Team USA continues its journey towards the 2014 World Cup with a qualifying match against Antigua & Barbuda on Friday in Antigua.
This will be the second time in three months these two squads have played—the United States defeated Antigua & Barbuda 3-1 on June 8—but the stakes will be considerably higher this time around.
There is a three-way tie at the top of Group A right now, with USA, Jamaica and Guatemala all square with seven points. If the U.S. wants to pull away, it certainly has the right opponent to do so. Antigua & Barbuda is 0-3-1 in group action.
Here is what the United States needs to do to secure a victory and three points on Friday evening.
Who Will Win?
The United States has been searching for some kind of offense under Jurgen Klinsmann. The team has scored more than one goal only once during qualifying, and that was against Antigua & Barbuda back in June.
Other than that three-goal output, the offense has been stagnant for the United States. This team needs a jolt of energy somewhere. New roster addition Alan Gordon has a reputation as an offensive playmaker, so he could be the missing piece this team has been looking for.
Be On The Attack
Another piece of the offensive puzzle that has been missing for the United States recently is urgency.
When you watch the U.S. players with the ball, they rarely act like there is a sense of purpose. They seem content to run around, wait for an opening and then pursue it.
Antigua & Barbuda is the perfect opponent to turn things around against. The U.S. can start to get aggressive offensively without sacrificing much on defense, since Antigua & Barbuda doesn't pose much of a threat with the ball.
Taking the game to Antigua & Barbuda is what the United States needs to do, at least to build some confidence moving forward.
Power Over Finesse
Antigua & Barbuda's roster is built primarily on speed, so if you come out of the gate and get physical, they are likely to back down slightly.
One thing the United States can do, particularly on defense, is attempt to send a message. That is not to say they should try to hurt someone, but let Antigua & Barbuda know that they can't just run around the U.S. to attack the net.
Speed can be a killer, but in the right situation—which this certainly is—it alone won't be enough for Antigua & Barbuda.