Name your starting 11
Matt DuMont: Assuming the 4-4-2 diamond is what the US will be running, I'd like the starting 11 to be: Fabian Johnson, Geoff Cameron, Matt Besler, Demarcus Beasley on the back line. In the diamond midfield: Michael Bradley at the tip of the diamond, Jermaine Jones on the left, Graham Zusi on the right and Kyle Beckerman as the holding mid in the back. The two up front would be Dempsey and Altidore. After being worried about the right back spot heading into the tournament, Fabian Johnson has shown us that our worries were without merit. He's a solid defender with great recovery speed and can create on the attack at the other end. The two center backs are fairly obvious, well, because let's be honest, We've seen Omar Gonzalez lately and to that I say "No thanks". To me, Beasley is the best option at left back. He's older, more experienced and won't make the same mistakes that someone like Timmy Chandler would(See: the Turkey game).
In the midfield, Jones is at his best when he's not the holding/defense mid. He's not going to stay there, he's going to push forward and play out of position anyway. Moving him to the left and giving him that flexibility makes sense to me. Beckerman, on the other hand, will stay back and hold right where he's supposed to, making him the most solid option for the CDM. Zusi might be the best passer on the roster outside of Bradley. I love his ability to create and complete both long and short passes in the attacking half of the field.
Bradley, Dempsey and Altidore are self explanatory. They are the 3 most important players to the success that the US hopes to have in Brazil.
Matt Opper: GK Tim Howard; D Fabian Johnson, Jeff Cameron, Matt Besler, Demarcus Beasley; DM Kyle Beckerman, Jermaine Jones; M Alejandro Bedoya, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey; F Jozy Altidore
The old 4-2-3-1 formation that Jurgen Klinsmann favored for most of the qualification campaign. The difference is that Michael Bradley is not playing as a defensive mid, but as the point man in the attack. He is the Yanks best and most creative player in the attack and Jurgen Klinsman has experimented with moving him further up the pitch in recent matches.
So instead of the Jermaine Jones/Bradley pairing shielding the center backs it will be Jones and Beckerman. Jones will probably wander a little higher up the pitch but Beckerman is a true defensive mid, he will sit in there with the centre backs. With any luck Beckerman's passing, which is much better than Jones's, will be able to ignite counter attacks against a Black Stars team which will stretch itself a bit too much.
Define success in this, the most brutal of groups
Matt DuMont: Even with the daunting task of trying to advance out of Group G, I still think success is measured by said advancement. You can't pick where your drawn in the World Cup, you just have to go out and play. I think this is the best US team we've seen in years. I'd be highly disappointed if they failed to reach the knockout round.
Matt Opper: Getting out of the group would be an enormous success, and getting out of the group means a run to the quarter finals and beyond is not inconceivable. But there will be something to say about the way the the US approaches the task. I can handle not advancing if this team consistently plays the kind of exhilarating soccer that they have shown flashes of over the last two years. If they can string together three proactive and engaging games I can live with whatever the result is.
Who will be the breakout star of this team the way Michael Bradley was in 2010
Matt DuMont: I'm going to go with Mix Diskerud as the breakout star. Even though I don't think he'll start a game, I believe he will get significant playing time as a sub. He's great on the attack, can pass well and has a knack for ending up in the right place. I'm really looking forward to seeing his progression over the next couple weeks and beyond.
Matt Opper: Fabian Johnson. He is unlike any other defender that the US has had, particularly at right back. The immortal DOLO was previously the best right back the US has had in terms of joining the attack. He ran hard and sent an unending stream of crosses into the box and was vital for the 2010 team, but never in a million years could DOLO have conjured something like this.
The play of Fabian Johnson is a big reason why I think the US goes with the 4-2-3-1. Two defensive mids gives the US plenty of cover if Johnson wants to bound forward in the attack, which this side needs him to do. I think Fabian Johnson is in for a big World Cup.
Will the US win a world cup in your lifetime?
Matt DuMont: Probably not, unfortunately. Its hard for the US to get to the top of the soccer mountain. You have to figure that soccer in this country is getting about the 3rd or 4th best groups of athletes. There are just more popular sports here that top athletes want to play. That's not the case when you look at Brazil, Spain, Germany etc. The top athletes in those countries are born into soccer.
Having said that, I think it speaks to the fight and character of the US national team to be able to have the success that they've had while having the odds stacked against them. Let's hope I'm completely wrong and this is the year the US brings home a World Cup.
Matt Opper: Without question. It could be a while, a very long while indeed, but ultimately it is an inevitability. There are two reasons I think that the US will one day get a star above that crest. 1) The youth system in this country is changing, and changing for the better. There is more of a focus on technical development, and less of an emphasis on simply playing a ton of games. It seems counter intuitive but for a very long time the best US players simply played too much at too young of an age. It wouldn't be out of the norm for the best teenagers to play three or four games a week year round, which is simply too much for 12 and 13 year olds. Now those kids a playing less, with less pressure to win and more focus on their fundamentals. And that's just what's happening here.
There are hundreds of american kids who are currently ensconced in the youth set ups of major clubs in europe; Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Arsenal, Manchester United etc. The US is raising an army of technically gifted players who are being bred to have the one thing that has long been missing from the US, quality in the final third. It will be a while until those kids emerge within the national team set up, but that is coming and it is all for the good.
The second reason is more simple, the American diaspora is vast, not India vast but still enormous. This team more than any other has shown that the US is willing an able to mine the depths of that diaspora for talent. The US's willingness to look within that pool is not going to go away whenever Jurgen Klinsman does. Much like soccer itself, its here to say.