Just three days after a hard-fought and impressive draw against one of the top sides in the world in Argentina, the United States Men's National Soccer Team travels to Nashville, Tennessee to take on another strong side in Paraguay.
The only major change from the side that the Americans had available to face Argentina is the departure of striker Edson Buddle, who has been released by American head coach Bob Bradley to go back to his club team in Germany.
The game is another in a run of matches the United States is using in order to prepare for the upcoming Gold Cup, expected to be one of the more difficult tournaments in CONCACAF confederation history.
Once again, DTOT's Matt Bick and Sean Monaghan will take you through a preview of the Nashville affair, kicking off at 7 pm central on ESPN2.
Sean Monaghan: I think after the game against Argentina, we will line up in a 4-4-2 to take on Paraguay. The first half of the Argentina game, Bob Bradley played a 4-5-1 and Argentina dominated, possessing the ball for most of the half. At the interval, Bradley brought on Juan Agudelo for Jermaine Jones, and that meant switching to the 4-4-2 with Agudelo and Jozy Altidore partnered up top. That was when the Yanks started getting much more of the ball and started asserting themselves much more in the game than they had in the first half. Agudelo gave the midfield another outlet and the American attack began getting much more of the ball. Really, you could just see the entire team really start playing the way fans know they can.
Matt Bick: I definitely agree that Bob Bradley will return back to his "bread and butter," the 4-4-2. The success that the Americans had when Altidore had a partner up top in Agudelo was easy to see, and as I said in the Argentina preview piece, I think that Bradley is curious what that tandem can do on a consistent basis. I'm looking forward to seeing a start from "Agudore" in Nashville on Tuesday evening. Altidore has always been a player who looks markedly improved when he isn't shouldering the entire attacking burden -- he loves to be able to use pace to get around defenders 1 v. 1, but can't do that when it's him versus an entire back line. Having Agudelo, who himself possesses great speed, will help stretch out the Paraguayan defense, improving the chances of the US drawing first blood in this one.
SM: Without a doubt, this is Juan Agudelo. Scoring his first national team goal against South Africa, a match-winner no less, winning a penalty kick for a young squad against Chile in January and now scoring the equalizer against one of the best teams in the world having coming on as a substitute...not a bad way to start your international career. Even more impressive is Agudelo's poise considering he's just turned 18 years old. I'm hoping Bob Bradley pairs Agudelo and Altidore up top together -- they certainly played well together just a few days ago and asked questions of a skilled Argentine backline. Also, with Edson Buddle now back in Germany with his club team, I think there's a good chance of the "Agudore/Altidelo" tandem starting against Paraguay. Agudelo absolutely has the tools to become a very good player, for club and country.
MB: I of course agree that Agudelo is the most exciting player for the US to watch on offense, but just to liven things up a bit, I'm actually going to go with Timothy Chandler here. Very new to the US setup, it was his probing runs and excellent crossing that gave Argentina fits in the second half this weekend. The US has been looking for more consistent play from both of its wing backs in the defensive third for years now, and Chandler seems to at the very least possess the talent to fit in well with the American counterattack. It will be very interesting to see how he and the wing midfielders and strikers link up tomorrow night in Nashville.
SM: This is a really tough call for me. Apart from the cheap yellow card in the first five minutes of the second half, I thought that Tim Chandler played very well at right back when he came on for his debut 45 minutes. Composed on the ball, fast, and can serve a good ball in the middle. I definately want to see him get the start at right back in Nashville against Paraguay. Side note here, it'll be his 21st birthday, so it'd be a great present for the guy. The other player I'm really looking foward to seeing is Tim Ream of the New York Red Bulls. His ability to play out the back is something we haven't had from our center backs in recent years. Onyewu looked a little shaky in the Argentina game and looks like he hasn't fully recovered his form yet after his injury. I'd love to see Tim Ream getting the start over Onyewu at center back.
MB: I'd love to see Ream get some minutes, but I don't think we see him start. I had predicted Ream would get time in the Argentina match as I didn't think Jay DeMerit would be as match-fit as was necessary, but the Green Bay, WI native proved me wrong and will likely resume his partnership with Onyewu, if for no other reason than because Bob Bradley probably thinks this is his best center back pairing. I'm also going to assume that Carlos Bocanegra makes the start on the left side of the defense as the captain. So, for me, Chandler is a guy I'd love to see get the start as well. He made some questionable decisions defending the Argentine wings last weekend, but made up for it with his speed. I'd love to see what he does with 75 or 90 minutes.
SM: Lining up in a 4-4-2: Howard, Chandler, Ream, DeMerit, Bornstein, Donovan, Bradley, Jones, Dempsey, Agudelo and Altidore. If we played that line up, I wouldn't mind having Agudelo playing just behind Jozy but also having the freedom to get the ball down the wings and run at defenders. Bob Bradley has a tough choice in the midfield, using only two midfielders in the center out of Jones, Bradley and Edu, while Kljestan, Diskerud and Feilhaber all didn't get minutes vs. Argentina (Diskerud and Feilhaber didn't make the game roster). Bocanegra is much more of a center back than a left back as well, and I think we could see in the Argentina game that he doensn't have the pace to compete at a high international level on the flank. Maybe Bradley Sr. will surprise us and give Chandler or Lichaj a start at left back as opposed to their preferred spot right back.
MB: In a 4-4-2: Howard, Chandler, DeMerit, Onyewu, Bocanegra, Donovan, Bradley, Jones, Dempsey, Agudelo, Altidore. I still see Bob Bradley using these friendlies as warmups to the Gold Cup. In keeping with that, I think he plays his most trusted players in positions we've seen them do fairly well. Chandler gets a start at right back because this is probably the best opportunity Bradley has to evaluate a player who is still an emerging talent before the Gold Cup preparation gets down to the wire. Onyewu, DeMerit, and Bocanegra all get the start so they can re-gain chemistry together at the back. Donovan and Dempsey are nearly untouchable starters, but Bradley and Jones are two players that probably have the best skills of the midfielders in camp at the moment and are also still looking to shake off a little rust.