Jurgen Klinsmann and the US Men's National Soccer Team will take on Italy in Genoa tomorrow.
The game was supposed to be the first time star players Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey played together under Klinsmann, but Donovan withdrew due to illness.
With a number of other regulars and starters out of the game with injuries, the USMNT will not be as strong or deep as they had hoped and will have their work cut out for them. This is one of the final friendly matches before they start mattering when the squad begins qualifying for the 2014 World Cup later this year.
Here is a list of 10 bold predictions for tomorrow's match with the Azzurri.
Spector is a versatile defender who can play across the line.
Earning his first inclusion from Klinsmann, Spector has not been capped by the USMNT since late 2010. Klinsmann still has questions regarding his defensive line ahead of World Cup qualifying, and Spector may get the chance to show he deserves consideration.
However, Klinsmann may very well opt to start Fabian Johnson at left back. Johnson has played left back for his club, Hoffenheim, but he showed great attacking ability when the Yanks played Slovenia last November. Klinsmann may value his offensive abilities more than what he can do on defense.
Steve Cherundolo will start at right back, and Carlos Bocanegra will start at center back. Clarence Goodson is most likely to start in the middle with Bocanegra, and with left back Timmy Chandler out due to injury, Spector may be the best option to start there.
Johnson had a great showing in the Slovenia friendly in November. Shea seems to have a firm grip on the left wing, and Johnson showed he is capable of playing on the wing and creating scoring chances.
Though he plays left back for his club, Hoffenheim, Chandler is the clear No. 1 left back on Klinsmann’s squad. Even though Chandler is out of the game, Johnson’s future with the national team is in the midfield. This is another opportunity to see what he can do on the wing.
Bradley has been in top form playing for Chievo in Italy’s Serie A.
The central midfielder’s knowledge of the Italian game and style of play will be cruicial if the Americans hope to come out of the game with a positive result.
Bradley is simply too good and too important for Klinsmann’s side to sit on the bench. He played well on the wing against Slovenia, but Shea will almost certainly start on the wing, and the team might be better off with Johnson on the opposite side while Bradley distributes the ball.
This might be the end of Beckerman in the starting XI.
The 4-4-2 worked well against Slovenia.
Landon Donovan has bronchitis and will miss the match, leaving the US without one of their top offensive threats and Klinsmann again missing out on pairing Donovan with Clint Dempsey.
Ahead of World Cup qualifying this summer, there are still question marks surrounding the forwards. Jozy Altidore will most likely get the nod to start, although he recently lost his starting position with Dutch side AZ Alkmaar.
Altidore has shown that he is not very successful up top alone. The US attack is ineffective with a lone target forward.
A 4-4-2 may give the Yanks their best chance at success in Genoa.
Klinsmann likes Buddle, who recently returned to LA Galaxy after an unsuccessful stint in Germany.
Surely capable of scoring goals, Buddle is a veteran who has played in Klinsmann’s squads last year. As stated, the US attack is better off with two forwards.
Though he has had a lack of playing time recently, the lack of attacking options should give Buddle the opportunity to start alongside Altidore. How long before Klinsmann subs him out is another question.
Klinsmann still has questions he must answer ahead of World Cup qualifying about his striking options. Altidore is ineffective playing alone, and behind him, there do not seem to be many clear options.
Boyd was called into the USMNT U-23 side less than a week ago before Klinsmann called him and told him of the changed plans.
Though Boyd has not yet made a first team appearance with his club, Borussia Dortmund, he has scored 11 goals in 17 matches for the German side’s U-23 team.
If Boyd does not start for Klinsmann, he may come off the bench as a second-half substitute. Klinsmann obviously sees something in Boyd that he likes and may want to get a look at him in a match for the USMNT.
If the US attack is ineffective and Altidore, Buddle and Boyd are unable to find the back of the net, Klinsmann may opt to experiment with Dempsey as a striker.
Dempsey has at times played up top for his club, Fulham, and has scored 10 goals in league play this season.
Shea has created the most chances for the Yanks with Klinsmann at the helm, but has yet to score a goal.
He has stayed in form during the MLS offseason. He spent a month training with Arsenal and manager Arsene Wenger and was in the USMNT January camp.
Shea was expected to be with the U-23s during this FIFA fixture date, but with so many players withdrawing from the senior team, Klinsmann called in Shea.
It will be difficult for Howard and the Yanks to keep the Italians scoreless, but would be an incredible feat if they do so.
The Azzurri will be without forwards Giuseppe Rossi and Mario Balotelli, but do have other quality options on offense.
Making this even more difficult to accomplish is the Yanks back line will be without starters Chandler and Oguchi Onyewu. Howard will have to come up with another spectacular performance to hold the Italians scoreless.
Shea will score his first goal in a US uniform and Klinsmann will earn his biggest victory yet as USMNT manager.
It will be a hard fought victory for the Yanks, as it will be difficult to beat Italian keeper, Gianluigi Buffon, one of the best in the world.
The Americans will still have questions about their strikers and their shorthanded defense will struggle with the Italian attack, but Howard will make a number of brilliant saves in a stellar performance.