One of the most exciting aspects of the US most recent qualifying wins wasn’t just that they scored a bunch of goals, it was the way that they were attacking and scoring. I realize that the lighter competition was a big part of this, but we showed some signs of life and aspects of play that previous starting lineups couldn’t deliver. Jurgen Klinsmann opted for several new or younger players in the starting lineup. Much of this had to do with suspensions and injuries, but it opened the door for a little different look to our team in the last two games, a different look to our play and certainly a different result.
USMNT Starting XI vs Columbia (2015 Copa America 3rd Place Game)
DeAndre Yedlin Geoff Cameron Matt Besler Michael Orozco
Alejandro Bedoya Jermaine Jones Michael Bradley
Bobby Wood Clint Dempsey Gyasi Zardes
Subs: Darlington Nagbe (Bradley), Christian Pulisic (Bedoya)
Average age starting lineup: 29.5
Average age after subs: 29.1
USMNT Starting XI vs St. Vincent & Grenadine (2016 World Cup Qualifying Semi-Final Round)
DeAndre Yedlin Geoff Cameron Matt Besler Kellyn Acosta
Alejandro Bedoya Kyle Beckerman Graham Zusi Fabian Johnson
Bobby Wood Jozy Altidore
Subs: Sasha Kljestan (Bedoya), Christian Pulisic (Johnson), Jordan Morris (Altidore)
Average age starting lineup: 28
Average age after subs: 27.7
USMNT Starting XI vs Trinidad & Tobago (2016 World Cup Qualifying Semi-Final Round)
Geoff Cameron Steve Birnbaum Omar Gonzalez Fabian Johnson
Alejandro Bedoya Michael Bradley Sacha Kljestan Christian Pulisic
Bobby Wood Jozy Altidore
Subs: Paul Arriola (Bedoya), Caleb Stanko (Kljestan), Jordan Morris (Wood)
Average age starting lineup: 28.1
Average age after subs: 26.5
As you can see we saw one of the youngest lineups we’ve fielded in some time and that included Tim Howard (age 37), Cameron (age 31), Bedoya and Bradley (age 29) driving that average up. It wasn’t just exciting to see young players on the field because most of that team will be in their prime come the 2018 World Cup. It was exciting because we saw a slightly different style of play that was energizing.
Granted it was against a much weaker opponent in Trinidad and Tobago, but we showed a possession and aggressive passing game of soccer. That may not be replicated against the top teams in the world yet, but they showed us a promising young core that might be able to pull it off. Take a look at the buildup play for Arriola’s goal and how the ball movement and passing in the attacking end of the field:
I have watched the USMNT play most of their competitive games over the past few cycles. I have not seen much ball movement like this and I just don’t think the over-30 club of attacking players has the speed to be able to push forward like this lineup did. There are definitely questions about the ability to do this against say an Argentina team, but I feel like they have the speed to at least trouble them more than the senior citizen team we put up against them in the Copa.
Pulisic is getting it done in one of the toughest leagues in the world. Wood is finishing in the same league with his new team and Jozy has never been hotter. Morris is a prospect for rookie of the year in his first MLS season. Arriola and Stanko, along with others, may be able to build off of this experience. Kljestan, the assist king of MLS, may have finally climbed out of the dog house and into a starting role. There are even more young players at every position that haven’t had their chance yet. One of the most exciting prospects right now, Lyndon Gooch, most people have never heard of yet. Gooch is on Jurgen’s roadmap and could break into this squad in the coming year. It’s an exciting time for the future of US soccer.