The U.S. heads into Friday night’s World Cup qualifier in Kingston (8:00 p.m. ET, beIN Sport) missing two of their top three players in Landon Donovan (hamstring) and Michael Bradley (quadriceps).
The third member of that trio, Clint Dempsey, is on the roster but hasn’t played a game in nearly three months while sorting out his club situation (he trained with Fulham’s youth side during the Premier League preseason).
Given those absences, and the veteran leadership missing with them, U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann will probably go with the most experienced players available (except Dempsey, who seems likely to be used as a sub). That means, if Klinsmann sends out two strikers, 30-year-old Herculez Gomez will probably start alongside Jozy Altidore.
But many U.S. fans are itching to see what Altidore—who has already scored four goals for Dutch side AZ Alkmaar this season—could do alongside Terrence Boyd, who’s also off to a hot start, with four goals in six appearances for Rapid Vienna.
That duo’s combination of size, power, speed and skill would be a handful for any backline, and would certainly occupy Jamaica’s inexperienced group, limiting any notions they might have of getting forward.
The U.S. has never won a World Cup qualifier in Jamaica, but they’d never won in Italy or Mexico City before this year, so maybe now’s the time. And maybe some unexpected selections, like Michael Orozco Fiscal in Mexico City, are just what the team needs to achieve another unprecedented result.
Here is Klinsmann’s roster for tomorrow and next Tuesday’s return engagement with the Reggae Boyz in Columbus, Ohio (8:00 p.m., ESPN2, ESPN3, Univision):
GOALKEEPERS: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS: Carlos Bocanegra (Racing Santander), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover), Maurice Edu (Stoke City), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Michael Orozco Fiscal (San Luis), Michael Parkhurst (Nordsjaelland), Jonathan Spector (Birmingham City)
MIDFIELDERS: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04), Brek Shea (FC Dallas), Jose Torres (Pachuca), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
FORWARDS: Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Clint Dempsey (Tottenham Hotspur), Herculez Gomez (Santos).
Here’s our projected starting XI: Tim Howard, Fabian Johnson, Geoff Cameron, Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo, Danny Williams, Jermaine Jones, Kyle Beckerman, Maurice Edu, Herculez Gomez, Jozy Altidore.
We’d rather see Edu in central defense with Cameron (more speed and athleticism to counter Jamaica’s surplus of both), and maybe Zusi in midfield to add creativity to that defensive-minded group. But Klinsmann will probably opt for Bocanegra’s experience to start, in hopes of settling and organizing the backline in the hostile environment of a road qualifier.