How will the United States line up against Mexico?
The U.S. begin their quest to book a spot at the 2018 World Cup with a tasty rivalry game against Mexico in Columbus, Ohio, on Friday. Jurgen Klinsmann's 26-man squad has a couple of surprises, but you sense that by now, he knows his best lineup for such an occasion.
ESPN FC's experts Jeff Carlisle, Doug McIntyre, Jason Davis and Noah Davis predict their starting XIs below. Have your say in the comments section!
Jeff Carlisle's XI (4-4-2): Tim Howard; DeAndre Yedlin, Omar Gonzalez, John Brooks, Fabian Johnson; Christian Pulisic, Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Alejandro Bedoya; Bobby Wood, Jozy Altidore
This squad largely picks itself, but there are a couple of positions that are up for grabs. The first is the center back slot beside Brooks. With Geoff Cameron out injured, the primary candidates are Steve Birnbaum and Gonzalez. I'm going with Gonzalez due to the fact that he's in good form, is playing regularly for Pachuca and has a history of playing well against El Tri.
The other question is the center midfield spot alongside Bradley. Sacha Kljestan has enjoyed a rebirth at the international level, but Jones is one of "Klinsmann's guys" and will likely get the nod. That assumes that he's healthy enough to play, but given the 82-minute shift he put in against the LA Galaxy last Sunday, it looks like he's fit enough to crack Klinsmann's starting lineup. -- (@JeffreyCarlisle)
Doug McIntyre's XI (4-3-3): Howard; Yedlin, Birnbaum, Brooks, Johnson; Bradley, Bedoya, Kljestan; Pulisic, Altidore, Wood
Birnbaum has been ahead of Omar Gonzalez on Klinsmann's center back depth chart all year, so I expect him to step in for Cameron even though his last game with D.C. United was Oct. 27. That's not that long ago. In midfield, I could see Klinsmann playing Jones in place of Kljestan, who wasn't good in the MLS playoffs. But since Jones hasn't played 90 minutes since June, I think he comes off the bench vs. Mexico and then starts in Costa Rica, where the Yanks figure to be more conservative defensively. -- (@DougMacESPN)
Jason Davis's XI (4-1-3-2): Howard; Yedlin, Gonzalez, Brooks, Johnson; Bradley; Bedoya, Kljestan, Pulisic; Wood, Altidore
If Klinsmann is so inclined, most of the names for his lineup against Mexico pick themselves, including Pulisic on the wing and Altidore up top. Where there are questions, my guess is that he'll turn to Gonzalez to play alongside Brooks and pair Wood with Altidore up top. -- (@davisjsn)
Noah Davis's XI (4-1-2-1-2): Howard; Yedlin, Gonzalez, Brooks Johnson; Bradley; Bedoya, Pulisic; Kljestan; Altidore, Wood
A safe starting XI for a massive match, one that mixes a strong, experienced back line bolstered by Bradley with a responsible but powerful attack led by en fuego Altidore. My money's on Klinsmann starting Jones, but I'd take Kljestan, who's fully fit and playing the best soccer of his life. -- (@noahedavis)
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