Photo by ISIphotos.com
The U.S. men’s national team’s ticket to the final round of World Cup qualifying is already punched, but that doesn’t mean tonight’s qualifier at Trinidad & Tobago is meaningless. That’s far from the case.
Tonight’s match is going to offer up a chance to see several of the U.S. program’s top prospects playing in a hostile environment against an opponent desperate for a positive result. With most of the national team’s top players absent (DaMarcus Beasley and Heath Pearce are the only regular starters in attendance), we will a very good chance to watch how some of these top young players handle a tough assignment.
Here are five things to watch for tonight:
Can Altidore dominate?
The call to make Jozy Altidore a national team starting forward has been going on since his header goal against Mexico in February and the goal he scored against Cuba on Saturday only made those calls louder. He should get the start tonight and will face a T&T defense that will be better than Cuba’s, but still not great.
Will Adu work his magic?
It hasn’t been the best fall for Adu, who has struggled for playing time since joining Monaco. Tonight should be his first chance since the Spain game to start in a tough match and show that he can control things in a playmaking role. The arrival of Jose Francisco Torres should put some added pressure on Adu to perform for the national team and tonight will be his first chance to show that he deserves more playing time.
When and where will Torres play?
Jose Francisco Torres showed some nice skills against Cuba but T&T will offer a far different challenge. Will Bob Bradley bring him off the bench or will he give Torres the start to see how he handles the intensity of the game? It is easy to forget that Torres is still young and new to the national team so don’t be surprised to see his minutes limited. If he does play it will be interesting to see
Who will play in the back?
With no Carlos Bocanegra or Oguchi Onyewu in the back, Bradley will have to turn to veteran Dan Califf at one of the centerback positions. Who will man the other? Will it be Maurice Edu, who looked good at center back in the Olympics? Or will it be Michael Orozco? The glut of central midfielders in the national team system might have Bradley thinking of shifting Edu to central defense for depth. As for left back, Heath Pearce has been the starter for a long time but Jonathan Bornstein is in camp and could be ready to challenge. Then there is the possibility of seeing DaMarcus Beasley there again after he made a cameo appearance at left back against Cuba.
Will we see Danny Szetela?
Szetela was off to one of the best starts in Europe for an American, starting and playing 90 minutes in all of Brescia’s first four games, but a groin injury has sidelined him for two matches and will put his playing time tonight in question. If he can play, it will be interesting to see how much he has grown as a player in recent months, and whether he is ready to challenge the deep pool of central midfielders for playing time in 2009.
These are just some of the storylines to watch for tonight. What will you be looking out for? What player or players will you have your eye on tonight?
Share your thoughts below.