatile, which puts Bruce Arena in a pickle. For his club, Borussia Monchengladbach, he plays left winger. Also, Johnson has also indicated in the past he prefers to play on the wing because it makes his transition to the national team easier. But, the left back pool was relatively weak.
Jurgen Klinsmann was reluctant to play Johnson on the wing because he felt the team overall was better as there weren’t strong left back candidates. However, Bruce Arena hasn’t indicated where he wants to play Johnson. Also, in the January Camp, Jorge Villafana emerged as a possible option at left back. If Villafana can prove to be steady there, that would allow Johnson to slide into the midfield. In order to solidify the position, Villafana will also have to win back the starting position at Santos Laguna. He hasn’t started consistently since 2015 when he won the MLS cup with the Portland Timbers.
Where does Jermaine Jones fit in?
Jermaine Jones is suspended for the first game, but he will most likely be included in the roster. Arena has indicated he will still be involved in the team despite his age. Jones is not as mobile as he once was, but he still has the roaming mentality. The issue with playing Jones is that whenever him and Bradley play together, only one of them have a good game. Ultimately, Jones should be sacrificed for someone like Sebastian Lletget, who would pair better with Bradley. How Arena addresses this issue could be the difference between qualifying and not qualifying for the World Cup.
The USA hosts Honduras on March 24 and travels to Panama on March 28.