Last Saturday’s 5-1 thrashing of Scotland by the United States Men’s National Soccer Team (USMNT) was the best I’ve seen this team look in a long, long time. In that game nearly all 17 men who suited up in our new red and white striped shirts with blue shorts played extremely well (besides maybe defender Geoff Cameron who was responsible for an own goal and a couple other breakdowns at the back). Landon Donovan, of course, was the most impressive in providing a consistent threat down the right side of the pitch and tallied his third career hat-trick in international play and his first since 2007 as he started at forward. Midfielder Michael Bradley (son of former national team coach Bob Bradley) scored a wonderful volley from distance and also set up Donovan for his third goal, so he would be the second star of the game to steal a ranking system from hockey. Fellow midfielder Jermaine Jones put in his best attacking performance thus far for the U.S. as he set up the first two goals of the match and looked dangerous throughout the match, especially as he made his way into the attacking end of the pitch. Jones would be my third star.
Tonight the USMNT has a bit of a tougher match, facing off against Brazil at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland (home of the Washington Redskins) in their second friendly match of this five game “tournament” to use Coach Klinsmann’s terminology. The match begins at 7:50 EST this evening, televised on ESPN2 and ESPN3, and the United States is hoping for the same type of execution as they played with over the weekend. It would be foolish to attack the same way that they did on Saturday, so the US will have to play a bit more reserved and cautious, and the few chances that they do get tonight they will have to capitalize on. This match will be a great gauge on how far this team has come since Klinsmann took over last July, especially defensively as Tim Howard and his defensive crew will be tested more tonight than they were on Saturday.
Former U.S. international defender and current ESPN analyst Alexi Lalas (probably the best redheaded soccer player in US history) said of this game “The game is important; not only for Klinsmann but also for the team to recognize that this new way of playing can be successful against even the world’s elite. That’s an important experience and message for them to have in terms of buying in. That would be huge in the terms of the team’s evolution.” I agree wholeheartedly with every word of that statement by Lalas, this match is a friendly and doesn’t count in any standings, but it is a major barometer for these 18 players and for the entire United States Soccer Federation.
Unlike Scotland, who did not qualify for the Euro 2012 Championships, who sent a ‘B’ team to Jacksonville for the weekend, Brazil has brought more of their star players for this matchup with the United States. The most recognizable player in their line-up will be 20-year-old striker Neymar, who is arguably one of the best players in the world (especially if you ask Pelè). Another youngster that will be featured tonight by Brazil is young goalkeeper Rafael Cabral (or just Rafael) who may be the keeper of the future for the South American country. Defender Thiago Silva is another name that some casual soccer fans may recognize as he plays for A.C. Milan in the Italian Serie A professional league and he will certainly put pressure on the United States forwards tonight.
The U.S. does have some firepower off the bench tonight that they did not have available to them on Saturday. Forwards Jozy Altidore just joined the team at camp on Monday after his club, AZ Alkmaar, refused to release him in time for Saturday’s match, and also forward Clint Dempsey may be available as he’s recovering from a groin strain. If the U.S. is able to, they would probably prefer to rest Dempsey, but it would be nice to see him back on the pitch if he’s healthy enough to go.
I’m looking forward to watching this match tonight (in addition to Celtics/Heat game two, and the first game of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Kings and Devils) and I would encourage you to check out this match also. It will be interesting to see how the Americans respond to playing one of the soccer world’s elite at this point, and as they have shown back in late February with the win over Italy they are not afraid of anybody. Let’s Go, USA!!!
U.S. ROSTER BY POSITION – DETAILED ROSTER
GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS (7): Carlos Bocanegra (Rangers), Geoff Cameron (Houston Dynamo), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Oguchi Onyewu (Sporting Lisbon), Michael Parkhurst (Nordsjaelland)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Chievo Verona), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04), Jose Torres (Pachuca)
FORWARDS (6): Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar), Terrence Boyd (Borussia Dortmund), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Herculez Gomez (Santos), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)
BRAZIL ROSTER BY POSITION
GOALKEEPERS (3): 1-Jefferson (Botafogo), 12-Rafael (Fiorentina), 22-Neto (Santos)
DEFENDERS (8): 2-Rafael da Silva (Manchester United), 3-Thiago Silva (AC Milan), 4-David Luiz (Chelsea), 6-Marcelo (Real Madrid), 13-Bruno Uvini (Tottenham Hotspur), 14-Juan (Inter Milan), 21-Danilo (FC Porto), 23-Alex Sandro (FC Porto),
MIDFIELDERS (8): 5-Sandro (Tottenham Hotspur), 7-Lucas (Sao Paulo), 8-Romula (Vasco de Gama), 10-Oscar (Internacional), 15-Casemiro (Sao Paulo), 17-Wellington Nem (Fluminense), 18-Giuliano (Dnipro)
FORWARDS (4): 9-Leandro Damiao (Internacional), 11-Neymar (Santos), 19-Alexandre Pato (AC Milan), 20-Hulk (FC Porto)