USMNT

Preview: USMNT v Bolivia

On Saturday, the US wraps up its pre-Copa set of warm-up friendlies with a game against Bolivia at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, KS (8 pm: FS1, Fox Soccer 2Go, Fox Sports Go, UniMás, Univision Deportes). Coming off a slow-burning but ultimately encouraging win, the US will hope to build on the sparks it lit in the second half against Ecuador.

Play your kids

In my recap of the Ecuador match, the biggest takeaway was that youth was served. When the starting lineup failed to make much happen (it was either “veteran” or “creaky/old” depending on your viewpoint), coach Jurgen Klinsmann did the surprising thing—surprising in that he has resisted doing what many see as sensible—he pushed Michael Bradley back into the holding midfield role and, perhaps more crucially, brought on his young and in-form attackers: Darlington Nagbe, Bobby Wood, and Christian Pulisic.

Indeed, the lineup that finished the game was, to many, the preferred one, even though it didn’t include US mainstays like Clint Dempsey and Jermaine Jones. Dempsey still has a lot to offer, but he’s never been a center forward. It’s just not his game. So if the US is going to play with a single striker, he may need to drop into midfield. Unfortunately, that would likely mean less PT for Nagbe, who really shone against Ecuador. Nagbe, of course, scored the game winner, but more than that he drove the team forward at every opportunity. When paired with the aggressive wing play of Pulisic and the confident movement of Wood, the US looked dangerous. Without those three? It was a lot less interesting.

Seeking a starting defense

DeAndre Yedlin was another positive (and young) performer versus Ecuador. Opposite him, Fabian Johnson is not really a fullback, but he’s too good to keep off the field, and they make for quite the attacking pair. In the middle, the Steve Birnbaum/John Brooks pairing was also encouraging, because if they gel, that’s a CB set that could cement itself in the US team for a long time. But there’s been one thing certain about Klinsmann’s CB selections: they change. So expect to see Matt Besler and/or Geoff Cameron swapped in there at some point.

Regardless, the US must be pleased with the performance against Ecuador. Ecuador came flying out of the gate, testing the US fullbacks one on one and requiring the CBs to make some last-ditch tackles. But it came to nothing; the US prevented any serious attempts on their goal, especially in the second half. A clean sheet is always something to celebrate heading into an international tournament, even if the game was played without the intensity of tournament play (and it definitely wasn’t).

Bolivia

Bolivia aren’t on the same level as Ecuador, but they aren’t prepping for a tournament, either, so may play with a little more of the previously mentioned intensity. Still, Bolivia hasn’t been a truly dangerous team since the late ’90s, though they did score a couple against Colombia during World Cup Qualifying in March of this year. But the US should have too much for them, playing at home.

Predictions

At this point, I refuse to name a lineup. Let’s see Klinsmann name the same 11 for two games in a row and then we’ll talk, but right now there’s no use. I’ll say that Nagbe deserves a start, and so does Wood. Kyle Beckerman is a wonderful player in his way, but the US doesn’t need a security blanket against Bolivia, so Bradley needs to start at the No. 6. Whether we see those things is impossible to guess, but one thing I am confident of is a US win: USA 2–0 Bolivia.

2 Comments

  1. Better not outsmart your self Jurgen…
    .
    VET THE YOUTH.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      — just saw our starting XI on Twitter…. Tinker Tinker.
      .
      .
      Fine don’t start Pulisic.. but how the hell after scoring the winning gol and changing the flow of the game is Darlington Nagbe not in starting XI.
      .
      People try to blame JK for player pool and I’m inclined not to… but some of these choices do not argue favorably for him IMO.

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