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Top Five USMNT matches in 2009

 OnyewuToni (   

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With the United States Men's National Team set to take on Sweden on Saturday you would figure the 2009 opener would draw more excitement. While the match will draw attention, this is the only game on this year's schedule that is listed as a friendly. The remainder of the American matches are either World Cup qualifiers, Confederations Cup clashes or Gold Cup tilts.

Here are the top five matches to look forward to in 2009 if you are a United States follower (the USMNT's World Cup qualifying visit to Honduras narrowly missed the cut):

5. at Costa Rica, 06/03, World Cup Qualifier

Just days prior to leaving for South Africa for the 2009 Confederations Cup, Bob Bradley will have to round up the troops, most of which will have just finished grinding out their European seasons, to prepare for the first of two qualifiers before leaving for Africa.

The first game will be away against Costa Rica in a stadium that has been less than kind to the stars and stripes, Estadio Ricardo Saprissa Ayma, also simply known by U.S. fans as "Saprissa".

The Americans have dropped their past five games at Costa Rica's coveted stadium and have failed to score in their last two World Cup qualifiers, losing 3-0 in 2005 and 2-0 four years prior.

The stadium which holds 24,000 people will surely test the Americans and Bradley must make sure he has the group focused on the World Cup qualifier. It might be a tough circumstance if you factor in that the Americans will not have played together since April. But the two-month hiatus and the hostile crowd have to be overlooked if they are to leave Costa Rica with at least a point.

4. vs. Brazil, 06/18, Confederations Cup

The Americans' second match of the Confederations Cup this summer pits them against the 2005 and 1997 Confederations Cup champs, Brazil. The United States will have just come off their third match in the month of June and will have to muster up all they've got for the 'Selecao'.

The core group of Americans should be familiar with Ronaldinho, Kaka and co. as back in September of 2007 the Americans played host to Dunga's team in Chicago. The Brazilians beat the reigning Gold Cup champions 4-2 that afternoon, but the Americans played impressively in one of its best performances under Bradley.

Consider that the United States had the tandem of Josh Wolff and an out-of-position Clint Dempsey playing forward that day and suddenly this 2009 American squad's chances improve dramatically.

With Dempsey back at his natural position and with a forward pool that's noticeably deeper — with guys like Jozy Altidore, Kenny Cooper and Charlie Davies now in the mix – it's possible for the U.S. to not only play well again, but to also achieve a result.

3. vs. Italy, 6/15, Confederations Cup

The drama-filled 2006 World Cup match prepares for its sequel as the United States opens up its Confederations Cup campaign against Italy. A grueling encounter is most certain to repeat and if you throw in the fact that New Jersey-born Giuseppe Rossi has a good chance of making the Italian side this summer then you have one entertaining match on your hands.

Every American fan remembers the physical, bloody 1-1 match the United States had against Italy back in the 2006 World Cup, and the American players remember it too. Players such as Oguchi Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra and Landon Donovan will look for vengeance and a victory over the Azzurri.

The game will not only serve as a reminder of the 2006 battle but it will also give Bob Bradley a feel of how his team has improved (or worsened) in a year's time against heavyweight competition after playing England, Spain and Argentina in 2008. This match will set the tone for the Americans' Confederations Cup run and quite possibly the remainder of the build-up to the 2010 World Cup.

2. at Mexico, 8/12, World Cup Qualifier

Just like with Costa Rica, the Americans have yet to win a match away against Mexico in historic Estadio Azteca, but if there was ever a year in which to do so, 2009 is that year.

Mexico has been less than stellar during this World Cup cycle. Firing iconic Hugo Sanchez from the head coaching ranks, failing to qualify for the 2008 Olympics and squeaking by the third round of qualifying all highlight Mexico's troubles. But still, 'El Tri' know that Azteca is their fortress and they elevate their game in front of their 105,000 fans, which is why we shouldn't expect this match to be held anywhere else.

Despite's Mexico's dominance at home in the series you can't help but think that this might be the year to leave Mexico with a victory. Since the turn of the millennium the United States has amassed an impressive 9-2-2 record against their southern neighbors. Although Mexican fans claim that the majority of those games were in the U.S. they fail to take into account that most of those games were in front of pro-Mexican crowds.

The United States has beaten Mexico in places ranging from Chicago to Los Angeles and even in Jeonju, South Korea. 2009 may be the year they add Mexico City to the list of locations where they've defeated their arch-rivals.

1. vs. Mexico, 2/11, FIFA World Cup Qualifier

The game is less than three weeks away and the Mexican players are dropping like flies. For the first time ever, the U.S. should walk into this game as favorites.

Many American fans are salivating at the thought of playing a depleted Mexican side in the freezer that is Columbus Crew Stadium in early February, but being underdogs has always been a role that suited Bob Bradley's team and the role reversal could help give Mexico the mental advantage it has long been missing.

Regardless of the team's mentalities, this game is a statement game. Will Mexico's woes continue or will they kick-off 2009 with a positive result? As for the Americans, anything but a win will surely raise red flags among fans so expect this game to be the most important game of the United States' 2009 campaign.

What do you think of this list? Agree or disagree? What would your list look like? Which match are you most looking forward to? Think the Americans have a chance at coming out with a winning record in these five matches?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. I agree that WCQ (especially against Mexico) matches are, in one sense, the most important–we gotta make it and we gotta make it by beating our top competition (nobody else cares if we qualify by beating crap team’s by UEFA or CONMEBOL standards).

    I also think that Landon should play forward with a a bigger guy…..hopefully Jozy, if he can play complete matches. Donovan’s touch in both scoring and assists in front of the net seems wasted on the wing. I dont know if we can trust Adu in an attacking midfield yet….he’s just not playing much and, despite obvious flashes of brilliance that we all love to see, he’s still inconsistent. Don’t forget Kljestan’s great performance…he really may be the best partner to Bradley in the center right now, though i do hope the elder Bradley gives Adu his chances this year.

  2. For me, Mexico will seem like a warm-up for the Confed Cup, with the Italy rematch and the chance for redemption for poor results in the last WC. With respect to Ives, I agree with those who said 1. Italy, 2. Brazil, 3. Egypt, 4. Mexico, and 5. Mexico.


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