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USMNT set to begin preparations for CONCACAF Cup with tough Peru test

Jermaine Jones USMNT 44

photo by Robert Mayer/USA Today Sports


WASHINGTON — There is not a whole lot of meaning to this game, but there is a whole lot of significance.

The U.S. Men’s National Team will play for the first time since its dismal CONCACAF Gold Cup display, as it hosts Peru on Friday in a friendly at RFK Stadium. The game is meant to prepare the Americans for the match of real importance in October against Mexico, and will give U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann a chance to figure out exactly what changes he can make to his lineup.

Improving is also on the agenda, especially after failing to even finish in the top three at the Gold Cup. What is making accomplishing that even more difficult is the fact that veteran leaders Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey are out for this encounter, and that the U.S. is playing a talented Peru side that is full of confidence after surprisingly finishing in third place at the Copa America in June.

A good and more well-rounded performance will be needed if the U.S. is to come out on top and move closer to being able to beat Mexico. From front to back, top to bottom.

“There are definitely things that need to be improved,” said Klinsmann. “We had a very, very good performance against Jamaica (in the semifinals of the Gold Cup). We went out because of what I mentioned before, but also we had enough chances to put the game away as well. We needed to put the balls in the net with the occasions we had in the game and not only to fight now some referee calls that were very doubtful.”

“There are things that we need to do better.”

The one area for the U.S. that arguably needs the most improvement and holds the most intrigue going into this match is the back line. John Brooks and Ventura Alvarado struggled more often than not at the Gold Cup, and Klinsmann has called them and five additional players who are capable of playing centerback in for this camp.

Barring a surprise of epic proportions, Klinsmann will likely stick with a centerback tandem and a four-man back line. Still, he might have to plug in some of those central defenders out wide given the fact the incumbents Fabian Johnson and DaMarcus Beasley are sidelined with injuries.

Whoever starts will have the benefit of not having to go up against top Peru striker Paolo Guerrero, who is out with an injury. Still, the Americans will need to be sharp defensively in order to keep at bay a technical Peruvian team that, like Mexico, likes to keep the ball on the ground and combine with quick passes.

“Throughout the game tomorrow they’re going to have stretches where they do keep the ball,” said goalkeeper Brad Guzan, who has been named the starter ahead of the returning Tim Howard. “It’s going to be on us to make sure that we’re compact, we’re solid, and make it difficult for them to penetrate and to break us down. That’s going to be on us.”

The U.S. is getting a boost via the reintroduction of hard-nosed midfielder Jermaine Jones, who has been out of action for the U.S. for much of the year because of injuries. Jones is still working his way back to full fitness after his most recent knock, but he seems likely to be in the starting lineup in place of the absent Bradley.

If that’s the case, the 33-year-old Jones will be deployed further up the field than he has been in many of his previous games. He would be tasked with helping the attack break down the Peruvian centerback pairing of Carlos Zambrano and Carlos Ascues while also trying to limit the impact of talented attacker Jefferson Farfan.

Jones will not be able to play the full match, however.

“He’s not 100 percent yet. We all know that,” said U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsamnn. “He hasn’t picked up a rhythm yet, and he’s not in physical capabilities that he usually brings into our group. But still his experience, his drive, his energy, and his way of guiding people around him is very important. We’ll get Jermaine on the field, but obviously not for 90 minutes.”

The American attack is another place where Klinsmann has said the competition is “wide open” ahead of the Mexico match. Jozy Altidore is in camp, but his recent struggles seem to have put his regular starting role in jeopardy.

The absence of Dempsey suggests that Altidore will start again on Friday, but a good overall shift that includes a goal or two might be needed to stay ahead of the rest of a forward pack that includes Aron Johannsson and Bobby Wood.

In any case, the U.S. as a whole needs to bounce back in a big way against Peru. The results of these friendlies might not matter much in terms of the bigger picture, but the American players have plenty at stake.

“This is where every player has to pull up his socks and look in the mirror and really show themselves what they’re capable of,” said midfielder Alejandro Bedoya, “Prove to the coach that we deserve a starting spot and be part of the team moving forward.”


    • Well IMHO you are wrong. It is important. Every game vs Mexico is important. Especially with a chance to enter another tournament on the line, a tournament that pits you against the World Champions and against the Conmebol, Uefa, Afcon and Asia champion (plus a good Russia team and most likely a not so good New Zealand team).

      Explain why you don’t think it is important?

  1. lol, tough test?! its Peru!!! Colombia, yes tough test, but the level of competition in Copa America was mediocre at best. we win 3-1, no jozy wont score. poor ives peru is peru always a bridesmaid, never a bride.

    • Here are the statistics for the top scorers in US men’s team history. Donovan had 57 in 157 games, or a goal every 2.75 games. Dempsey has 48 goals in 119 games, or a goal in every 2.5 games. Wynalda had 34 in 106 games, or a goal in every 3.1 games, McBride had 30 in 95 games, or a goal every 3.1 games and Altidore, to date has 27 goals in 83 games, or a goal every 3.1 games. You should also consider that many strikers can be very streaky. Wayne Rooney is a good example.

      • you forgot Chris Wondolowski 10 goals in 31 appearances for the USMNT (if only he would have got that goal during the world cup), mostly coming off the bench. And your point about Altidore’s 3.1 ratio means what again?

  2. I feel really bad for Jozy. Coming into MLS people thought he would dominate and light up the league, but unfortunately it’s just not happening for him.

    • Near as I can tell, injuries have ruined his return .

      Watching him recently for TFC and the US he just doesn’t look confident about his body and fitness, as if he doesn’t trust that his rehabbed hammy will hold up. Something isn’t right in his head it looks like. I’ve seen that lack of confidence from other recovering athletes before. Especially from ones with hamstring injuries.

      Still he has had about 10 goals since returning which is something.

      Both Bradley and Dempsey had there readjustment issues when returning so I wouldn’t say this is unusual.
      I may be the only person on SBI who thinks that if he continues what looks to be his gradual recovery of form and health it may peak just in time for the playoff game.
      Near as I can tell, injuries have ruined his return .
      Watching him recently for TFC and the US he just doesn’t look confident about his body and fitness, as if he doesn’t trust that his rehabbed hammy will hold up. Something isn’t right in his head it looks like. I’ve seen that lack of confidence from other recovering athletes before. Especially from ones with hamstring injuries.
      Still he has had about 10 goals since returning which is something.
      Both Bradley and Dempsey had there readjustment issues when returning so I wouldn’t say this is unusual.
      I may be the only person on SBI who thinks that if he continues what looks to be his gradual recovery of form and health it may peak just in time for the playoff game.

    • If you will remember, Dempsey’s first season (really a half season) was not very good and was forgetasble. This led a number of posters to proclaim that he was washed up, over rated, would never go to Brazil and shouldn’t go, etc. Tim Cahill also had a poor first season and Beckham didn’t do much his first two years. You could list a whole bunch of players who went through a transition period like this, but some people lack context and perspective. Giovinco, Kaka, and some others haven’t had that problem because they are truly world class. US players aren’t.

  3. Would be nice if SBI would add times and networks for game broadcasts in articles previewing games. Would keep me from going to another site to check.

  4. Just asking…. but is this one of those key, important friendlies that we use to judge the USMNT or just a run-of-the-mill match that is one rung higher than a training session.

    Or will we not know until after the match.

    • Obviously it depends on if we win or lose. If we win, it was an important friendly, if we lose it was just a meaningless friendly. At least that’s how I’m going to guess the commentary goes on this site after the game.

    • shorembo,

      If we win nicely , say 2-1 with a good performance then the torches and pitchforks will go away until the Brazil game.

      If we draw say a boring 0-0 waste of time then you will get some tittering but mostly the hounds will be held at bay until the Brazil game.

      If we lose then the hounds from hell and the villagers with their torches and pitchforks will be unleashed for just a bit until the Brazil game.

      There will be a search for the guilty and the prosecution of the innocent. If a player makes a mistake there will be an outcry by slowleftarm to strip that player of his passport and ship him to Guantanamo ( this is DC after all, it could be arranged).
      Really it will depend on how the starters play and look. And there is the remaining tuneup game with Brazil before the playoff to iron out things.
      It will be about 90 degrees and very humid at game time. I’m in the DC area right now and it is disgusting out there. And there will be thunderstorm warnings.

      Not exactly Palo Alto weather on a good day. So it could be a pretty crappy game.

      • Haha, your Guantanamo comment made me laugh. I don’t think it as all about the result, it is more about how we play. The team just needs to look good/improving in the way they play (win/lose/draw). Then I will keep my pitchfork in my closet.

    • We are missing 3 players who are arguably our best–F Johnson, Dempsey, and Bradley. You take away the three best players from any team and they won’t perform as well. While people will over react, this should be about which players play well and how well different players play together.

    • that depends-if the US plays well then the coach put together a good roster with timely subs. If they lose, the players would not have played up to the standard set by the coach and no one outside of the .000000001% of the global population that has actually won a World Cup is allowed to criticize the coach

  5. Other players that need to show consistency and improvement besides the ones mentioned are; Zardes, Morales and Wood. Zardes needs to be more proactive to the ongoing play. Morales needs to play the way he plays for club. Wood needs to be able to continue to score with us.
    I been following Wooten for some time and he can make things happen IF he gets a look at Forward, first time invitees don’t usually see the field much but if Jozy gives another stinker of a game then Wooten may get a chance, otherwise, RW is his other chance, the kid is fast and has a good defensive prowess.

    • Louis Z.

      I’ve never seen Wooten play. As best as I can tell he may be competing, if not now then soon, with T Boyd and Bunbury.
      So how is he in the air compared with Boyd?
      Is he a physical player? Can he play the target role?
      How is his wing play compared to the new version of Bonboree?

      If he doesn’t impress I’m going to have to go back to hoping Herc Gomez makes a miraculous comeback to push Jozy. Not that there aren’t other forward competitors, I just want Herc back in the picture.

    • As one of the first people, at least on this site, to tout Zardes, people need to be aware of this caveat. He is a very athletically talented player who is also a conscientious and hard worker. But, he is still rather raw and needs more experience to be a good international. I predicted very early on that he would make the team for 2018 going to Russia, but I think he is still about two years away from being a top international. He doesn’t need to show anything in particular, just a steady improvement. If he continues to improve like he has in the past, I can see him becoming a Dempsey with more speed. He is one of our most promising young players, but he is a relatively late bloomer in soccer terms and this needs to be kept in mind.

      • All good points, but you should know that this sort of calm, reasoned, and nuanced comment can get you in trouble around here.

      • It’s fun to wonder how good Zardes will get. I think he’s the one that shows the biggest “upside”, to use prospect jargon. And he doesn’t need to jump start any part of his development with a career move, he can stay at Galaxy until an opportunity he can’t refuse comes along, and whole elite soccer world has seen him.

    • Not convinced you’ve actually been watching the Nats lately. Frankly Zardes has been one of our best players so far in 2015, primarily because, while he may still be green, and have much room for development, his greatest strength is that his “proactive to the ongoing play.” Dude may be out of position some times, and may miss on his passes and shots sometimes, but he is a physical beast with a huge motor who runs like stag for the full 90 without fail.

      • Very old, or very young. Less than a half-dozen starter-quality guys in their “prime” years of 25-32 right now.

        Why such a dearth of guys in that age bracket? Dunno. But it’s a huge gaping hole in the USMNT talent pool. The generation after the Donovan/Dempsey/Beasley/Howard generation was just way, way down for whatever reason. Michael Bradley, Brad Guzan, and Fabian Johnson are the only real top-tier guys in that age group…Bedoya is OK, and Altidore – when he’s not ice-cold – can be.

        Aside from that…wow, those 8 years or so are thin, thin, thin.

      • You look at countries outside of the top dozen or so and this is not uncommon. Every so often they will have a “Golden Generation.”, which will be followed by a fallow period. This happens in other sports, too. When I was a school teacher, you would even see it in the academic achievements of age cohorts. Nobody can explain why or how it happens, but it does.

      • yes, for example, eddie gaven, marvel wynn and justin mapp are three names that come to mind quickly. these guys were supposed to be some of the new stars, but (with all due respect) somehow that generation didn’t pan out as expected, what happened?

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