USMNT

Preview: Republic of Ireland v USMNT

On Tuesday, the United States Men’s National Team will take on the Republic of Ireland in an international friendly (2:45 PM, ESPN2). Following their 2–1 loss to Columbia, which followed two draws against Honduras and Ecuador, the U.S. is without a victory since September 3, versus the Czech Republic. Of course, all of these matches are the very early beginnings of the 2018 World Cup cycle, and bear little weight.

But that doesn’t mean they don’t matter.

Quite the opposite, in fact. Every game is an audition for the players, and every result a referendum on the coach. Since before the World Cup—really since it became know that Landon Donovan wasn’t going—the national mood on Jurgen Klinsmann’s coaching tenure has gotten a bit tense. A decent but not fantastic showing at the tournament, followed by some lackluster results with young players, as well as Klinsmann’s seemingly anti-MLS comments recently, have added some frisson to what should be a relatively serene period for the team and coach.

Instead, the U.S. could really do with a good performance. More importantly, they could really do with a win.

Lee Nguyen

Speaking of “wɪnz,” Lee Nguyen made his return to the national-team fold after a hiatus of more than seven years on Friday, which is the longest gap a U.S. field player has ever had. Nguyen only got about ten minutes of game-time, but had an immediate positive impact. His backheeled pass to Alfredo Morales nearly set up a go-ahead goal for the U.S.

With no Michael Bradley, and Mix Diskerud not having his best outing against Colombia, Tuesday’s game would be a good opportunity for Nguyen to get a more serious shot to run the offense. Unfortunately, he, along with Jermaine Jones, DeAndre Yedlin, and DaMarcus Beasley, have all been released from the squad, the first three so they can return to their club teams to prepare for this weekend’s start of the MLS Conference finals. Regardless, Nguyen deserves a callup for the January camp, for sure.

Jozy Altidore

It’s been reassuring for U.S. fans to see that Altidore’s continued poor form at club level has not affected his national team performances. While it was hard to play against Colombia, Altidore and Rubio Rubin both led the line well, earning fouls in advanced positions and generally making the center backs earn everything. Against the lesser lights of Ireland, one wouldn’t bet against Altidore grabbing another goal.

Republic of Ireland

The names to remember for Ireland are primarily attackers: Aiden McGeady, Shane Long, and Robbie Keane. They also employ an excellent attacking right fullback, Sheamus Coleman.

Republic of Ireland’s most recent results include a disappointing loss to Scotland in Euro 2016 qualifiers on Thursday, and before that a surprising 1–1 draw against Germany, also for the Euros. Robbie Keane was rested for the Scotland game, only coming on as a 78th-minute substitute. It was not a popular decision, and Keane has now been released to return to LA Galaxy, so will not line up against the U.S.

Predictions

The U.S.’s recent habit of giving up late goals is a concern. Had Keane been available for the lineup, it would have been difficult to predict a U.S. win. However, an Ireland shorn of Keane’s services is diminished.

That said, Ireland is playing at home in Dublin, and until this U.S. team without some of its big names proves itself, no wins will be predicted: Republic of Ireland 2–2 United States.

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