BRENT LATHAM - Monday, October 12, 2009
The US did themselves a huge favor by taking all three points in Honduras and avoiding any last day scenario that could have seen them in a all-or-nothing playoff against what is certain to be a good South American team. Honduras and Costa Rica's hides are now on the line instead, meaning Coach Bob Bradley has some decisions to make regarding his lineup for Wednesday night's final hexagonal match-up in Washington DC, which is still meaningful - just not for the Americans.

There are several factors to consider when choosing a lineup for this final match, and my guess is Bradley will err on the side of caution when deciding who to run out.

Red Card Worries

The yellow card situation is still apparently no longer a factor. US Soccer says yellow card accumulation cannot lead to a suspension for a World Cup match. A straight red or double yellow in the Costa Rica match, however, would lead to a suspension for the first game of the World Cup.

FIFA has been inconsistent on this in the past, so why take a chance? An unfortunate red card to a key player like Onyewu or Howard would mean that player would miss at least one World Cup group match.

In my mind, this is the single most important factor in determining who plays Wednesday. No key players will be on the field with the threat of losing them for any World Cup game, meaning the squad may be largely second choice players, and we may even see some new call-ups today or tomorrow.

Club Time

Another good reason to hold some other players out would be the opportunity to send them back to their clubs. Some players - like Onyewu and Altidore - have seen their club status dwindling of late, and would be served by flying back to Europe for a week of training rather than hanging around Washington DC. Others carrying slight injuries, or facing a heavy workload in the coming weeks- Clint Dempsey in the former case and Landon Donovan in the second - simply don't need to play.

A chance for a good game

The flip side to the club argument is that those players who see time Wednesday will face a Tico squad in a high intensity match with everything on the line. The problem is that really only works one way. Yes, everything is on the line for the Costa Ricans, but there's no way to simulate pressure on the American side that doesn't exist.

So who will see the field?

I would expect a defense anchored by Brad Guzan, with Clarence Goodson and Jimmy Conrad in the middle, Frankie Hejduk on one of the wings and Jonathan Spector or Steve Cherundolo on the other, though Jonathan Bornstein could also use the practice.

In midfield, fans should finally get to see Paco Torres for ninety minutes, and I would think Stuart Holden and Robbie Rogers would man the flanks. Benny Feilhaber may be in for a longer runout in the attack, since there are few other obvious safe replacements if Bradley doesn't call someone else in.

For that reason, I wouldn't be surprised to see Kyle Beckerman flown in for the occasion, perhaps along with Real Salt Lake teammate Robbie Findley. I'd like to see Conor Casey get a chance to show the Honduras performance was not just a one-off, and I expect Kenny Cooper and Brian Ching to also get chances up front, though Charlie Davies may start.

All this means Honduras is in trouble. The Ticos have re-found their stride and would be a good bet to take three points against a makeshift lineup, leaving the Catrachos out in the cold. Bradley is an honorable man and would likely be tempted to field a more competitive lineup for sporting purposes, but in the end American best interests must win out and the team for Wednesday will look something like that outlined above.
Wednesday October 14, 2009 6:30 pm
I would frto agree with Bobeto's line-up, and if ever there was a time to try out Spector at LB this is it. We also NEED to see someone other than Donovan run the MF at least once in a competitive match, once again this is the time to see it done.

As to Bob's comment that we owe Costa Rica and Honduras to play our best players, or it would be unsporting, we owe them only to try and win the contest... not to cut our own throats, and seeing as how we all had ten matches to accomplish qualifying and we did it in nine, well... that's their tough luck.

What we do owe them is to complain about how CONCACAF has continued to use officials of countries that are still in contention for making this World Cup in these late crucial matches. That there is even an appearence of impropriety is just wrong and not fair to the officials involved. Either CONCACAF should bring in officials from another Confederation or at the very least assign officials from some other countries in CONCACAF to do these matches.
Tuesday October 13, 2009 3:21 pm
We, the US, hold a large share of the fate of Costa Rica and Honduras' automatic qualification. For the US to field anything less than the best team possible would be hugely unsporting to both countries. I'm saddened anyone would suggest anything else.
Tuesday October 13, 2009 2:41 pm
I would hate to see us not try to win this match and win the group. We have not been consistent enough to just roll over. I would lose the little respect I gained for Bradley in the Hondurus match. US must always play to win....If we are worred about a starter getting a red card while playing at home then they shouldn't be on the team. US players must learn to play hard without this reckless slide tackles and this grabbing when players get around them. With that said, here what I would like to see start:

Cherundalo, Gooch, Conrad, Spector
Holden, Clark, Feilhaber,Torres
Cooper, Casey

Gooch isn't playing enough for Milan. Torres, Cooper, Conrad need a serious lookover. Casey needs to see if it was a fluke. Clark, Holden, Feilhabor need the experience and Spector and Cherundalo need to see if they can be on the pitch together. Don't send anyone back to their club team just have them if needed. What do you think?
Tuesday October 13, 2009 12:40 pm
I have to agree with this...making sure we are at full strength on opening day of 2010 is the most important factor. Although it is not impossible to rest some key players and still put out a squad that could maintain out position atop the qualifying ranks. In the end, finishing first in qualifying doesn't really do anything to improve our seeding chances for 2010. My Squad:

GK - Guzan
D - Spector, Conrad, Oneywu, Frankie
M - Rogers, Holden, Feilhaber, Torres
F- Davies, Cooper
Tuesday October 13, 2009 8:53 am
Whats wrong with winning all the time ,,, we has to win every oportunity we have ,thats the only way you bring people to the stadiums,,,win ,win we know he is going to bench his son because he wants him to play in the word cup ,,no matter how bad he is playing ,,he is benching in germany never used ,, and he is the one who can hurts us in the WC with a red card just check how many time he was expulse from the game i hope jones get well and play in that spot with belhaber and torres,, Castillo in LB,,,sorry BB you are burning your own son ,,he is not good for germany in a lower club ,,he is not be good in WC with the best
Tuesday October 13, 2009 5:27 am
We owe respect to the Hondos and need to field a strong bunch, bust balls and win the effing match. You never know....Hondo might be in a position to help us out in the future -- they won't forget a win here.
Lou C
Monday October 12, 2009 1:04 pm
I hate to burst some bubbles, but World Cup seeding is based on performances in the 3 previous World Cups, which mean 1998, 2002, 2006. Since we were dreadful in 2 of those cups, the chance of getting a seed is practically none. It's all up to the luck of the draw.
Monday October 12, 2009 12:39 pm
I think Bradley will only make a few changes as he has the chance to win the group. Onyewu and Altidore could use the minutes since they are not getting many with their clubs. If I were to guess the lineup, it would be Guzan, Cherundolo, Onyewu, Conrad, Bornstein; Holden, Clark, Feilhaber, Torres; Donovan, Jozy. He would be sitting the player most likely to be harmed by a red card (his son).
Monday October 12, 2009 12:07 pm
John, the chance of us getting a seed is highly doubtful.
Monday October 12, 2009 11:54 am
While missing a key player for a game due to suspension would be painful at the finals, being drawn second-seed into a tough group would be even worse (see 2006). The winner of CONCACAF stands a good chance at a one-seed. Bradley needs to play to win.
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