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2014 World Cup: Projecting The USMNT Starting 11 (January Edition)

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2014 World Cup: Projecting The USMNT Starting 11 (January Edition)

2014 World Cup: Projecting The USMNT Starting 11 (January Edition)
Kirby Lee - USATODAY Sports

Believe it or not, we are less than five months away from the start of the 2014 World Cup. That may sound like it’s still a far way off, but preparations for all 32 teams are already under way, including the U.S. Men’s National Team, which is currently in Brazil as part of its January Camp, the first step in their preparations for this summer’s tournament. Jurgen Klinsmann has over two dozen players in camp, including some that have a lot to prove, as he tries to not only put together a 23-man roster for the World Cup, but a starting 11 that he can put on the field for the opening match against Ghana, a match that will be important for the Americans and act as a chance to get redemption against the Black Stars.

Thus, we have put together out first projection of what Klinsmann’s starting 11 will look like this summer. Obviously, a lot can change between now and then, but putting together a projected starting lineup every month between now and the start of the tournament will show the evolution of the lineup over the months to come.

Right now, the starting 11 for the Americans will look quite similar to their lineup towards the end of 2014 World Cup Qualifying, but that can start to change, possibly as soon as the end of the January Camp when the team plays a friendly match against South Korea, as players in the camp will have a chance to play their way into or out of the starting lineup. But for now, this is what the USMNT starting lineup looks like heading into the 2014 World Cup.

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Goalkeeper: Tim Howard

Goalkeeper: Tim Howard
Denny Medley - USATODAY Sports

The Americans have a great back up in Brad Guzan, but there's no doubt that Howard is going to be the starting goalie this summer in Brazil.

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Right Back: Brad Evans

Right Back: Brad Evans
Peter Aiken - USATODAY Sports

As of right now, Evans is still the projected starter at right back after holding the job for the summer and fall during qualifying. But there's going to be a lot of competition for his spot between now and June. Geoff Cameron could make a strong run at it, while Eric Lichaj could be a possibility after joining the team for a pair of friendlies back in November. Timothy Chandler could try to work his way back into the squad, and the same could be said for veteran for Steve Cherundolo, but until one of those candidates emerges Evans is still penciled in at right back.

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Center Back: Matt Besler

Center Back: Matt Besler
Brett Davis - USATODAY Sports

A year ago, Besler was just breaking into the national team, and now he's probably the best bet to hold onto his spot among the four defensive players. There are a few guys that could push him for the spot, but right now Jurgen Klinsmann feels comfortable with Besler as one of his central defenders.

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Center Back: Omar Gonzalez

Center Back: Omar Gonzalez
Kelvin Kuo - USATODAY Sports

Gonzalez is the leading candidate to team up with Matt Besler in central defense after the two guided the U.S. defense throughout much of the qualifying process. Jurgen Klinsmann knows that whoever he puts at central back is going to have their hands full this summer against Ghana, Portugal, and Germany, so he's going to put a lot of pressure on Gonzalez to retain his starting spot. Clarence Goodson will likely have a roster spot as a reserve, but he could potentially push Gonzalez for the starting spot. Geoff Cameron and John Brooks could also have a chance to state their case to start in central defense.

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Left Back: DaMarcus Beasley

Left Back: DaMarcus Beasley
David Richard - USATODAY Sports

We were all surprised by Beasley's emergence as the regular left back over the past year, but it makes sense in that he has the skills to push forward and help in the attack while his aging legs have less running to do than if he were playing midfield. Despite being small and skinny, Beasley has been a tenacious defender and held his own in that respect. It's not necessarily ideal to move forward with him at left back, but unless Jurgen Klinsmann wants to move Fabian Johnson from midfield to the back line, there aren't a lot of good options; and please nobody mention Edgar Castillo, because he can't defend at all.

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Center Midfield: Michael Bradley

Center Midfield: Michael Bradley
Kirby Lee - USATODAY Sports

Bradley may be a little crazy for leaving Roma and returning to MLS, but if nothing else the move will keep him in shape for this summer's World Cup, where he will undoubtedly be the starter and one of the most important players on the field for the U.S.

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Center Midfield: Jermaine Jones

Center Midfield: Jermaine Jones
David Richard - USATODAY Sports

Jones has long been Michael Bradley's partner in the central midfield, and for now he stays in that role, but his propensity for giving up free kicks and collecting yellow cards could hurt the U.S. this summer, so it may be wise to find a few players that can push him for a starting spot. Kyle Beckerman isn't the most glamorous or skilled player, but he can get the job done while allowing Bradley freedom to push forward, and he could become a threat to Jones' starting job.

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Left Midfield: Fabian Johnson

Left Midfield: Fabian Johnson
Joe Nicholson - USATODAY Sports

There are a lot of candidates for the outside midfield spots, but Johnson may be Jurgen Klinsmann's favorite. He can be a dangerous playmaker in the final third and the U.S. is going to need him on the field playing that role this summer.

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Right Midfield: Graham Zusi

Right Midfield: Graham Zusi
Denny Medley - USATODAY Sports

There are a lot of different ways that Jurgen Klinsmann could structure the four attack-oriented positions personnel wise, but Zusi makes a lot of sense on the right side. He was a regular during qualifying and Klinsmann really likes him, especially his crossing ability. If the U.S. had better strikers up top, Zusi may have to concede his position to Landon Donovan or Clint Dempsey, but for now Zusi is who we're going to project at right midfield.

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Attacking Midfield: Landon Donovan

Attacking Midfield: Landon Donovan
Denny Medley - USATODAY Sports

Donovan may have been a star during the 2013 Gold Cup, but he did not do well when he rejoined the team at the end of the qualifying campaign. That being said, it's still tough to envision him outside the starting lineup, and playing behind the striker is where he fits in best, as that's where he can be create and move around the field attacking empty space without always having to worry getting back on defense. This position is quite fluid at the moment and Donovan could end up playing three or four different positions, but for now he fits best playing right behind the striker.

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Striker: Clint Dempsey

Striker: Clint Dempsey
Rick Osentoski - USATODAY Sports

If Jozy Altidore were scoring regularly, or at least starting regularly, for Sunderland, this spot would probably be his, but he's a long way away from the form he had last summer when he was scoring in every game he played for the U.S., and so if you had to field a lineup for a World Cup match today, you would have to go with someone you know can score in World Cup matches, and that's Dempsey. At some point, Altidore, Aron Johannsson, or Eddie Johnson could claim this spot for the Americans, which would force Jurgen Klinsmann to rearrange Dempsey and Landon Donovan, but until that happens Dempsey is the best bet to score goals against the Group of Death.