Let the games begin!
Now that the club season is over, and summer is upon us, the US Men's National Team heads into probably its toughest match of the World Cup qualifying campaign before South Africa next year (outside of playing at Mexico, of course).
The game Wednesday in Estadio Saprissa in Costa Rica, followed by a home match in Chicago's Soldier Field against Honduras, will test the team severely given the quick turnaround and several issues surrounding the teamnamely injuries and lack of playing time as a team.
But let's not look too far ahead. Costa Rica will present a stiff challenge to Sam's Army.
First off are the conditions and the environment. Saprissa will be loud, hostile, and muggy. The field will be less than ideal, as Saprissa has an artificial turf fieldpresenting another thing the US team will have to adjust to.
History has not been kind to the the US either. The team is 0-5-1 all-time playing in Costa Rica. That's right, the US has never won there and the last time the US went to Costa Rica during World Cup qualifying, the team lost in embarrassing fashion, 3-0. The only thing that could temper that loss was the fact that the US had already qualified for the '06 Cup by the time the game was played.
As mentioned earlier, the status of several players for the game will be in doubt. Injured are Frankie Hejduk and Maurice Edu, both of whom would probably start if not for the questionable status of their health.
The rest of the team will join their teammates for practices Monday and Tuesday in Costa Rica, hardly enough time to practice together before such an important match.
Based on the comments of the team and coach, the U.S. will likely play conservatively and clog the middle of the pitch in order to thwart the Costa Rican attack and possibly spring counterattacks. The US is hoping for a draw or betterwhile Costa Rica will be looking to win and playing attacking football.
Assuming the unavailability of Hejduk and Edu, we may see a backline of Jonathan Spector, Carlos Bocanegra, Oguchi Onyewu, and Jonathan Bornstein. In midfield, Clint Dempsey, Pablo Mastroeni, Michael Bradley, and DaMarcus Beasley. Up top, Brian Ching with Landon Donovan in a withdrawn striker role. I'm not sure about health of Jozy Altidore, who would probably be starting but might be held out given he is recovering from toe surgery.
I can also see Bob Bradley putting Jose Francisco Torres in front of Bradley and Mastroeni, moving Donovan to left mid, and either moving Beasley to left back, or slotting Bornstein there and leaving Beasley on the bench. This would be an even more conservative lineup, one with, essentially, three central midfielders to keep Costa Rica from keeping too much possession.
Prediction: USA 1, Costa Rica 1