Preview: U.S. Men’s National Team take on South Korea

IMAGE, MLSSOCCER.COM

BY PATRICK MacDONALD
Staff Writer

After about a month of training and a pair of weeks spent checking out their summer digs in Brazil, the U.S. finally gets down to some real competition, facing off against World Cup bound South Korea in Carson, California.

Klinsmann brings to this match some regulars, others on the fringe, and a handful of debutantes looking to toss their name into consideration with the National Team. Fans are sure to see the likes of Landon Donovan, Matt Besler, and Omar Gonzalez manning their usual positions in the starting lineup, but they could also see exciting prospects like Luis Gil and DeAndre Yedlin get some minutes as well.

With precious few opportunities left before the World Cup, fans should expect a starting lineup as close to the the regular lineup as possible. Eddie Johnson will likely get the start up top as the lone striker with Donovan and Graham Zusi on the wings.

At the attacking midfield position, Klinsmann has options. He could start Luis Gil who is probably the best fit for the role though he has zero senior team experience. Another option could also be Benny Feilhaber, giving him the opportunity to work his way back into the World Cup conversation. If familiarity counts for anything, Mix Diskerud has played there before and could very well be Klinsmann’s selection.

Who Klinsmann lines up at attacking midfield will have a direct impact on the two holding midfield positions. If he elects to use Gil or Feilhaber, then expect Diskerud to be the linking midfielder alongside Kyle Beckerman, who must be considered a lock to start. However, if Klinsmann plays Diskerud further up, then someone like Dax McCarty could get the opportunity to shine.

As mentioned before, Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler are locks to start at centerback. However, Klinsmann could have some fun with the fullbacks. In all likelihood, Brad Evans will get the start at right back, though there is a chance that Yedlin could sneak past his Sounders teammate as the more natural — and exciting — right back.

That may not be the only place Yedlin can feature. When Klinsmann sent Chris Klute and Seth Sinovic home, he sent away his two most natural left backs. Yedlin could slide in at the position. The other option is Michael Harrington who put some time in at leftback with Portland.

Between the sticks, old reliable Nick Rimando will get the call. Any other options would be a surprise.

What should the U.S. expect from South Korea? Well if their match against Mexico is any indication, it’s a B-team with a shaky defense that will try to attack up the flanks. They bring to California a team made up mostly of domestic Korean league players, with no European representation. Their defense gave up four goals to a Mexico side who’s offensive woes caused them to stumble through CONCACAF in 2013 (count me in as someone who doesn’t believe the new coach has suddenly made El Tri world beaters). And while they could outrun the likes of lead-footed Rafa Marquez, South Korea couldn’t finish any of their chances.

Overall, they should be a team the U.S. can beat. In fact, for many on Klinsmann’s side, winning is a necessity if they hope to even sniff a chance at a plane ticket to Brazil.

Don’t expect a Mexico-like beat-down (especially since two of those four goals were scored late), but the U.S. should certainly be the dominant side.

All in all, some players will succeed, while others will be shaking off the offseason-rust as is typical in these January/February friendlies.

PREDICTION: U.S. 2 – 0 South Korea

PREDICTED LINEUP: 4-2-3-1

E. Johnson
Donovan – Diskerud – Zusi
McCarty – Beckerman
Yedlin – Beslet – Gonzalez – Evans
Rimando