Photo by John Todd/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
The 2014 World Cup cycle will end in Brazil, but for the U.S. men's national team, the road there begins with the Selecao.
The United States will face Brazil tonight (8pm, ESPN) in front of an expected crowd of more than 65,000 at New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The match is the first since the World Cup and both teams enter the match with several questions surrounding their respective head coaches, as well as their rosters.
The match-up pits the talented youth of Brazil against the established experience of a U.S. team made up almost entirely of World Cup players who should take the field in New Jersey to a hero's welcome from grateful U.S. fans.
Despite bringing in a team filled mostly with players from the tournament in South Africa, there is still some uncertainty over which players Bob Bradley will select for Tuesday's friendly. Forward appears up in the air, though Bradley could go with the tandem of Jozy Altidore and Robbie Findley, which started three matches together, failing to score in any of them.
Another position that needs to be sorted out is center back. With Jay DeMerit and Oguchi Onyewu omitted from the team, does Bradley opt to pair captain Carlos Bocanegra with Clarence Goodson or Jonathan Spector, or does he leave Bocanegra at left back? Judging from similar incidents in the past, it is likely that Bocanegra will slide over to the center, while Jonathan Bornstein patrols the left flank.
While the United States has some lineup decisions to make, so does Brazil. The Selecao are coming off a second consecutive World Cup in which it was bounced out in the quarterfinals.
In order to change that, Mano Menezes has been named the team's new manager, and he has named a relatively young Brazilian squad for his first match in charge. The new-look Brazil might boast more youth than usual, but the team in transition is still made up of a talented core group of players, including Robinho, Dani Alves and Alexandre Pato.
Brazil boasts impressive talent, but the squad does lack international experience, which could be an issue against a U.S. team that has played together as a group for two years. The Americans will need to make full use of that edge in experience if they are going to beat a team they have only beaten once in 15 previous meetings (in 1998).
Despite the historical one-sidedness, there is a confidence around the U.S. team that stems in no small part from the team's success in recent yearsa.
"We're at a point now where we expect to compete with these teams in a real way," said U.S. star Landon Donovan. "Not in a shot-in-the-dark hope that we can beat Brazil, but that we're going to compete with them and try to win the game. I think we believe that now where in the past we haven't."