USA vs. Brazil Game Guide: Projected Lineups, Key Matchups, and Injury Report
For the fifth time nearly as many years, USA soccer takes on mighty Brazil tonight at 8pm in Washington D.C.
It promises to be an excellent matchup, with Jurgen Klinsmann's U.S. team nearly at full strength, and the likewise being the case for Mano Menezes' Brazil side.
As it's only a friendly, the game is fundamentally a learning experience, mostly for the managers as they look to narrow their rosters before actual World Cup qualifiers begin (though Brazil don't actually have to qualify for 2014, as they are hosting.)
There are several interesting points and story lines to this matchup, which is increasingly becoming an important one in the western hemisphere.
Projected Lineups for the Brazilians and the Americans
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For the United States, they enter this game fresh off their 5-1 dismantling of Scotland, who simply could not handle Landon Donovan.
The American playmaker notched a cleanly taken hat trick and also two assists. He may never have a better day as a professional as long as he plays.
Yet it was more than simply one player for Klinsmann's team. They finally looked like the high-energy, free flowing force that he's been searching for.
The probable lineup that Jurgen will run with looks like this:
(4-2-3-1): (Goalie) Tim Howard
(Right Back) Steve Cherundolo, (Center Back) Oguchi Onyewu, (Center Back) Carlos Bocanegra, (Left Back) Fabian Johnson
(Center Midfield) Michael Bradley, (Center Midfield) Jermaine Jones, (Right Attacking Midfielder) Landon Donovan, (Center Attacking Midfielder) Clint Dempsey, (Left Attacking Midfielder) Jose Torres
(Striker) Jozy Altidore.
Brazil will not field a completely full strength team, with players like Dani Alves and Ganso.
For almost any other team in the world, these would be major losses. For Brazil though, they are minor inconveniences.
This is especially true given that Brazil will finally be able to include arguably their best (and most exciting) young player, Neymar.
Though he didn't play in Brazil's 3-1 win over Denmark a few days ago, he's expected to factor in Washington.
The Brazilian lineup may look something like this:
(4-2-2-2): (Goalie) Jefferson
(Right Back) Danilo, (Center Back) Thiago Silva, (Center Back) Juan, (Left Back) Marcelo
(Defensive Midfield) Romulo, (Defensive Midfield) Sandro, (Attacking Midfield) Oscar, (Attacking Midfield) Lucas
(Striker) Hulk, (Striker) Neymar.
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For starters, the U.S. will have no fear of Brazil. As was mentioned in the opening, they've played the South Americans several times in the last few years, and have battled on each occasion.
True, the results have been one-sided. Yet a 5-1 win over a European opponent (not something that American soccer accomplishes every day) is bound to inject confidence.
Brazil, naturally, fear no one. They will undoubtedly come out and try to use their superior individual talent to force the issue early.
Tactically, it all comes down to how the U.S. defend as a unit. They will probably be without the ball for long stretches and will have to keep calm.
The interior midfielders will be waging incessant battles for possession. It should be interesting to see how both Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley manage on defense.
Most likely, Brazil's midfield quartet will pack into the middle, hoping to overload the Americans there.
This means that Jones and Bradley will have to mark the attacking midfielders (Oscar and Lucas) while leaving space for Brazil's defensive midfield pairing (Romulo and Sandro).
If Brazil's defensive midfield can use their possession wisely, then it's a problem for Klinsmann's side.
Also, the U.S. will have to be mindful of attacking defenders hurtling forward from Brazil's back line. This is nothing new from Brazil, as massed attacks (especially down the flanks) have been a staple of Brazilian soccer for decades.
And of course, upfront Neymar and the aptly-named Hulk will cause problems for whoever is in central defense for the Americans. If Onyewu plays, his lateral agility will be tested mightily.
On offense, the U.S. will likely look to exploit gaps that open up as Brazil moves farther and farther forward. This, fortunately for USA fans, is something players like Donovan and Altidore are adept at doing (as it's been bedrock American strategy for 20 years).
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This section is exclusively a Clint Dempsey conversation.
The prolific attacker is arguably America's best striker (and also our best attacking midfielder).
His record-breaking season at Fulham this year was nothing short of spectacular.
And his well-taken finish against Italy (on Italian soil) gave the U.S. their first victory ever against Italy.
So it goes without saying that his health is critical.
Still recovering from an end-of-season groin injury, he's a gametime decision for his manager, Jurgen Klinsmann.
Many things change if Dempsey can't go. As the fulcrum of the USA attack, his absence changes the lineup from a more attacking one to one that shades more to the defensive.
Klinsmann, never one to panic, says he's not going to stress about it, and may use Dempsey off the bench if he can't start.
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I think the game will probably go against the U.S. initially. They've been slow starters against opposition like Brazil before (who monopolize possession) and will probably have to endure some opening punches.
Yet few teams are able to counter-punch like the Americans. With men like Michael Bradley and Landon Donovan in the side, the USA will certainly not be lacking in hustle.
And if the Brazilians fail to punish the home team early, the industrious USA midfield will inevitably work their way back into the game.
If Jozy Altidore starts, look for Herculez Gomez to come on as a sub. Gomez has been plying his trade rather effectively for Mexican side Santos, and will certainly not be overwhelmed by another South American defense.
I think he can snatch a late goal.
So my prediction for the game: 1-1 (with Hulk grabbing Brazil's goal).