International Friendly preview: USMNT v Peru

The US takes on Peru in the first of two friendlies this Friday (7 pm: Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports Go, UniMás, Univision Deportes Network).

But here’s the thing: It’s not about Peru.

It’s not even about Brazil, who the US will play on Tuesday evening. These two games are meaningful only insofar as they prepare the team to face Mexico on October 10 in the Confederations Cup playoff. That game, still a month away, is the most important the US men have played since losing to Belgium in the Round of 16 at the World Cup, now more than a year ago. The World Cup left a bittersweet taste in many mouths; while the US escaped the Group of Death, it did so in underwhelming fashion and then failed to progress any further. Where is the growth? Where is the direction?

Coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s project has always been to elevate the US team to a higher echelon than the big-fish-small-pond of CONCACAF, and he’s collected a series of impressive wins against European opposition in friendlies, but the US has yet to impress in actual tournaments. This summer’s Gold Cup, meant to be the latest moment where the US would finally start to impress, and, more importantly, qualify for the Confederations Cup—a tournament where the US could finally compete against bigger fish, outside the World Cup—was a failure. Now the US must win a one-game playoff against their fiercest regional rival to get in.

So yeah, this ain’t about Peru.

‘Keeper controversy?

Following the World Cup, Tim Howard, long the US’s starting and stalwart goalkeeper announced he would take an extended break from playing for the national team. Brad Guzan stepped in and, while rarely required to perform the heroics that Howard sometimes has, performed admirably. Howard has now returned to the US fold, setting up the potential for a conflict, or at least a competition, between the two for the starting job.

For their part, the two keepers seem unfazed by this:

That said, it may be more down to the fact that in Klinsmann’s eyes, there is no conflict to begin with. He’s going with Guzan, at least for now:

Klinsmann, of course, did not take another player’s self-imposed NT hiatus well, and it eventually resulted in Landon Donovan not representing the US in the last World Cup. This does not appear to be a situation like that. Howard took his break with Klinsmann’s blessing. He also hasn’t been sitting on his butt; he’s been playing as usual with his club team Everton in the BPL.

But Guzan plays in the BPL, too, for Aston Villa, and he has been playing with the US team consistently for a year. Changing horses midstream, as they say, is risky. Whether Howard resumes his first-choice status in the aftermath of the Mexico game is an open question, but right now, Guzan is the man.

The rest of the squad

Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey will not join the team until after the Peru match, as their club teams play each other this weekend in a game with MLS playoff implications. Otherwise, the roster welcomes several returning veterans, like Jermaine Jones and Matt Besler. Those returnees bring questions with them.

Before injury, Jermaine Jones had become a fulltime center back for his club team, the New England Revolution, and that switch was explicitly about extending his time as a national teamer. While out, however, his place as a center back was usurped, and since returning he has played once again in midfield. From the national team perspective, the center back position has seen a rotating cast of players, none of whom inspired huge confidence. Will Jones and Besler start there, or will Omar Gonzales or Ventura Alvarado retain a place? Geoff Cameron, now a center back at Stoke, and Tim Ream are both in with a shout, as well.

Further forward, Danny Williams will look to take the Kyle Beckerman position, and Aron Johannsson will hope to continue re-cementing his place in the side, probably alongside Jozy Altidore.


So, the game may not be about Peru from a US perspective, but they are, in fact, the opponent. Peru hasn’t played in a World Cup since the ’80s, but came third in this year’s Copa America. The long and short of it is that the US is better than Peru, and should expect to win.

The US, of course, often has difficulty dealing with being the favorite, so Klinsmann must prep his players to come out hungry and aggressive, immediately stamping their authority on the game. This match needs to build confidence and team cohesion in advance of Brazil and Mexico.

While it seems unlikely the US will fire on all cylinders right out of the gate, the veterans on the team will have everybody focused, and the US wins, 2–0.

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