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Preview: Russia v. USMNT

Wednesday morning at 10am EST, the U.S. takes on Russia in an international friendly in Krasnodar, Russia (ESPN2, ESPN3, Univision). The game doesn’t count for points, but the tense and underwhelming nature of the last round of World Cup qualifiers for the U.S. means that Jurgen Klinsmann has a lot to do before the games start counting again, and will take every opportunity he can get to learn more about his players and find the right mix to ensure they play not only effective, but also attractive, soccer.

Roster Notes

Landon Donovan is still involved with the MLS playoffs, and so has yet to return to the national team fold, though he is fit again. Graham Zusi also was not invited, likely also as a result of his recent playoff efforts with Sporting KC. Even without the two of them, though, Klinsmann has named a strong squad. The usual suspects, for the most part, are there, including Tim Howard, Carlos Bocanegra, Michael Bradley, and Herculez Gomez. Sacha Kljestan and Danny Williams also return after showing well during qualifying. There are also some younger names, like Joe Gyau and Joshua Gatt.

More interesting are call-ups for Jozy Altidore, Juan Agudelo, Mix Diskerud, and Timothy Chandler. Altidore was, of course, left off the most recent roster for the final games in the last round of qualifying—a wake up call from Klinsmann, if ever there was one. He has continued to play well for his club team, AZ Alkmaar in the Dutch Eredivisie, and seems to have done enough to get out of the doghouse. This camp will be pivotal for him. Agudelo has not played a full international game since March 26, 2011, though he was a part of the failed Olympic qualifying campaign.

Diskerud and Chandler are the most looked-for inclusions. Diskerud is an exciting talent that U.S. fans have been hoping to see for what seems like years, and Chandler has been very coy about his future with the national side. As a dual U.S. and German citizen, Chandler has yet to play in a game that would tie him to the U.S., declining an invite from Klinsmann to join the U.S. team during World Cup qualifying. This game, unfortunately, will not cap-tie him, but he now says, “I finally feel ready to make the commitment…I am in 1,000 percent.”

Italy, Mexico, Russia?

2012 has already seen two historic road wins for the U.S. Will we see another? The U.S. has only played Russia four times since 1990, scoring one goal (from Alexi Lalas, believe it not) and failing to win any games. Russia is currently ranked in FIFA’s Top Ten, and leads its World Cup qualifying group. While their Euro 2012 foray ended with something of a whimper, Fabio Capello, appointed coach after that tournament, has the Russians playing very well; they’ve scored nine goals and allowed only one in the five games since the Euros ended.

As Napoleon once discovered, it’s always difficult to win in Russia, especially once fall turns over to winter. Krasnodar, luckily, is on the southwestern edge of Russia, near the Black Sea, but the forecast is still for temps in the forties at best, likely dropping as the game continues.

Predictions

Predicting the outcome in games like this is a crap shoot. Both teams are likely to make several subs in the second half to give squad players experience, so the final score could be anything. However, were I a betting man, I’d put my money on the Russians coming away with the win.

The starting U.S. lineup should be recognizable, though the forward line is difficult to nail down. Here’s my best guess:

Howard / Fabian Johnson, Bocanegra, Geoff Cameron, Chandler / Williams, Kljestan, Bradley / Altidore, Terrence Boyd, Gomez

Look for a more attacking game plan than the World Cup qualifying games saw, and many pictures of a cold bench wrapped up in blankets.

3 Comments

  1. Nice little history about the past games between the countries:
    http://soccernet.espn.go.com/blog/_/name/soccerusa/id/574?cc=5901

    • note that the US did beat Russia once on Wynalda’s goal!

      • True, though that was technically not “Russia,” but rather the Commonwealth of Independent States.” The US has never beaten Russia as it is currently consituted. Russia, like Germany, has a long and complicated history of teams.

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