Hey, it's not too early to speculate. This will be probably be the main talking point all the way up to the first game in Brazil.
Jurgen Klinsmann, U.S. Men's National team head coach, has big decisions to figure out on who to start. And, these are not easy decisions to make. Substitutions are critical decisions as well, but, typically the subs don't spend as much time on the field as starters do.
It may be true that Klinsmann will decide to vary his starting lineup according to the play or physical nature of the other country team. Certain situations may call for more speed or more height or it could call for more ball control and more emphasis on defense.
Obviously, Klinsmann will have some idea (the winning formula) who he believes his best 'eleven' are to give the U.S.A. the very best chance against any other country team. The difficulty in selecting his starters is due to the elevated play and solid contributions of many up and coming players, such as Mikkel 'Mix' Diskerud, Eddie Johnson, Graham Zusi, Kyle Beckerman, Omar Gonzalez, Jermaine Jones, Nick Rimando in Goal, and the resurgent DeMarcus Beasley.
With good health in mind for the start of the 2014 World Cup, let's review by starting with defenders. They are the least heralded and a good lead-in to the midfielders/forwards:
Oguchi Onyewu, skilled and 6' 4" is a must to have back there. He must continue to be quick on his feet, though. Sometimes height gets beat once too often.
Clarence Goodson has been a pillar of consistency and will score goals on occasion.
Omar Gonzalez is money on defense. He is reliable and helps to maintain ball control.
Jermaine Jones definitely needs his spot with the team. He's earned it. His grittiness and determination towards the opposition are only matched by Dempsey.
Maurice Edu is a quick, shifty, athletic player the U.S. needs to keep active in the flow of the games.
Landon Donovan's play over the last six months with the National team during Gold Cup and World Cup qualifiers has proven once again that he must be on the field as much as possible to give the U.S. the best opportunity to win.
Clint Dempsey has withered some over the last few weeks under the spotlight of a huge transfer back to MLS and he will need to get back to his best form, but he must be on the field as much as possible, too.
Michael Bradley is a playmaker and has shown his strength many times over.
Herculez Gomez should get a starting spot if he is recovered completely from knee injury. Prior to the injury, he was around the goal a lot and making the team look good in the process.
Jozy Altidore has to be given a chance to get it right this time in the World Cup. He has the potential to be the U.S.'s best scoring player. Jozy can be a rollercoaster of a player at times, but the upside is worth too much to not give him his due.
Tim Howard as goalkeeper is fine until he messes up. Only one error allowed. A Keeper is all about confidence and the U.S. has Rimando ready for his opportunity.
Like I say, this is a team with many options. Steve Cherundolo and Carlos Bocanegra have been stalwarts in the past and Jose Torres had done well, too.
This is a team that will have more than a chance to win in 2014. It is a team built over many years and experienced to many degrees of success and failures. In my opinion, this is a team that will come in to Brazil with something to prove and could walk away with the Cup. A lot would have to go right for them, including Germany getting eliminated along the way.
It could be argued that the U.S. is the second best team after Germany headed to Brazil.
Originally published September/2013