Monday, May 24, 2010

USA vs Czech Republic: What are We Going to See?

Tomorrow night, the USA National soccer team is getting its second to last actual game before it leaves for South Africa (they'll play another friendly against Australia once they arrive).  They'll be playing a Czech team that is rebuilding, having lost their chance to go the Cup this year.  They aren't bringing a bunch of savvy veterans, they shouldn't find themselves with the kind of Home Crowds that CONCACAF teams find when they travel to the US, though I don't know--maybe East Hartford is a hotbed of Czech Fervor.

This is a unique spot for the US to be in.  As SI's Steve Davis says, in the olden days (like the last cup) the final roster had already been set, and there were no cuts left to make.  This time around, we are bringing 30 players with 23 spots.  Which raises an important question--what is the goal of this game?  Is it to determine the best chemistry possible for the starting 11, and which players are genuinely healthy?  Or is it to see who the bottom 5 players they are bringing to the Cup, and making this game a try-out for the players who haven't yet proven their worth?

We don't know the answer to that question yet, and we won't until we see the starting line-ups announced.  There are some injury concerns that could keep the ideal back four from starting.  That said, I personally want to make sure that the team that starts the game (and finishes the half) is as close to the starting 11 as possible.  Those guys need to get some real game-time under their belt, and it needs to be a quality number of minutes.  They'll have six substitutions to play with the second half, and they can audition some folks then.

My ideal starting 11, injury concerns aside:

GK:  Tim Howard (the man who needs the least amount of work, but also the man who is least likely to need a substitution in South Africa)
Backs:  Carlos Bocanegra, Jay DeMerit (both of whom have some injury issues) Oguchi Onyewu (first time playing in months), and Jonathan Spector.
Midfield (left to right):  Landon Donovan, Michael Bradley, Benny Feilhaber, and Stuart Holden
Strikers:  Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey

I think the starting line-up will be pretty close to this, with the injuries causing some changes, and more than likely, Rico Clark ahead of Feilhaber (a move I hate).


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