As the U.S. prepares to battle A Seleçao in front of thousands of American and Brazilian fans in the New Meadowlands Stadium, one cannot help but notice the marked difference between the two sides in their lineups and developmental stage.
On the one side, we see an American team that is largely unchanged from the squad that participated in the World Cup. Of the 18 players that Bradley recalled, 14 participated in this summer’s tournament. While Clint Dempsey and Oguchi Onyewu might not be with the current squad, the core of the U.S. National Team, consisting of players such as Landon Donovan and Tim Howard, will be present when the U.S. faces Brazil.
U.S. National Team Coach Bob Bradley’s decision to use a tried and tested team against Brazil comes as no surprise. Bradley’s days as Head Coach of the U.S. National Team are limited, with this match possibly being his last. Bradley has little incentive to field a young, untested team against Brazil, since he will not be the one responsible for building the future of U.S. Soccer. However, a victory against a Brazilian side - even an inexperienced one – will be noticed oversees, and may increase Bradley’s coaching prospects abroad.
For the U.S. National Team and its coach, the match against Brazil represents one last hurrah – one last match of the squad that won its group in South Africa and shocked the world with its grit and determination. I anticipate that the squad in next year’s Gold Cup will be younger and less experienced than the team that will compete with Brazil.
On the other side of the field, we see a Brazilian team that has revamped itself since its early departure from the World Cup. The match between Brazil and the U.S. marks the first match for Mano Menezes, who replaced his controversial predecessor Dunga three weeks after Brazil’s loss to the Netherlands in the World Cup Quarterfinals.
Menezes’s first move has been to recall Brazil’s youth to the team. Of the 23 players that made up Brazil’s World Cup squad in 2010, only four will suit up for the game against the U.S. An even more surprising statistic is that Menezes has selected eleven uncapped players for the match. One can sense the youth and inexperience of the current Brazilian squad simply by looking at the number of players in the roster who have both a first and a last name, as opposed to the traditional Brazilian one-word nickname.
While some might be shocked by Menezes’s decision to leave such pillars of Brazilian soccer as Ronaldinho and Kaka off the roster, it seems that Menezes is looking to the future, to the Confederations Cup of 2013 and the World Cup of 2014, when these aging stars may not be able to participate and the uncapped players of today will be the backbone of A Seleçao. If that is the case, then today we may witness the birth of the new Brazil.
Prediction: U.S. defeats Brazil 2:1
While I may not be as prescient as a certain octopus named Paul, I would be willing to wager that the U.S. will defeat Brazil in today’s match. In the end, experience will overcome talent. One cannot deny that the Brazilian squad has many budding stars whose names alone will evoke awe in the near future. However, the U.S. squad that faces Brazil has gelled into a team over the course of a dramatic, if ultimately disappointing, World Cup.
The team’s chemistry, coupled with Brazil’s inexperience, will enable the U.S. to set up many chances in front of the Brazilian’s goal, two of which will ultimately be converted by such renowned goalscorers as Landon Donovan and Jozy Altidore. While The U.S. defense may seem weak, Tim Howard will prevent Brazil from capitalizing on most of their opportunities, with only one ball getting past the veteran ‘keeper.
A win against a young Brazilian side may not be prized by some. However, in my opinion, a victory against Brazil is always a feat worth commending. I predict that we will see this momentous event take place today.