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Predicting The USMNT’s Starting XI vs. Azerbaijan

Predicting The USMNT's Starting XI Versus Azerbaijan

USMNT Lineup Prediction vs Azerbaijan
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

With many still focused on Landon Donovan's exclusion from the 23-man roster, the USMNT will play their first match in the Send-Off Series on Tuesday night. It looks like they will try the 4-4-2 diamond again as shown on a picture that circulated on social media Sunday. This is a Bergi Vogts inspiration, but not something set in stone. Here is what we could see against Azerbaijan.

GK: Tim Howard

Tim Howard
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

GK: Tim Howard

Tim Howard
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Even though he was a late arrival to training camp, this position is clearly Tim Howard's spot. He is the one voice that seems to have liberties with Jurgen Klinsmann. It is that vocal leadership that Howard has become known for in the back. He will have to direct a back line that is not used to playing with one another.

LB: DaMarcus Beasley

DaMarcus Beasley
David RIchard-USA TODAY Sports

LB: DaMarcus Beasley

DaMarcus Beasley
David RIchard-USA TODAY Sports

Beasley has remained consistent and shown his ability to adapt to current opponents. Many assume that this could be Fabian Johnson's position. However, Beasley has played here for the last few months and captained the Gold Cup team from the LB position.

CB: Matt Besler

Matt Besler
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

CB: Matt Besler

Matt Besler
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Besler is going to be one part of the center-back pairing. Who he is teamed up with remains a question. Besler will be the distributor from the back line.

CB: Geoff Cameron

Geoff Cameron
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

CB: Geoff Cameron

Geoff Cameron
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Despite playing right-back with the USMNT and his club team, Klinsmann thinks this is his best position. John Brooks is the backup for now, but is one of the surprises in the 23-man roster. Omar Gonzalez has been the starter here, but continues to recover from a knee injury that may cost him his spot.

RB: Fabian Johnson

Fabian Johnson
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

RB: Fabian Johnson

Fabian Johnson
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

It was reported on Sunday that Johnson has been playing right-back during training. He has some experience here. Whichever side Johnson is on will be the side the USMNT overloads on rushes. It would not be surprising to see Johnson start here then flip to left-back when Timmy Chandler is substituted on.

CDM: Kyle Beckerman

Kyle Beckerman
Russell Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

CDM: Kyle Beckerman

Kyle Beckerman
Russell Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Beckerman is still behind Jermaine Jones, but should start given that Jones was the last player in camp. Beckerman is familiar with this role in the diamond midfield. If Jones is fit to go, there is a chance that three defensive midfielders will start the match, although Michael Bradley is good enough to adapt to a higher role.

LM: Alejandro Bedoya

Alejandro Bedoya
Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

LM: Alejandro Bedoya

Alejandro Bedoya
Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

If Jones does start, this is where he would fit in. For now, Bedoya gets the nod because of his ability to create. With Beasley starting on his side, Bedoya should not see too many overlapping runs. Beasley will commit to attack when the opportunity presents itself, especially if Bedoya cuts in. Brad Davis and Mix Diskerud could see time here as Klinsmann tinkers with his lineup.

RM: Graham Zusi

Graham Zusi
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

RM: Graham Zusi

Graham Zusi
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Zusi is here to provide service and cut in when Johnson is making his runs. This is his spot to lose for the USMNT. His play makes Bedoya the second choice here, but the combination of the two players could work given their contrasting styles.

CM: Michael Bradley

Michael Bradley
Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

CM: Michael Bradley

Michael Bradley
Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Bradley will move to the top of the diamond in the midfield. He is the creator and distributor in attack, and will look to sit in the openings created in front of him.

F: Clint Dempsey

Clint Dempsey
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

F: Clint Dempsey

Clint Dempsey
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The 4-4-2 technically means that Dempsey is an extra striker, but he has been deployed in the position right behind the forward. He will roam but still come back on defense. It would not be a surprise to see him come back down the field to take a pass to start the attack.

F: Jozy Altidore

Jozy Altidore
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

F: Jozy Altidore

Jozy Altidore
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Altidore will still be the target forward, and has unique skills in this role. He will be looking to rid himself of the sad Sunderland taste in his mouth. Chris Wondolowski is the backup, but is a poacher and not a target forward.