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USA vs. Trinidad & Tobago: Matchday Preview


The U.S. men's national team returns to American soil tonight for its World Cup qualifier vs. Trinidad & Tobago (7:30pm, ESPN2/Galavision). Fresh off a disappointing performance and unforgettable comeback in its 2-2 tie vs. El Salvador on Saturday, the U.S. team needs three points tonight and will look to keep a World Cup qualifying win streak going that dates back to 2004.

With a good home crowd expected at LP Field in Nashville, Tennessee tonight, the Americans should get a boost as they look to put on a better performance than they did in San Salvador.

For those of you who missed it, here is my preview of tonight's match for

Can the Americans regroup and put Saturday's performance behind them? The task falls to U.S. head coach Bob Bradley, who must selected a starting lineup he feels can secure the three points. He will have to make some tough decisions, and some that shouldn't be so tough, about his lineup.

Chief among the decisions are who to start in central midfield alongside Michael Bradley and who to play at left back. With Sacha Kljestan and Heath Pearce delivering terrible performances against El Salvador, Bob Bradley will need to decide if it is time to go in another direction, or give these two another chance.

With that in mind, here is the lineup we will probably see tonight, as well as some other observations from tonight's match.






No, that's not a typo. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Bob Bradley call on Sacha Kljestan again. While I would give the nod to Jose Francisco Torres, Bradley surely remembers how well Kljestan played against T&T in their home qualifying victory in Chicago last fall and will want to give the Chivas USA midfielder a chance to restore his confidence. That said, it will be tough for Bradley to ignore how well Torres played as a sub vs. El Salvador.

One change that seems inevitable is Jonathan Spector starting in place of Heath Pearce at left back. The fact that Jonathan Bornstein was called in makes you wonder if Pearce will even dress for this game.

One player who is missing here is Jozy Altidore, who continues to make a strong case for playing time. The only way I see Altidore in the starting lineup is if DaMarcus Beasley is hurt or if Bradley decides to sit Beasley and shift around his formation. It is clear that Beasley's lack of playing time at Rangers has hurt his form, but that isn't something Bradley can ignore.

What will be the keys to stopping Trinidad & Tobago? If Francisco Maturana goes with the old man, Russell Latapy, in his starting lineup then the Americans have a skillful and experienced playmaker who can pick apart a defense the way he did against the Americans in their last World Cup qualifier in Trinidad. With Latapy pulling the strings, the Soca Warriors can turn to speedsters Kenwyne Jones, Carlos Edwards and Keon Daniel, as well as forward options Jason Scotland and Stern John.

Stopping Edwards will be key for Spector, who is athletic enough to deal with the speedy winger, but who will certainly need some help from Beasley, who provided little support to Pearce on Saturday.  Trinidad surely watched El Salvador ravage the American left flank and will look to feed Edwards, while also sending numbers down that wing.

Where the Americans can succeed is in beating the physical but limited T&T defense. Good ball movement, incisive passing and clinical finishing helped the Americans throttle Trinidad & Tobago, 3-0, at home last fall. They won't have as easy a time this go round, at least not without Beasley, Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey stepping their games up.

Look for a fast game with plenty of chances to go around. If T&T learned anything from its last loss on American soil, it is that it can't win by sitting back and absorbing U.S. pressure. That means the U.S. defense could be in for its toughest qualifying test to date.

What do you think about tonight's game? Do you see the Americans rebounding? Could they actually drop points at home? Do you like the projected lineup above? Praying Jozy Altidore and Jose Torres get the starts? Would a win tonight help ease some of the fears raised by Saturday's draw?

Share your thoughts on tonight's match in the comments section below.


  1. The speed of play you are used to is everything. Jump on a field where all players are as good or better than you and then compare it to a game where you are the best player. For this reason it is bad coaching if Torres and Spector don’t start. Sascha may go to europe and develop, but as long as he’s in MLS he won’t be the best option avail.

  2. Just saw posted elsewhere that Freddy, Pearce, Spector and Califf are not in uniform tonight. I guess that blows the whole idea of Spector at left back. Bornstein? please no.

  3. Also, with Chings lack of goals, I think its more to blame on that fact that he’s on an island. Sure, he and Donovan have good chemistry but Ching is still stuck up there forced to do hold up play. While it works, I think that If he has a forward like Jozy, he’ll be able to drop into the midfield, move around more, and not be isolated, leaving Donovan to utilize the space behind “Super Ching”.

  4. Beasley————Ching————Dempsey





    We want Donovan to utilize the space bewteen midfield and the defense. If we can give him that space to create, then he won’t dissappoint. Then again there is this,






    Donovan will have two big forwards to play behind and should have plenty of space. We’re probably more likely to see this lineup.

  5. I really, really hope you’re wrong and also wonder if BB has anything at all between his ears or is that blank stare he always has an indication that nobody’s home upstairs?

    Beasley is done … absolutely done and should not even make the bench. His clubs see it, why can’t BB see it too?

    Torres and Altidore saved BB from a totally embarrassing failure of both his system and his player selection and he turns around and doesn’t start them?

    Donovan mailed it in but starts?

    Dempsey has me thinking once again that he really can’t play at this level.

    I think Pierce being dropped is correct and Califf also should ride the pine.

    I really hope he does the right thing and rewards those that produce and sits those that don’t. It’s the right thing to do but somehow I think you’re probably right with your lineup. BB’s inability to make necessary changes is one of the main reasons I think he should never have been given this job. He just doesn’t know what to do next.

  6. Daaaaa, you’re missing an important distinction here. I am not hating, in the least bit, I want more than anything for this team to succeed. But you are unfortunately symptomatic of the disease here-it is UNACCEPTABLE under any conditions for the number 16 team in the world to be losing 2-0 to the 106th team in the world and to barely scrape out a tie. And beyond that, it is even MORE unacceptable for our coach to put a team on the field w/ the tactics that we played w/ on Saturday, not only to we barely scrape out a result but El Salvador were not terrific, WE were terrible.

    I’m looking at the future, I think there’s a better chance of hell freezing over than of us not qualifying, I don’t care about getting 30 pts from the Hex, but if you think that player selections/preparation/and tactics like that are going to get us ANYWHERE next summer-you are sadly mistaken.

  7. I’m going to get slammed for this lineup but…

    Ching — Johnson

    Dempsey — Edu — Bradley — Donovan

    Spector — Bocanegra — Oneywu — Hejduk


    I would like to see Jozy come in for Ching, Adu for Dempsey and Demerit for someone.

    Let’s be honest, Jozy probably isn’t fit enough for 90, Torres doesn’t match up well against T&T and Beasley and Sacha do not deserve to play tonight.

    Dempsey should play on the left, thus leaving DMB on the bench. I sometimes wonder if BB even takes notice of where his player’s club managers play them.

  8. I like that Bradley is keeping a consistent lineup without switching it around too much. I feel it gives the players a chance to gel and build chemistry with each other.

    Everyone is so quick to hate on the team after one sub-par performance. They went into a hostile environment without their starting CB and starting GK. And you know what? They didn’t lose. They showed a lot of heart coming back from two down on the road like that. I give them credit.

    Stop with the pipe dream that the USA was gonna come away with 30 pts from the Hex. Yeah, they didn’t play up to their full potential against El Salvador. But it was the first time they played poorly in quite some time. I guarantee they play better tonight. Stop hating, relax, and have some faith in them! Go USA!

  9. Hey Master of the Obvious – Michael Bradley was not even in Trinidad for the last match (he was sent back to Germany following the Cuba match), so he did not “fail to nix the receiving and distribution” provided by Latapy. The starting midfield for that match was Beasley, Torres, Edu, and Kljestan with Kljestan starting on the right flank. Adu filled the role of withdrawn striker behind Altidore that Donovan has been playing behind Ching. If you’re going to be so bold as to tell us all how “obvious” this whole lineup projection is, you might want to check your facts.

  10. ————–Ching—-Altidore————




    This was that awkward formation we played against Cuba. Just a thought.

  11. Brett,

    I meant to say that I wasn’t trying to single you out.

    I’m just trying to speak up against folks advocating change, just for the sake of it.

    All of your points are valid.

  12. Yea, I think Torres is the best option at the position right now, but the T&T midfield will maul him. Better to go with edu or even kljestan for this game. I’m still for dempsey-bradley pairing, with donovan, beasley, and/or adu making up the outside midfielders, and altidore and ching up top.

  13. ——————-Ching——————-




    You gotta admit, it’s worth a shot.

  14. I’d have more faith in Sacha if he hadn’t cut his hair. Now he looks like my paperboy instead of the greasy goth kid scoffing at my Spin Doctors CDs at the record store.

  15. Ives—- I think you are right on with BBs starting 11. The question I have is do you think that this starting 11 is good enough to get out of the group stage of either the confederations cup or WC2010????????

    i am curious about your honest opinion, and others as well!

  16. EA –

    A) Well yeah, he just committed to the US program and in every appearance has looked like he belongs. Why not give him 90 and see what he does with it? He’s already proven himself to be better on the ball than Kljestan.

    B) Those are not valid reasons why he should be kept on the bench. His age is an asset in terms of experience and composure, players recover from injury, and he plays in the same league as Kljestan.

    C) Edu has seemingly broken through and made fans of Rangers fans and coaches. Not a good reason.

    D) Adu is a potential talisman and performed on a lack of playing time against a world class Spain team in Spain.

    I don’t advocate wholesale, reactionary changes, but when a player gives the ball away 90% of the time he touches it, he needs to be replaced if only for the short term.

  17. I like the Sacha start… let him try again, one game shouldn’t deserve a benching. But a half time sub would not be a terrible move.

    Why oh why does Bob Bradley love Ching so much? Every ball to him might as well be lost. One good pass last game to the ONLY person available to him… I’ll give him that, but honestly. Start ANYBODY but Ching. Altidore I think deserves a start because, honestly, is Ching going to South Africa?

    Fire Bob Bradley. I’m tired of his shenanigans. Let’s take Mourinho up on that offer he made!

  18. “Torres, Mastro, Edu, or Adu are all deserving of minutes in his place.”

    A.)No extensive international body of work, B.) old, back from injury and just starting season, C.) no recent playing time, D.) no playing time over the last 18 months.

    What makes them more deserving? LIKE Kljestan, they all offer something positive, and all have POTENTIAL drawbacks.

    “Better the devil you know, than the devil you don’t.”

    People act like they haven’t seen or been around the game, ever, if it all. Changing 4 or 5 players everytime you go out, because Charlie Davies scored a goal in the Arctic North, or Kenny Cooper put away two against Real Salt Lake, is only going to lead to confusion or disorganization amongst the entire 11. Sometimes you just play through it.

    I DO believe that Bob is playing those that are consistently performing better. Otherwise, Eddie Johnson would have been called in for every match last year.

    I’ll ask. Who in the regular starting 11 hasn’t contributed some very good, if not great things for the national team at some point in the past two years?

  19. With Gooch back I have no worries tonight. I believe if he played in San Salvador, we def don’t give up that 2nd goal and maybe not even the first. Boca didnt impress me Saturday either, but hopefully with Gooch back, that partnership will regain its strength.

    One terrible performance yielded a road draw in probably the toughest environment we will play in, Azteca excluded. I’m ok with where we are.

  20. “Jozy shouldn’t start. He hasn’t played 90 minutes since December.”

    you can sub 3 ppl, but being an a-hole aside swapping Jozy for EJ in the 70th wouldnt be bad, add some speed when the other team is tired, or put on Adu if you want to knock the ball around and try to the midfield more involved… Jozy transfered for a US record for a reason…

  21. If we go with 2 target forwards I wouldn’t mind Altidore and Ching starting, but both would have to be subbed off, probably for EJ and Adu.

    I dunno, I’m not the coach and I don’t attend training sessions so I won’t pretend to have a better idea of who to start. All I know from watching the game this weekend is that Kljestan needs to sit out a game and our LB issues are far from solved.

  22. “If torres gets the start I will be surprised and excited to see him play, but T n T may be a little too physical for him. Kljestan played well against TnT last year, so I wouldnt be surprised to see him start tonight. ”

    Kljestan is bigger but Torres seems to understand how to use his body much better, from what I have see he is much better than Kljestan defesively; just because your short doesnt mean you cant be phyiscal, you have a lower center of gravity. Torres isnt a finesse player, he plays the physical game well and has the skills of a finesee player. Never once have I watch Kljestan and was impressed with his phyiscal game, hes a stick and gets knocked off the ball easy.

  23. I do believe Torres should start over Kljestan, holding possession is HUGE in the international game, and Torres is a better passer than Kljestan.

    However, I don’t have a problem with Ching continuing to start. He’s a good target forward who holds play up well, gets his midfield and wingers involved, and draws fouls. If Altidore was getting playing time at Xerez or if Ching was playing poorly, I might have a different opinion, but I’d still start Ching.

    As for Pearce, I think the fact that Bornstein was called in shows me that he’ll start over Pearce and not Spector. When was the last time Spector has even played at LB? I don’t have a problem with him playing there, but I don’t know if he’d be my first option, especially in a WCQ.

  24. All the “one bad game” Kljestan apologists make me laugh.

    Football is about form. Kljestan has “one bad game” and he deserves to sit on the bench for the next game, it is as simple as that. Even world class footballers have off games or bad training sessions and when they do, the coach has to let them sit and give a guy who is on his best form a chance to show what he can do.

    Let’s not act like the El Salvador game was the only bad game Kljestan has ever played either. He is a very up and down player and it seems as if his play gets worse during pressure games. Friendly vs Argentina, he was very good. World Cup Qualifier against Mexico, he was forgettable. Friendly vs Sweden, he was very good. World Cup Qualifier against El Salvador, he was terrible. Coincidence?

    The bottom line in this sport is what can you do for me NOW, not what have you done before. As of this week, Kljestan deserves to sit and watch and Torres, Mastro, Edu, or Adu are all deserving of minutes in his place.

  25. Here is an answer to “BB has done a fine job at getting results…What else do you want?”

    Supporters want a manager who organizes and motivates the team so that melt-downs like in El Salvador do not happen. Supporters would like a manager who intervenes earlier when things are going off the rails (like in El Salvador).

    But most of all, supporters want a manager who does something transformative with a side composed of what we’ve got — decent, mid-rank international players. Someone who will get us beyond the group stage in 2010.

    Korea had the advantage of playing at home in 2002, but this is the sort of thing that comes to mind: A team playing beyond itself under a sophisticated manager. Hiddink did rather nice things with Australia in 2006 as well.

  26. IMO, My issue with our usual 4-5-1 is the two defensive midfielders are just that – defensive. We end up playing more like a 6-3-1. Our defensive midfielders rarely venture more than 10 yards past the centerline. The exceptions being corner kicks and free kicks. But during the run of play, how oftern do they really get forward? I think this approach/strategy comes from an historical fear where our defense was a liability. This is no longer the case (current leftback issues aside).

    I really liked what I saw at the end of the El Salvador game and would just like to see more of it.


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