While the pain is still fresh from its 3-1 loss to Italy on Monday, the U.S. men's national team must turn its attention to mighty Brazil, which the Americans face on Thursday (9:55 am, ESPN2) in their second Confederations Cup match.
U.S. coach Bob Bradley will have to make at least one change to the lineup that pushed Italy for much of Monday's match, with midfielder Ricardo Clark set to serve his one-game suspension for a red card. That change isn't likely to be the only one as Bradley looks for the right combination to best a Brazilian team the Americans lost to, 4-2, back in 2007.
There are plenty of questions to be asked heading into Friday's match. Should Benny Feilhaber stay in the lineup? Should Bradley consider playing Carlos Bocanegra at left back and keeping Jay DeMerit in the lineup? Which midfielder will step in for Clark? Should the USA play a 4-4-2 or try a 4-3-3?
Here is one possible lineup we could see Bradley use when the Americans face Brazil:
Projected USA lineup vs. Brazil
So why this lineup? Let's start with Feilhaber getting the nod over the likes of Torres and Kljestan. Bob Bradley will look to keep things compact defensively and Feilhaber is the best-suited to the task of playing alongside Bradley. Torres is someone I want to see play more, but not in this match and not in the role Bradley needs. Same goes for Kljestan, who doesn't have the defensive qualities Feilhaber can bring to the table.
Up top we have Altidore and Davies. I see Bradley matching up a 4-4-2 against Brazil's 4-4-2 and he doesn't have a target forward who can hope to battle the likes of Juan and Lucio. His best bet is to have Davies speed to run off Altidore. It has been stated repeatedly that Altidore isn't the ideal target striker, but he sure held up well against Italy, though he still doesn't have the passing touch or vision you would like. Also, by starting two forwards, the U.S. team forces attack-happy Lucio to stay home and defend, whereas a 4-2-3-1 would give the Bayern defender chances to sneak into the attack.
The defense is probably the toughest situation to sort out. I happen to think Jonathan Bornstein did well against Italy and should get the nod here. I know there's some clamoring for Carlos Bocanegra to be used at left back in order to slide Jay DeMerit into central defense, but I think Bradley will want some speed at left back to deal with Elano and Dani Alves. This is a reason why it wouldn't shock me if Beasley got the call at left back. I also think Bradley will want his two best centerbacks in position to deal with whoever Dunga starts up top.
That's something else to consider heading into Friday's match. Will Dunga rest some starters ahead of the final group match against Italy on Sunday? Or will field a full-strength team vs. the Americans?
Here is Brazil's first-choice group:
———Gilberto Silva——-Felipe Melo————-
Dunga could go with Alexandre Pato in place of Robinho or Fabiano, Ramires in place of Elano, Josue instead of Gilberto Silva. Either way, Brazil will come at the Americans with an interchangeable attacking front four and overlapping fullbacks.
Kaka drives the Brazil attack and Michael Bradley will be tasked to try and deal with his creativity, speed and vision. It might sound like a tall order but it shouldn't be forgotten that one of Bradley's breakout games early in his national team career was in the U.S. team's loss to Brazil in September of 2007.
One thing is certain. The U.S. team will have chances to score. Brazil's attacking style leaves it open to counters and players such as Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore need to be ready to pounce when those chances come. The Americans didn't finish great chances in the first half against Italy that could have put that match away. They can't afford to let that happen again.
What do you think of the U.S. team's chances vs. Brazil? What starting lineup and formation are you hoping to see? Do you like the lineup suggested above? What do you think the score will be?
Share your thoughts below.