International friendly preview: USMNT v New Zealand

After downing Cuba 2–0 on Friday afternoon, the US braces for a visit from New Zealand on Tuesday, for the final tune-up match before Hexagonal qualifying begins next month.

Cuba roundup

The game on Friday wasn’t much of a showcase for the US. Cuba had good chances to score, and the US struggled to score, though they did dominate for much of the game. In the end, it was two players at opposite ends of the age spectrum who made the difference. Both Julian Green and Chris Wondolowski have been in the national team woods since the World Cup, but they took their chance to make a splash, assisting each other on the two US goals. Green, in particular, was dangerous for the US throughout the match. The players who made the most noise recently, Christian Pulisic and Sacha Kljestan, were kept relatively quiet. Jurgen Klinsmann has said that these two matches are about players making their case that they deserve to be included for the games that count. Pulisic and Kljestan did nothing to suggest they will fall out of the manager’s plans, but Green and Wondo did themselves a lot of good.

Roster changes

For all that, Wondowlowski has been sent back to his club team, along with many of the Europe-based players and players, like Wondo, whose MLS teams are in a scrap for the postseason: John Brooks, Geoff Cameron, Timmy Chandler, Ethan Horvath, Fabian Johnson, Jordan Morris, Christian Pulisic, and Bobby Wood. Coming in are Kellyn Acosta, Juan Agudelo, Matt Besler, Terrence Boyd, Bill Hamid, Michael Orozco and Tim Parker. Agudelo is in white-hot form for the New England Revolution right now. Boyd has been snake-bit by injuries but is finally healthy and getting a chance to come back into the fold.

New Zealand

New Zealand is a minnow. They are the best team in their FIFA region (Oceania, which no longer includes Australia), but generally fails to make any noise against bigger countries; they did not qualify for the 2014 World Cup. The US and New Zealand have faced each other just twice, with both games 2–1 victories for the US. The Kiwis, for their part, just lost by the same scoreline to Mexico, which is all to say that while they cannot be completely discounted, anything less than a comfortable win by the Americans would be shocking.

What to watch for

The US, playing at home, on a quality surface, will look to impose itself on the match offensively, while controlling the center of the pitch in a way they failed to versus Cuba. Michael Bradley was somewhat undisciplined in Havana, and it led to Cuba having more and better chances than the US wanted to give up. Expect Pulisic, Kljestan, Bradley, and Green, should he play, to have more joy. Able to keep the ball on the deck and run without it bobbling incessantly, the quick interchanges we salivated over back in September will more than likely return. Jozy Altidore, relatively anonymous in Cuba, should also return to center stage.

This game could be a little slow to start, but it wouldn’t be surprising for it to be done and dusted by the half. Prediction: USA 3–0 New Zealand.


  1. Little bookkeeping error: Pulisic headed back to Germany so he will not be available this game.

    With that said, I agree that Kljestan and Bradley should find more joy this game and really would like to see if Green can put in another solid outing.

  2. Jeremy – You failed to mention the Kiwis’s best players: Jermaine, Bret and Murray.

  3. If the Kiwis are smart they will get as many friendlies with Concacaf as possible. They know that they’re going to have to play one of us at the end of every World Cup cycle (well at least for the next two until Infantino throws the WC into total turmoil).

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