The United States puts the final touches on its preparations for the Gold Cup with a friendly against Guatemala. Most notably, the match should mark the return of Landon Donovan, who's been left off recent squads for friendlies and World Cup qualifying.
Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann decided to go with wide-ranging changes to his roster for the Gold Cup. Many of the key players who helped the Americans go undefeated in three June qualifiers were left off in favor of contributors with something to prove heading into 2014.
They should face a good test from Guatemala, which features veteran depth on defense and some players with potential on the attack. Although the current World Cup cycle was disappointing, the pieces are in place to turn things around moving forward.
Let's take a glance at all the key viewing information for the friendly, followed by a closer look at some players to watch and a match prediction.
Where: Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, Calif.
When: Friday, July 5 at 11 p.m. ET
Watch: NBC Sports Network
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra
United States Player to Watch: Landon Donovan
The all-time leading scorer in American national team history returns after watching the squad show signs of progress without him. His task is to prove to Klinsmann that he can still serve as a valuable piece of the team with the World Cup on the horizon.
Watch for what role he's deployed in. The striker spot has been assumed by Jozy Altidore, who showed off terrific form during the recent qualifiers, with Clint Dempsey playing in a supporting role. The midfield is far less settled, though.
If Donovan starts in the midfield, the opportunity for him to slide back into a starting role when the full squad comes together would improve. He's been a key member of the American soccer landscape for a long time, and he can ensure that continues with strong showings throughout the month.
Guatemala Player to Watch: Minor Lopez
The biggest problem Guatemala has faced is a lack of goalscoring. Carlos Ruiz served as a key member of the attack for more than a decade. Without him, the Chapines have been forced to rotate different options with hopes of finding a new lead striker.
Lopez has emerged as the best option. He's scored six international goals, the most of any player on the current Guatemalan squad. The good news for the side is that he should just be entering his prime years at age 26.
He possesses the size and strength necessary to put some serious pressure on the American back line. Expect Guatemala to get him as many touches as possible early in an attempt to wear down the defense, if not even grab a quick lead.
Matchup to Watch: American defense vs. Guatemalan attack
DaMarcus Beasley has handled the switch to defense well. He brings good pace to the outside and has shown a tendency to join the attack on the wing. Elsewhere, however, the United States is still searching for some stability at the back.
Like Donovan, Oguchi Onyewu returns to the national team with a chance to make an impact. Tony Beltran, Edgar Castillo and Michael Orozco Fiscal are among the other defenders Klinsmann would probably like to test in the coming weeks.
Just like the American back line has question marks, so does the Guatemalan attack. Lopez has shown flashes of being a valuable striker, but he needs some support. Nelson Miranda and Angelo Padilla could eventually fill that role but are still developing. These matches should help.
Ultimately, the United States back line should hold up en route to a friendly triumph.
United States 2, Guatemala 0
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