For the past five years or so, suggestions have been made that the United States hightail it out of CONCACAF and compete in a more challenging FIFA region. That or create a combined tournament between CONMEBOL and CONCACAF–TSG’s Mark Tomaszewicz suggesting as such a two years ago.
Well now, the USMNT is about to encounter the closest they’ll get to CONMEBOL qualifying, or tournament-level, competition in a non-World Cup or Confederation’s Cup setting.
A two-pack of games against World Cup Sweet 16 competition in Argentina–welcome back to New Jersey Mr.Lionel Messi–and Paraguay back-to-back in the States.
What makes these matches more compelling from a competition standpoint is that the Copa America is right around the corner and both nations will be airmailing their “A” roster to the States.
When Argentina’s roster announcement was made this past Friday, the only meaningful names missing were Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero. (Aguero the more interesting absence in our opinion in that he’s doing fairly well in the league, is in form right now and World Cup goal ace Gonzolo Higuain is in the midst of a lengthy rehab.)
With the relatively weak-looking loss to Brazil in August 2010′s post-World Cup friendly, the objectives for USMNT Coach Bob Bradley might look as follows: (1) Bring in as many first teamers as possible–Bradley hasn’t seen the first team in camp in nearly 6 months, (2) Take a look at the complexion of his first choice backline for the Gold Cup and beyond and, less of a priority, (3) bring two or three players through camp that might have a shot at the “A” team.
Even more challenging here for the States–and something that might necessitate that more seasoned roster selection–Argentina and Paraguay play very different games.
Argentina–almost Barca-like–prefers to hold the ball in the opponent’s defensive third with a quadrumvirate of forwards applying pressure through two-touch passing and voraciously winning balls back when those passing attacks break down. Argentina deploys captain Javier Mascherano as a true holding midfielder to seal in the ball in the their offensive half.
In Paraguay, you’ve got a team that pressures high as well and perhaps, next to Germany, played the best defensive game at World Cup 2010. In fact, the entire Paraguayan style looks downright German in their approach, from employing tall strikers–the latest being 6’2” 19-year-old Toulouse sensation Federico Santander–to secure balls over the top and in the box, to bringing a very physical defense to bear with bruise-inducing tackling.
One last note before we get started, any MLSers got a chance of making this one besides Landon? Maybe one or two max….
Let’s take a look at who might get that email from US Soccer House’s Chicago lair this week:
G: Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, David Yeldell
The skinny: This could be the game that little-known Bundesliga II keeper David Yeldell gets a call-in–being both a veteran and playing well over the past month or so. Yeldell did sustain a hand injury two matches ago, but played 90 minutes on Saturday for MSV Duisburg.
If not Yelldell, Bradley will likely go with two keepers…
And you know those two keepers, of course, as Howard and Guzan. There might be a bit of hesitation with Guzan as he bounces between Villa and Hull City looking to secure 1st team side, but a call in would only help his exposure.
DEF: Jonathan Bornstein, Oguchi Onyewu, Stevie Cherundolo, Carlos Bocanegra, Michael Parkhurst, Jonathan Spector, Eric Lichaj
The skinny: The only name from the list above that is curious might be Michael Parkhurst. Bradley likes his central defender distribution and, aside from a very-green Gale Agbossoumunde, all the rest of the centerback cover is in MLS (Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, maybe Brek Shea).
I would’ve suggested that Ream might have got a call in, but with the Red Bull youngster virtually a shoe-in for the Gold Cup and Chris Albright going down for the Red Bulls, I think that would be a tough call in from a political standpoint. That said, now that Clarence Goodson is out with a broken toe, you may just see the New York Red Bulls centerback getcalled in for at least one game.
The only other name I could see factoring here would be Zach Loyd. The FC Dallas youngster plays the troubling leftback spot and he may not be a starter for his club
MID: Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Stu Holden, Maurice Edu, Ale Bedoya, Jose Torres
TSG is not a huge fan of Torres’s game, but here’s a few things to remember about JFT: a) he’s only 23. So that make him younger than both Stu Holden and Maurice Edu in the States’ midfield. b) he’s got a World Cup start under his belt and c) he’s starting to come on now.
(Note, and not to go back, but…I don’t begrudge Torres his tough World Cup start. I mean honestly since when does a national team player get their
first start 2nd start in nearly two years at the World Cup?! Torres lone start in 2010? Against the Dutch in a friendly where he just wasn’t able to impact the game.)
The rest goes as follows–and who wouldn’t want to see Stu Holden man the middle. But isn’t that always the question around these parts.
A Sacha Kljestan or Benny Feilhaber might sneak in here as well. Kljestan being the better fit as Feilhaber hasn’t played since November of last year.
FW: Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Mix Diskerrud
The skinny: You’ll probably see both Donovan and Dempsey–where on the field is still a good guess.
Mix, we like him inside, outside, or just below the striker. He should be a key player with his size and attack prowess against Paraguay at least.
STR: Jozy Altidore, Edson Buddle, Eddie Johnson
The skinny: A shame about Team Bunbury’s injury because after his performance in both South Africa and in January Camp, it’s possible the Kansas City forward might have been inline for this camp, even with the MLS season kicking off.
Juan Agudelo probably not a consideration in this one. He’s over a groin strain and the Charlie-In-A-Bottle candidate needs to settle into some club games as his first priority.
Bet on Jozy Altidore (of course), Edson Buddle (maybe) and/or Eddie Johnson. Yes, Eddie Johnson. Got another speed option who’s fit and not in diapers? If not EJ, than perhaps Coach Sweats plays the buddy system and bring up Jose Torres’s Pachuca mate Herculez Gomez from down south.