The United States Men’s National Team takes on Mexico tonight in Glendale, Ariz (in spazzy new uniforms). The game falls on a non-FIFA date, meaning both teams are featuring mostly domestic-based squads. This is the last game before the United States begins their World Cup camp next month as the team stands two months and two weeks away from their first match against Ghana in the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Seeing as the United States’ roster features domestic-based players, the overall performance of the squad is not necessarily the most important thing to see in this friendly. Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann is going to be looking for answers about certain players and positions on the field, while hoping to see certain positional groups play well amongst each other.
Here, we have the four things to look for in tonight’s match against Mexico.
1) If you haven’t heard, the United States got an 18-year-old German-American kid, whose gotten time off the bench for Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League, to commit to the United States Soccer Federation. His name is Julian Green, and it certainly looks like he has a bright future. With his worry-free club reclining in their first-place La-Z-Boy, Green hopes to find first-team minutes in the time before the World Cup. That will be answered in time, but tonight is his night to make a statement to this team.
He most likely will not start, but U.S. fans will be up in arms if Green doesn’t get at least 30 minutes. The truth is, Green has much to prove. But another truth is, Brek Shea still looks like this team’s best sub off of the bench, and that isn’t a good thing. If Green can show the speed and technical ability his club has spoken to, then he very may well solidify himself as the dark-horse player to make the final 23 for Brazil, with the chance to make a difference off the bench.
2) Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler. These two need to be watched closely, and if either one puts in a bad first 45 minutes, then we need to see what Clarence Goodson will look like back there. Besler’s not so worrying as much as Gonzalez is. He just has a knack for making a mistake that leads to an opportunity for the other team, and Goodson is a very similar player to Gonzalez. Besler should be the number one centerback, but number two should come down to form, and which player seems less likely to make a mistake to lead to a goal, rather than which player can make a play to stop a goal. That speaks more to Goodson than it does Gonzalez.
3) Donovan and Dempsey. The upcoming World Cup will surely be the last for each of these U.S. Soccer legends and throughout the time they’ve both been a part of the team there’s been the question of how to use them both together on the field effectively. Klinsmann has shown his preference to slot Dempsey in the hole underneath the striker, will he continue to go that route? My bet is he does, while slotting Donovan on the left. Just like 4 years ago, this team’s hopes rely heavily on these two players. To see them combining on the field and scoring goals or assisting would be a great sign for this team going forward.
4) The 2nd defensive midfielder. Jurgen Klinsmann recently spoke out about his worries that Jermaine Jones is not getting games and all of a sudden this spot looks up for grabs. It’s been Jones and Michael Bradley in just about every full-team game this cycle, but Jones has a number of issues that looks to jeopardize his ability to start and finish games at the World Cup. Some are simply tactical, others physical, but the odds of Jones going 180 minutes in the United States’ three group stage games are nearly zero. Beckerman will most likely get the start, something he’s earned this cycle, but pay particular attention to Edu. He’s been out of the picture for about a year, but is back in the MLS getting regular games in for the Philadelphia Union. He has World Cup experience, is in his prime years, and provides an all around skill-set required of the United States’ defensive midfielders. He should get at least 30 minutes and if he shows strongly he may well be the answer to who’s going to partner Michael Bradley in the 2014 World Cup.