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Antigua and Barbuda vs. USA: Key Players to Lead Americans to Victory

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Antigua and Barbuda vs. USA: Key Players to Lead Americans to Victory
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

The United States will be without some of its key players when it takes on Antigua and Barbuda in a World Cup qualifying match on Friday.

Landon Donovan, Brek Shea, Fabian Johnson and Edgar Castillo have all been ruled out of the match, according to the Denver Post, but that's no reason to count out the Americans.

If the Americans can win their next two games, they would advance no matter what happens in the other Group A matches.

Here are three key players to Friday's match:

 

Clint Dempsey

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It's going to be a real treat to watch the matchup between Clint Dempsey and Marc Joseph.

Joseph—who has played defense for 10 different clubs in 17 years—seemed to always be in contention with Dempsey each time he entered Antigua and Barbuda's box the last time these two met.

Given how well Demspey has been playing for Tottenham during these past couple of weeks, it's going to take more than just Joseph to contain the 29-year-old star.

With Donovan and Altidore not playing in this match, Dempsey will be the Americans' biggest goalscoring threat on Friday.

 

Tim Howard

Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

You can't win games if you allow the opposition to score, and U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard is one of the best at keeping the ball out of the net.

Howard has played in his fair share of big games, so I don't expect him to crumble under the pressure of the World Cup qualifier. 

As Howard told Tim Reynolds of the Denver Post, "We play in big games every week. I don't think anyone's really worried or nervous. We've got winnable games. Whether we win them or not, we'll see."

As Howard goes, Team USA goes. If he can keep a clean sheet on Friday, he can relieve some of the pressure that's been put upon his offense with all of the recent injuries.

 

Eddie Johnson

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It's been two years since his last appearance for the USA national team and four years since his last goal for the Americans, but Eddie Johnson will be key for the U.S.

With Jozy Altidore and Landon Donovan both missing this game, the 28-year-old Johnson will have an opportunity to redeem himself after a rough patch, according to coach Jurgen Klinsmann (via the New York Times' Walter Villa).

“This is Eddie’s opportunity. Eddie has a big smile on his face. He has proved in the past that he can score goals, and we need goals,” said the USA boss.

Although Johnson's career has waned, this is still the same player who scored seven goals in his first six World Cup qualifying games.

 

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