The 2014 World Cup kicks off later today, with the first game featuring the host nation Brazil facing Croatia. With the biggest sporting tournament in the world getting ready to start, we take a look at the Miami Dolphins' roster, and try to put together our Starting XI lineup, just in case the team is called to Brazil.
Before we get very far into this, we need to determine what formation we will be using. Team USA Soccer, under head coach Jurgen Klinsmann is not set to one particular alligment, having used everything from a 4-4-2 diamond to a 4-3-3 and a 4-2-3-1, so it's hard to say we will copy the US Men's National Team (USMNT) in this instance. (Side note: For those of you who may not know how to read those formations, the first number is the defense, the second is the midfield, and the third are your forwards. If the formation has four numbers, it is defense/midfield/forwards/striker.)
For most of the 2013 run-up to the World Cup, the USMNT utilized a 4-2-3-1, essentially having four defenders flat across the back line, two defensive midfielders three attacking midfielders, and a forward/striker. We will pick that as our Dolphins formation.
Grimes is not the tallest man to ever stand between the pipes, and usually that would be a detriment. In this case, however, it's not. The man is a freak who can leap out of the stadium, and can play the ball like no one else. Trying to get a shot past Grimes will be impossible, making it clear he needs to be the team's keeper.
Right Back: Jimmy Wilson - Wilson is a do-everything defensive back, keeping up with receivers running down the field with receivers as a cornerback and filling in as a last line of defense safety. He can man the right side of the defense in our soccer formation, running the wings and preventing crosses.
Center Back: Mike Pouncey - You need someone to take control of the defense and communicate. No one should be able to do that better than a Pro Bowl center. Pouncey constantly demonstrates the athleticism to get down the field and block linebackers, so he should be perfectly fine in the middle of our defense.
Center Back: Koa Misi - Constantly changing positions, Misi learns another one here to become the other center back in our soccer formation. Misi has never been a superstar, but he is a solid defender for the Dolphins, and always seems to be in on the play, even if you don't notice him at first. He's a perfect complement to Pouncey in the middle of the back line.
Left Back: Will Davis - Giving the nod to an unproven player may be a dangerous proposition, but if Davis can come into the lineup here with the same ball hawking skills he had in training camp and the preseason last year, he will absolutely be an asset for the defense.
Right: Charles Clay - There are a couple of places we could put clay, making use of his ability to go get the ball and get those tough yards. An attacking midfielder would not be a bad choice, but in the effort of trying to shut down opponent scoring opportunities, having that guy who can find the hole and claim the ball for himself is a great defensive asset to have here.
Left: Brandon Fields - You need a big leg to clear the ball away from your own goal? Yeah, Fields fills that role nicely. He was a high school tight end, along with serving as the team's kicker and punter, so he's used to contact and can run. At 6'5", 235, he's big enough to handle his role as a defensive midfielder, and adds some height to the defensive setup for Team USA.
Right: Mike Wallace - You need speed from your midfielders as the push the ball forward, epecially screaming down the sides before crossing the ball into the middle for your striker and center midfielder. Who better fits that role than Wallace?
Center: Cameron Wake - Is there anyone else you want to have as an "attacking" player than Wake? You tell him you want the ball in the net, and he's going to make it happen. A goalkeeper or two might get crushed in the process, but, hey, that's football, right?
Left: Dion Jordan - An athletic freak, Jordan has to be on the roster somewhere. As a left attacking midfielder, he will be able to run down the side and cross in the ball, while collapsing in on the net if Wallace has the ball down the other side. He still has a lot to prove, but his bigger frame should be able to handle the banging that comes when inside the box.
You want a player who everyone knows where he will be when you make that cross from the corner, and Hartline is that guy. You want a player who can go up and find the ball, no matter how he has to contort himself to get it, and Hartline is that guy. You need a guy who has speed and body control if he is on a breakaway, and Hartline is that guy. He absolutely makes sense as a center forward in our formation.
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Of course, we welcome your ideas of how to put together the Miami Dolphins' Starting XI in the comments below. If you want real World Cup coverage, check out SB Nation's World Cup Hub right here.