Before we get to the preview, there's something I have to talk about. You see I had a small, brief moment of weakness earlier this week for merely suggesting that the United States was going to beat Saint Vincent and the Grenadines this afternoon at 330PM EST from Kingstown's Arnos Vale Stadium.
I know, the USMNT under Jurgen Klinsmann rightfully does not deserve this confidence because of that Antigua and Barbuda game from four years ago among other mediocre results in recent years and months. However that doesn't change my overall thoughts for these two qualifiers ahead of The Hex starting later this year.
Nor does that excuse me from these burns caused by the internet.
(Sigh...googles burn ointment...)
No seriously, we need to absolutely trot out Jozy Altidore, Kyle Beckerman and Brad Guzan to beat SVG? Why? What purpose does having the first team paste St. Vincent's serve for the USMNT? That we can handily beat a minnow on the road in CONCACAF? So there's a chance that both the USA and Trinidad and Tobago can clinch their spots in The Hex today, rendering Tuesday's game in Jacksonville mostly meaningless, we can play the kids in that game right?
I disagree with that, I want the kids to play today because I can actually learn something from their performance in a game that actually matters. I want Klinsmann to put out a competent lineup when he doesn't have Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones and Clint Dempsey to fall back on. Throwing out a "first team" lineup with Fabian Johnson, Jozy, DeAndre Yedlin and beating SVG today won't prove anything besides what we likely already know. We're better than SVG at soccer.
I don't believe this game to be a "must-win" simply because it's a World Cup qualifier and could clinch a spot in the next and final round of CONCACAF's qualifying cycle. It's a must win because you're playing SVG and yes, despite all the Antigua mentions in my timeline earlier in the week, I stand by my earlier point. We shouldn't have to trot out the first team against these guys. We should be able to trot out the Olympic U23 team and win going away. If we can't than it's either credit to SVG (like we never give credit to Antigua's keeper for being really good four years ago) or a major detriment to Klinsmann (whom we already know can get out coached by basically everyone).
USA PROJECTED LINEUP THAT WILL NOT HAPPEN
I drew this up a few days ago and I regret nothing. This is a good lineup and I still gave in to a few of Klinsi's ridiculous notions like Kellyn Acosta playing at left back. Mainly my focus is on the attacking group. Bobby Wood is good at soccer and is scoring in the Bundesliga now with Hamburg and I don't think he's that much of a drop off from Jozy Altidroe who's in scorching form for Toronto FC. Yes, I'm aware that Jozy's already been named the captain for today's match which is why this lineup is pointless.
The attacking midfield line of Christian Pulisic, Sacha Kljestan and Darlington Nagbe is basically something Klinsi will never trot out, so therefore I want to see it really badly. Against a team like SVG that grouping will probably be exceptional in the final third with Kljestan pulling the strings and I think it might have more potential down the road. You know, assuming that it ever happens.
When talking above with my buddy Tyler, he mentioned Perry Kitchen's name, and while he's not on the roster this time we do get Caleb Stanko, another youngster plying his trade in the Swiss league on loan from FC Freiburg in Germany. I've got him paired with Geoff Cameron basically so I don't have to type Beckerman's name and it does give me a solid veteran core to work with in the defense.
Because I'm also bringing back the Omar Gonzalez-Matt Besler backline pairing now that John Brooks has left camp with an injury. I fully expect to see the starting fullbacks today in Yedlin and Fabian but I really wouldn't mind seeing this backline pairing today or against Trinidad. It's the only thing in my projected lineup that has a legitimate chance of being right and while we're at it if the Gonzalez-Besler pairing does well today, I wouldn't mind a Bradley-Cameron CDM pairing on Tuesday either. Also Horvath is a good keeper and will play zero minutes this international window and that makes me sad.
USA'S WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Honestly what probably going to happen today is Klinsmann's going to trot out the first team, paste SVG and then figure out how seriously he needs to take the T&T game based on results. That's doing it wrong as far as I'm concerned. I want the USA to win both of these games and win this qualifying group, which means I want the veterans well rested for Trinidad on Tuesday. I want to see the kids play in a meaningful game that if everyone thinks is really important and a must win, great - let's see how the kids handle the pressure.
Wood, Pulisic and Nagbe are all going to be regular contributors during this qualifying cycle and should have no problems starting and dominating against an SVG team. Jordan Morris, Paul Arriola and Rubio Rubin are all options off the bench and I'd like to see them in this game as well, especially the last two as we know Morris can play with the USMNT. Ethan Horvath is probably the future #1 keeper for the United States, but Brad Guzan will start today because reasons.
If Klinsi started the kids today and the USA fought to a mostly unimpressive but still solid win by say 3-1 or something, we can point to the fact that well we started a bunch of guys who really need international experience. If the veterans come out like they did against Guatemala, where do we fall back if there's another performance like that? What confidence would that build towards The Hex if the USMNT can't beat SVG? Does the USMNT first team really need a "rebound" game coming off a 4th place finish at Copa America?
Jurgen Klinsmann is going to trot out the first team today and hope he can sub on some kids in the second half against Trinidad because the USMNT will have clinched a spot in The Hex. He'll point to those subs as meaningful and great for the younger player to get experience in qualifying even though the game doesn't matter. Well today matters, everyone told me so, we can't lose this game.
Michael Bradley is probably going to feature against Trinidad, which means that's one spot already gone for someone like Stanko in that game, so if Caleb doesn't play today I don't think he plays at all. Ditto for guys like Rubio Rubin and Paul Arriola. Playing SVG and then a home game, the United States should come away with six points, but even if they don't, it's not the results that are going to bother me, I'm past that point with Klinsmann now. I want to see this team start playing some of it's newer talent because if we're being honest, and I love both Wondo and Beckerman, they're not going to Russia in 2018. Pulisic, Morris, Wood, and other guys will be.
If you don't have the confidence to play your kids against SVG in a "meaningful" game in qualifying then every cynic in my mentions on Twitter is absolutely right. We can't afford to give minutes away because we absolutely need to beat SVG with the first team because we're not good enough otherwise? Klinsmann constantly says that he wants his players out of his comfort zones, yet against a minnow we're forced to trot out our best lineup because it's a "must-win" game?
I don't believe that, we can with this game with guys like Pulisic and Stanko and Acosta playing 90 minutes. Despite the deserved ribbing above and my thoughts on Klinsmann overall, any lineup today that can't beat SVG by multiple goals will have everything to do with Klinsi's tactical brilliance. I mean literally, if Jurgen puts out 8 players in their natural positions in any combination he wins this game 99% of the time by accident and on sheer talent and athleticism. Does that mean SVG is going to roll over and lose by two or three goals? Absolutely not, this is CONCACAF, SVG are going to scrap for 90 minutes and make us earn it because they remember Oalex Anderson's opening goal in Saint Louis in November of last year. But if Klinsi isn't willing to play his kids today than I have to ask when, if ever, he will have the confidence to do so in the future.
So let's see if Pulisic, wonderkid of the Bundesliga, can play on a blazing hot afternoon in Kingstown. Let's see Darlington Nagbe, hero of Cascadia, get some significant minutes and a legitimate chance to break into the starting lineup. Let's see Ethan Horvath, Olympic hopeful, who single-handed kept the USA alive in a playoff against Colombia, make his full senior debut on the road in the CONCACAF game. These guys will feel the pressure, and then they'll thrive on it, and it will make them better. And let's see Kljestan because dammit he's good at soccer.
Fabian, Beckerman, Jozy, Bedoya already know this feeling. I hope each of them if they start or sub on, score a goal today, I really do. I hope they all score Tuesday against Trinidad too. I'd just rather watch a different, newer USMNT play today.
You know, assuming that I could watch cause I'll be at work at 330pm and no one gets BeIN Sports.