Friday October 7th, 2011

FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- It's friendly time again for the U.S. men's national team, which meets Honduras on Saturday in Miami (6 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer, Univisión) and Ecuador this Tuesday in Harrison, N.J. (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2, Univisión, ESPN3.com). Here are four things on my mind heading into this week's games:

• Score goals. Win. It doesn't take a detailed analysis to point out that the U.S. needs to start accomplishing the basic objects of the game. The Americans have yet to win in three friendlies under coach Jurgen Klinsmann, scoring just one goal in those 270 minutes. And while results aren't as important right now as improvement under the new regime, let's be honest: Failing to win at least one game this week would officially end Klinsmann's honeymoon period and raise questions about what's going on with a team that was supposed to be adopting a more swashbuckling style. The fact is if you're on home soil against Honduras and Ecuador, those should be two victories. But you could have said the same thing about last month's friendly against Costa Rica, which turned into a 1-0 loss.

• Where are the goals going to come from? The obvious answer would be Jozy Altidore, who's off to a fine start at AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands and hopes to carry that form to the international level. Altidore still needs to show that he can be dangerous as a lone center forward; with the U.S. he has been more effective in the past with a running mate up top. Clint Dempsey is also in his first full camp under Klinsmann, and the Texan will bear much of the creative load due to the injury absences of Landon Donovan, José Torres and Stuart Holden. Brek Shea is back in camp, and he'll have a chance to build on some encouraging performances on the left flank as long as he isn't exhausted from overuse in August in September (as he has shown in MLS play lately).

• Who will team up with Carlos Bocanegra in the central defense? Clarence Goodson isn't in this camp, nor is Omar Gonzalez despite having a fine year in MLS with Los Angeles. That means the likely candidates to start next to Bocanegra in the center are Oguchi Onyewu and Michael Orozco Fiscal. (Tim Ream has an outside shot.) Onyewu has provided evidence that he might be on his way back to international-level form in solid outings for Sporting in Portugal lately. As for Orozco Fiscal, he's under pressure to show that he deserves to be in Klinsmann's plans, not least because he keeps getting call-ups instead of Gonzalez. With Gonzalez telling ESPN this week that he'd consider playing for Mexico instead of the U.S., the onus is on Orozco Fiscal to start proving he's a better option.

• How might the U.S. lineup look Saturday? It's hard to know since several players are out injured and it's still early days with Klinsmann. With only three days between games, you can expect to see a few different starters on Tuesday in New Jersey. Here's one man's guess on Saturday's lineup:

Goalkeeper: Tim Howard.

No surprise here. The Everton man has been playing well in England.

Defenders: Steve Cherundolo, Oguchi Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra, Timmy Chandler.

My guess is we'll see Onyewu start one game and Orozco Fiscal the other in the center. The experiment with Chandler at left back could continue, though German-American debutante Danny Williams and Jonathan Spector are also options.

Defensive midfielder: Kyle Beckerman.

Tough to know for sure with Michael Bradley and Maurice Edu also possibilities here. But Beckerman has shown well in this spot under Klinsmann and (unlike the other two) is a defense-only kind of player for the national team.

Midfielders: Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu, Brek Shea.

There's no natural right-sided midfield option in camp, so we might see any number of choices, including Chandler (who has played right midfield in Germany), Dempsey (who would be expected to cut inside often) or even Shea if Klinsmann elected to put someone like DaMarcus Beasley out on the left flank.

Forward: Jozy Altidore.

There aren't a lot of forward options right now; the others in camp are Juan Agudelo (who hasn't been playing much in MLS), Edson Buddle (who was a late replacement for Donovan) and Teal Bunbury (who has started scoring again for Kansas City).

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