U.S. looks for quick start vs. El Salvador
The United States Men's national team had a six-week break between its 2-0 defeat of Mexico in Columbus, Ohio, and its second match in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2010 World Cup. The wait is finally over, with Bob Bradley's team traveling to Estadio Cuscatlan to battle El Salvador. (Four days later it returns stateside to take on Trinidad and Tobago.) Some familiar faces such as Eddie Johnson and Jonathan Spector return to the squad after prolonged absences, while no. 1 goalkeeper Tim Howard misses the tilt after drawing a second yellow card against El Tri. El Salvador boasts a high-powered offense capable of getting past the American defense, but in the end the U.S. should return to home shores victorious.
Getting Chingy With it The Houston Dynamo striker, much maligned for his national team play by American supporters, will start. And he'll continue to start in the near future. There's a good chance he'll start game one of the World Cup, assuming, of course, that the U.S. makes it that far. At this point, he deserves it -- both for his play and because none of the other American strikers have made a case they should be ahead of him. Jozy Altidore has huge upside, but needs reps on the pitch at Xerez (or wherever he lands next). Kenny Cooper didn't impress in limited opportunities. Eddie Johnson is Eddie Johnson. For now, the athletic Hawaiian remains the best option.
Bench Press While the U.S. starting XI is more or less set, the American bench continues to deepen and provide an option for any situation. Having offensive talents such as Altidore, Jose Francisco Torres, and Freddy Adu as well as the defensive-minded players including Pablo Mastroeni and Danny Califf on the bench is a luxury few American managers have enjoyed previously. You can make a case for every player seeing time during the match and, in many cases, starting. This constant fighting for playing time will only improve the level of play on the pitch.
On the Defensive El Salvador, which ran up the goal tallies in previous rounds of qualifying, called in only three strikers -- Carlos Ayala, Rudi Corrales, Rodolfo Zelaya -- to its pre-match training camp, while carrying 11 midfielders and eight defenders. From the make-up of the squad, it would appear as though head coach Carlos de los Cobos wants his team to pack it in and look to counterattack. The strategy will provide a good test for a U.S. team that chronically struggles to score in the run of play. It will also be interesting to see how El Salvador responds should it go down an early goal and need to press for an equalizer.
-------------------- Guzan ---------------------
Hedjuk -- Onyewu -- Bocanegra -- Pearce ----------
Bradley ------- Kljestan -----------
Dempsey -------- Donovan -------- Beasley ----------------------