World Cup Qualifying preview: St Vincent and the Grenadines v USMNT

On Friday, the USMNT plays St Vincent and the Grenadines, to be followed by Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday, with qualification for the Hexagonal round of qualifying for World Cup 2018 on the line. The US currently stands in second place in the group, three points behind leaders T&T, and just a single point ahead of third placed Guatemala. The top two teams move forward, and wins in both games will put the US top of the group, which should be the goal. That said, while Friday’s game against SV&G could be described as a layup, it could also be described as a trap game. The US under Klinsmann, after all, has a habit of making these Caribbean trips more difficult than they need to be. There must be no laurel-sitting or looking ahead to Tuesday.

Who’s here, who isn’t?

The biggest missing piece from the US roster is surely Clint Dempsey, who is back in Seattle undergoing evaluation for an irregular heartbeat. There are almost no details known about Dempsey’s condition and what his odds of playing again may be. Of course, the most important thing is Dempsey’s health; soccer is secondary. But it is undeniable that the US will miss him going forward into the Hex and beyond. Whether he can play in 2018, even setting aside this heart issue, is an open question—the man is 33—but right now, he’s probably the US’s best player.

Luckily, guess who’s back? That’s right, Jozy Altidore, he of the faulty hamstrings, has returned, and in some of the best form of his career. Altidore has been an important cog in the US attack for some time now, but his recent extended absences have led the to the emergence of other players, like Bobby Wood, who scored his first Bundesliga goal over the weekend. But even Wood, a powerful physical presence, can’t really replicate the strength that Altidore brings (as all Union fans know, to our sorrow).

And, with Sacha Kljestan taking the place of the injured John Brooks, perhaps we will get to see the US playing with a real playmaker for once, one who can actually play key passes from central areas. Kljestan is also in sparkling form, leading MLS in assists. With Darlington Nagbe and Christian Pulisic in camp, as well, the potential for some exciting offensive ball is high, if Klinsmann puts them on the field, at least.

Further back, the US welcomes the return of Omar Gonzalez. After falling off the depth chart entirely, a move to Liga MX in Mexico has resuscitated Gonzalez’s career and brought him back into the fold. His Pachuca team won the spring championship, with him as its defensive leader, and arguably the best CB in Mexico.

Gyasi Zardes misses out due to a broken foot, and Jermaine Jones withdrew to continue rehabbing an injury of his own.

St Vincent and the Grenadines

SV&G is small. By rights, the US should stomp them. That was true back in November, too, of course, and the US did, scoring six goals, but not before giving up the opening goal, one of only three that St Vincent and the Grenadines have scored across their four games in this round. That was a very long sentence, and an equally roundabout way of saying the US is more than capable of shooting themselves in the foot by not concentrating hard enough.


But yeah, that ain’t happening. The US is too good, and SV&G too small to pull an upset. So the question becomes how many goals can the US score? Goal difference could matter for determining who tops the group, if the US trips up against T&T while Guatemala wins out. I see: 4–0 to the US as the baseline, with the possibility for more.

One Comment

  1. el Pachyderm says:

    Klinsman calling out the little boys…. step up. Do more. Earn your right to play. LOVE IT.
    Then tacitly undercutting college soccer. More More More.

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