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Posted at 11:44 AM ET, 03/25/2011

U.S. vs. Argentina match preview

World Cup 2014 starts tomorrow. The Argentina match is preparation for the Gold Cup; winning the Gold Cup gets us the Confederations Cup; the Confederations Cup is preparation for the World Cup. So, to me, the cycle officially starts tomorrow.

Stuart Holden’s injury is a massive bummer in any number of ways, mostly immediately because it denies us a chance to see what I’ll call the “Mid-table Midfield”: Holden in an advanced middle role backed by Jones and Bradley (or possibly Edu), Donovan and Dempsey in attacking roles on the flanks. Paul Tenorio obviously thinks this was going to happen if it wasn’t for Holden’s injury, and Ives still thinks a Holden-less version of this is going to happen. To me, a five-man midfield was an absolute no-brainer: we have too many quality midfielders, too few quality strikers, and our two best players (Donovan and Dempsey) excel in a three-quarters role. It was obvious.

But all that was blown up when Johnny Evans went all Nigel de Jong on Holden’s knee (why does the city of Manchester hate Stuart Holden’s legs?). Now, I think we’re looking at a 4-4-2 again. I’ll bet we see this:

------------Altidore------------Buddle-------------------

Donovan--------Bradley------Jones-------Dempsey

Boca----------DeMerit--------Gooch----------Lichaj

--------------------------Howard---------------------------

Yes, Buddle not Agudelo. Yes, DeMerit not Ream. Think about it: when was the last time you saw a Bob Bradley lineup put on the screen during pregame and DIDN’T think: “Man…he went conservative.” Bradley is ultra-conservative; if soccer were politics, he’d be Sean Hannity.

If it was me, I’d probably do this:

-------------------------Altidore---------------------------

Dempsey---------------Bradley--------------Donovan

-----------------Jones---------------Edu-------------------

Boca----------DeMerit--------Gooch----------Lichaj

--------------------------Howard---------------------------

Not that it matters much; it’s a friendly, and a lot of guys who don’t start will still see significant minutes. I’m sure we’ll see Agudelo, most likely 15 minutes after everyone in the stadium starts thinking “how is Agudelo not on yet?” It also probably doesn’t matter whether Bradley or Edu start next to Jones; I’ll bet they each play one half.

Here are some things I’d like to see:

A good performance. Yes, it’s a friendly, but it’s a high-profile friendly. This is one of those games where casual American soccer fans will tune in to see if we’re any good yet. So it’d be nice to play well and have an entertaining game. Obviously, a win would be great, but a draw would be good, and a one-goal loss in which we score would be okay. Any shutout loss or loss by multiple goals will be disappointing.

Timothy Chandler. From time to time I wonder why we still have troops in Germany. Now I know: it’s to populate our national team. We have no fewer than THREE guys on the roster with a German mother and an American serviceman father (is there anything those guys DON’T do for this country?). I’ve heard good things about Chandler, and I’m excited to see him play.

Donovan on the right, Dempsey on the left. Bradley always plays them the other way around, and it drives me absolutely nuts. Dempsey always plays on the left for Fulham; Donovan plays any number of places for the Galaxy. Donovan is the better crosser; Dempsey is better at cutting inside and shooting. I guess the logic is that Donovan is better with his left, but how often do you really see him play in a cross with his left foot? This seems really obvious to me.

A good game from Gooch. I can’t believe how quickly some American fans are writing him off. Don’t they remember how integral he was to our back line during qualifying? Don’t they remember what a rock he was in the Confederations Cup? That was 2009, not the silent film area. Now that he’s playing again, I hope he becomes the force that he was pre-injury.

A goal from Altidore. I want him to score so that national team fans will admit the obvious: he’s the best striker we have at the moment. I agree that Altidore needs to score more, but those who criticize his lack of goals for Hull City need to understand: that Hull team was the single greatest British atrocity of the post-colonial era. NOBODY scored for that team; Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink – a good striker who logged a lot of minutes – scored three. Phil Brown rarely played Altidore and VoH together, usually pairing Jozy with the remarkably ineffective Craig Fagan. Richard Garcia was the midfield talisman. Future San Jose Earthquakes washout Giovanni was a centerpiece. That team was terrible and Pele himself wouldn’t have cracked double digits playing striker for that team.

Agudelo! Good game last week. If he was stock, I’d buy. 

Messi! I hear he’s kinda good.

By Jeff Maurer  |  11:44 AM ET, 03/25/2011

Tags:  U.S. Soccer, Jeff Maurer

 
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