USMNT

World Cup Qualifying preview: USMNT v Trinidad and Tobago

The US plays its final game before the Hexagonal round of World Cup 2018 qualifying play on Tuesday night (8 pm, FS1, UniMas). A win will see them top the group. The US is likely through, regardless of the result. For, while a US loss coupled with a Guatemala win over St Vincent and the Grenadines would leave the two teams equal on points, the US currently has a twelve-goal advantage in goal difference. Only a disaster of cataclysmic proportions could overturn that.

Still, the US welcomes back its captain, Michael Bradley, after he served a one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation, and the excellent play of Bobby Wood, Jozy Altidore, Sacha Kljestan, and Christian Pulisic, has the US primed to win the game and top the group, leaving any mathematical agita by the wayside.

Roster notes

As noted, Bradley has been called in following his suspension, and he is joined by Michael Orozco, also following a yellow-card-accumulation suspension. Orozco is replacing Matt Besler, who marked Friday’s game with his first international goal, as well as the birth of his son. He has returned home to be with his family.

With the attacking foursome of Wood, Altidore, Kljestan, and Pulisic all in good form, Jurgen Klinsmann will be challenged to find a formation that best utilizes all of their talents, all while accommodating the powerful presence of Bradley in the middle. In truth, he may not care to. Klinsmann has already played down the likelihood of a Pulisic start, his two goal, one assist performance in St Vincent notwithstanding. And, while both Wood and Altidore are playing well, it’s not clear that they work as a partnership. The argument in favor says they need minutes together to figure it out, while the argument against is that they don’t fit together.

The player with the biggest claim for more minutes, though, must be Kljestan. Leaving aside his own excellent game on Friday—not to mention the two-season run of form he’s on in MLS—the fact of the matter is Kljestan is a true attacking central midfielder, unlike anyone else the US has in the pool right now. Alejandro Bedoya has played there, and Darlington Nagbe is good, too, but no one really works with and without the ball like Kljestan does. Furthermore, assuming Bradley again plays as a No. 6, as he has done so well for Toronto FC and at times in the past months for the US, then Kljestan can slot into the lineup without disrupting anyone else’s role. Not only that, but he can make everyone around him better. Altidore, when starved of service, as he too often is, drops deep to pick up the ball. Kljestan can provide the link between Bradley and the strikers, freeing Altidore up to do the things that strikers do, in the positions they should do them. Kljestan’s been out of the US picture for a long time, and it’s up to him to show he belongs and start making up for lost time. If Friday is any evidence, he’s ready to do that. Now it’s up to Klinsmann to put him on the field.

Trinidad and Tobago

The US has an excellent record against T&T, with a 16-2-4 all-time record, including a sterling 11-0-1 at home. The Soca Warriors do have players that can hurt the US, though, with the likes of Kevin Molino and Kenwyne Jones in the attack. But in truth, T&T has already qualified for the Hex, so is unlikely to go hell for leather at the US. They also have yet to lose a game, winning three and drawing two, so a conservative, risk-averse game plan may be in the offing.

Prediction

This is a home game with the top seed in the group on the line, against an opponent with little to play for. I expect the US to get it done: 3–0 to the US, with more goals certainly possible. Kljestan gets a start alongside Bradley, with Pulisic seeing more second half minutes, along with fellow youngster Jordan Morris.

2 Comments

  1. I disagree that it would take “a disaster of cataclysmic proportions” for the US not to qualify if they lose. Guatemala is playing a team with a -22 goal differential. They have to go into the game assuming the US will lose 3-2 (which is about the worst case scenario for Guatemala that still matters). So they go in knowing they need to put up a huge number. Maybe play a 2-4-4 and look to try to win 16-4 or something. Yes, that’s a little crazy but it seems like that’s what they need to play for.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

%d bloggers like this: