BY PATRICK MacDONALD
The U.S. Men’s national team has had the last two months off to reflect on their uninspiring 1-0-1 in World Cup Qualifying back in June. Perhaps the U.S. is looking to quickly fuel that fire tonight in the raucous cauldron that is Estadio Azteca against the Mexican National Team.
Oddly enough, even though this friendly (in name only) seemingly would serve as an outlet for the U.S. frustration as well as a chance to build chemistry between the team that will play come September, there’s a surprising number of new faces debuting in Mexico City.
Only 14 of the 23 players called in for this friendly played in the previous World Cup Qualifiers. The most surprising absences are stalwarts Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and Carlos Bocanegra.
That’s a lot of missing star power.
Just what is Jurgen Klinsmann thinking bringing a B squad to such a high profile friendly? Well, there’s some straight answers from the coach himself, as well as perhaps an unspoken method to the madness.
Klinsmann has been candid in saying that some of the European stars are nowhere near ready to play as their seasons haven’t even started in some cases. He also claimed Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley are nursing injuries. Bocanegra and Dempsey on the other hand, were left home so as not to interfere with their potential transfers from their respective clubs.
But what of the players that Klinsmann did call up? One perhaps brilliant move was to call in six players who currently ply their trade in Liga MX. The altitude issues of Estadio Azteca are notorious. Bringing in six players used to the Mexican altitude is a shrewd move, that could nullify that advantage.
An MLS heavy roster is also a solid move considering all the Mexican players are either in early or preseason form. It’s as if Klinsmann took a card from the CONCACAF Champions League and recognized these summer months favor the in form MLS players. By bringing in Steven Beitashour and Matt Besler, Klinsmann is dipping into the U.S. defensive player pool that desperately needs to be explored. Both players are from their respective conferences’ first place teams, and Beitashour was an All Star who handled himself very well against Chelsea.
Even Brek Shea’s inclusion shouldn’t be too surprising. The last time the U.S. looked dangerous on the left was when Shea manned the wing. Granted, that was also the last time Shea himself looked dangerous. Shea has been somewhat lackluster thus far this MLS season. However, following a very public spat with his FC Dallas coach Schellas Hyndman, he has shown a renewed vigor in recent matches. Perhaps an appearance in front of 100,000 hostile Mexican fans will further reinvigorate the young player.
All things considered, Alan Gordon is the only real head scratcher on this roster. He’s not too shabby, but potentially earning your first cap at 30 is not heard of too often.
Of course, a U.S. team that features most of the players who played in June would make any American fan far more comfortable going into Estadio Azteca against a Mexican team that has been down right scary for some time now. However, no one should underestimate these Yanks. Perhaps with the Mexicans caught up in the Olympic euphoria, they may just overlook the Americans and this match.
Maybe that’s what Klinsmann wanted all along. Wouldn’t that be something?
Some quick thoughts:
- Yes, Brek Shea is back and he should see time on the field at some point, but Gomez is already scoring goals for Santos Laguna after having an excellent Spring with the USMNT. No chance Donovan starts on the bench. And Terrence Boyd is off to a fast start in Vienna. Chris Wondolowski should also see the field as a substitute.
- Klinsmann could go with a Liga MX heavy backline switching out Orozco Fiscal and Castilo for Beitashour and Edu, thus capitalizing on the fact they’re acclimated to the altitude. However, many reports have Edu starting at centerback and Beitashour is the only natural right back.