Big Day: USMNT and U-23s Eye Critical Matches

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by Deny Gallagher

They say it’s always darkest before the dawn, but for the United States Men’s National Team, that dawn remains undefined.

After a disastrous Friday night in Guatemala City, the United States comes back to the friendly confines of MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio in their home-and-home series against Guatemala.

Coming off the first loss to Guatemala ever in World Cup Qualifying, the Americans face a must-win in their second qualifier of 2016. Avoiding the sweep will be a challenging task as the United States has not fared well in recent competitive matches.

Guatemala got some more good news on Monday, as their federation announced that Carlos Ruiz and Hamilton Lopez will return to the roster. Prior to their clearance to return to international duty, the two had been prohibited to leave the country for a variety of reasons. It seems hard to deny that Guatemala’s performance on Friday night didn’t have an impact on the repeal of the duo’s travel restrictions.

As for the Americans, the side enters Tuesday’s match in a state of disarray. Several controversial decisions by Jurgen Klinsmann have fans questioning whether the German is the right man for the job. Within the camp, the squad is focused on winning the match and getting back on track. With that said, reinforcements have come into camp as Borussia Dortmund starlet Cristian Pulisic has received his highly anticipated call-up into the side. Sporting KC’s Graham Zusi joins the 17-year-old Dortmund player to replace the injured Fabian Johnson and Matt Besler. It is important to point out that Pulisic has never played above the U-17 level for the U.S.

There is no question that every move Jurgen Klinsmann makes will be highly scrutinized. With that said, it will be imperative for Jurgen to not just get it right on Tuesday, but to improve the trajectory of the U.S. side in the lead up to this summer’s Copa America. Calling Pulisic into squad is a positive first step for the manager, who has often been criticized for limiting the USMNT Player Pool.

USMNT Projected XI

USMNT XI again

U-23s Look to Punch Ticket to Rio

Meanwhile in Frisco, many players who will more than likely be included in future World Cup Qualifiers will look to punch their ticket to the Olympics in Rio.

On Friday, the U-23s provided the lone bright spot of the day when they drew Colombia 1-1 on the road. With an away goal already in hand, the Olympic squad is in good shape ahead of the second leg of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

Andy Herzog and company will look to have a better share of the game in the second matchup. On Friday, Colombia held a 75-25 advantage in possession. While the side wasn’t able to score a goal during play, the South American juggernaut took advantage of a penalty kick to tie the match.

The status of Ethan Horvath is very much in question after the goalkeeper left Friday’s match in the first half with a head injury. If he is unable to go, the squad has multiple options, including FIFA U-20 World Cup hero Zack Steffen and Atlanta native and MK Dons keeper Cody Cropper.

Ahead of the home leg of this playoff, either a scoreless draw or a win punches the side’s ticket to the Olympics.

The doubleheader gets going on Tuesday with the U.S. Men’s National Team at 7 p.m., followed by the U-23s at 9:30 p.m. Both matches can be seen on ESPN2.

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  • There’s not one world class player in that US line-up. The best players are Howard & Clint & they are both long in the tooth. Player development in the US is severely lackig.

  • Anthony

    Must win match, a loss or draw puts USA at long odds to advance. I think we will win, we always win at home in CONCACAF, but the fact its even come to this is such a mssive indictment on JK. I’ve always hated him as the manager, anyone stupid enough to kick Donovan (their best player) off the team over personal beef deserves to never coach the nats again.

  • Garber

    I have a super league that develops top players every day.