The United States take on the Netherlands in the first of two friendlies this week as the American's play their final road friendlies before this summer's Gold Cup. The USA will also face Germany on June 10th before a final tune up game against Guatemala on July 3rd. The USMNT will kick off their Gold Cup campaign on July 7th against Honduras.
Match Date/Time: June 5, 2015, 2:30 PM ET
Location: Amsterdam Arena, Netherlands
Online: Watch ESPN
The journey Juan Agudelo has taken over the past few years has been well documented. The New England Revolution traded for him back in 2013 from Chivas USA (RIP Goats) and then he spent a year trying to secure a work permit to play for Stoke City, playing in the Netherlands and several months without a club.
Then he landed back with the Revs at the start of 2015 and so far has started every game for the defending Eastern Conference champs (14 games started, 1051 minutes played) while scoring four goals and adding two assists.
Unlike 2013 where Agudelo spent most of his time up top, this year he's been playing in a left wing role and has done an outstanding job. The offensive contributions will always be there, but it's Agudelo's defensive efforts that have stood out at times as he acclimates to a new position. Similar to Teal Bunbury on the opposite wing for the Revs, Agudelo has no problems tracking back and helping out on defense.
Now, with an assortment of issues facing the US attacking corps, Agudelo appears to be in prime contention for serious minutes during the next two games. Jozy Altidore is dealing with a hamstring injury and Clint Dempsey is staying home due to the impending birth of his next child (congrats to Clint and his wife Bethany). Coming off a goal in his last USMNT appearance against Mexico, Agudelo is likely favored to feature if not out right start for the US.
And with the only real experienced player up front being Aron Johannsson, Agudelo could even be fighting for minutes at one of the winger positions as well. This of course assumes Klinsmann uses the same 4-2-3-1 formation from the World Cup, but more recently he's featured two strikers and a more diamond midfield or a 4-1-3-2 setup. Jordan Morris is back with the squad as well as Bobby Wood for true strikers on the roster.
Fabian Johnson has been a force this season at the left wing for his club Borussia Mönchengladbach in Germany but there's a lack of experienced options for the right wing which gives Agudelo two positions where he could feature prominently during the next two games. With the added bonus of Agudelo and Johnson's defensive abilities, going with them on the wings and two holding midfielders might not be the worst idea.
Certainly more central players like Alfredo Morales or Mix Diskerud can shift out wide but Agudelo is probably a better candidate with his attacking skill set and speed. Youngsters like Gyasi Zardes or Miguel Ibarra are options as well but I'd really like to see Agudelo get the start. Even if it's out wide, his versatility to play both striker and winger will be an asset for Klinsmann at the Gold Cup and this is his chance to make a final impression for Jurgen Klinsmann.
At the back, regular call-ups Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez and Geoff Cameron are not on the roster, meaning a younger and inexperienced group will be tasked with stopping two good European teams. Veterans Brad Evans or Michael Orozco will likely pair with John Brooks in the middle with converted midfielders Brek Shea and DeAndre Yedlin manning the outside with Timothy Chandler also an option who can player either fullback spot.
The central midfield is also interesting, especially with Jermaine Jones' injury last week keeping him home for these two friendlies. Michael Bradley and Kyle Beckerman will probably line up in the middle and we'll see how exactly they get deployed and if Bradley is in the advanced playmaking role or if Morales or Diskerud get the call for the #10 spot.
The Netherlands are bringing several of the big guns, Robin Van Persie and Wesley Sniedjer being the biggest. Half of PSV Eindhoven is here as well meaning the 2014-15 Dutch league champions will be well represented after a stellar campaign to dethrone Ajax. The Oranje's 4-3-3 was good enough to knock of Spain at home back on March 31 in their last friendly and with talents like Memphis Depay and Daley Blind in the starting lineup it's easy to see what the Netherlands were able to prove their 5-1 World Cup win in 2014 group play over Spain was no fluke.
These next two games are excellent tests for the USA ahead of the Gold Cup and will be a good barometer of where the team stands going into their regional championship. The Americans have not fared well against non-CONCACAF competition of late, and it would be a nice boost of confidence to play two solid games against top tier competition.
If the US plays well and is prepared, this could be a very entertaining and open game with both teams getting out on the counter with end to end play. With the amount of skill the Dutch have, I am worried about the US getting dominated in the possession game which will put more of an emphasis for them to either counter well or capitalize on the few chances they get. Slow starts or bad finishes against teams like the Netherlands or Germany will usually end in disaster, so it would be nice to see the USMNT play two complete games without any major breakdowns.