Changes are expected for a U.S. men's national team that is seeking to rebound from a 4-2 loss to Colombia against another dangerous South American opponent.
The U.S. men's national team returns to action Tuesday night in Connecticut, playing another South American opponent that is poised to provide a familiar challenge to a group that's growing together in continuing a grand turning of the page.
Peru, which didn't get out of the group stage of its first World Cup in 36 years but played some of the most entertaining soccer in Russia, will be the third South American opponent in four matches for the U.S., which fell to Brazil last month and Colombia this past Thursday night. While the U.S. led for a brief three minutes in the second half, Colombia's class, pressure and finishing ability were clearly superior, and interim coach Dave Sarachan sees a lot of similarities in his next opponent.
"As we've seen, most recently against Chile, very technical, a lot of speed, quickness. Very similar to Colombia," Sarachan told assembled media outside Hartford in his pre-match remarks. "Their scheme and their maybe system might be slightly different, but in terms of their quality, and technical speed and their ability to punish you if you make mistakes is very similar to Colombia. We respect them. They're a very good team.
"It'll once again be a great challenge for our group, but these challenges, as I've stated all along, are critical to the process."
While the challenge may be similar, Sarachan hinted at a number of changes to his lineup for the match. He said that the pace of the Colombia match was, "for a friendly, a very high-tempo game," and that while he planned on making wholesale changes anyway, the recovery time and quick turnaround could force his hand some more.
So who might we see lineup on Tuesday night? Here's a look where Sarachan might make his moves, based on his tactical patterns and the players available to him:
This one's easy. Brad Guzan will start, Sarachan said Monday. Zack Steffen was sent back to Columbus as a precautionary measure over a minor injury concern, which is understandable given his importance to the club in the middle of a playoff race. Steffen has proven himself worthy of the starting job going forward, even if he didn't have his finest night vs. Colombia. Ethan Horvath, barely playing at Club Brugge, never figured to get starters' minutes in this camp, which leaves the 34-year-old Guzan. It's been more than a year since his last cap, but the Atlanta United stopped will return between the posts and could find himself with a busy night.
Of all the areas on the field for the U.S. to struggle vs. Colombia, you wouldn't have expected it to come from the defense, not with a Premier League-tested DeAndre Yedlin and in-form John Brooks roaming the back line. Yet the quartet was simply horrible–frequently stretched, out of position and incapable of dealing with Colombia's pace and combinations. Left back Antonee Robinson, in particular, struggled in one-on-one matchups down his side, which doesn't bode well given the potential of a matchup with the lightning-fast Luis Advincula.
"In a more micro sense, whoever we have on the right side or left side of the field on the defending side ... a better understanding of covering, having a relationship with the player in front of you and behind you. It was not in sync the other night. Part of that is getting to know one another, really. Communication is key."
While this is an area where Sarachan might want to make wholesale changes, it's hard to see it happening. The players behind his previous starters are green–as in, six caps between four players combined green–and that's not really going to fix the "develop a better understanding" dilemma. It'd behoove Sarachan to roll with the same four, with perhaps Cameron Carter-Vickers stepping in for Brooks at the start.
Absent the hobbled Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams, Sarachan isn't operating with a full deck here, so he'll have to continue to roll with the cards dealt his way.
Michael Bradley's return came and went, but he's a chief candidate to start on the bench, to give Wil Trapp–who had been donning the captain's armband in Bradley's place–another chance at the base of the midfield. He'll need help shielding the back four against what should be an aggressive Peru attack, which makes giving another start to Kellyn Acosta and perhaps one to another central figure like Marky Delgado a sensible option. If things get too defensive, Julian Green is an option to move things forward off the bench, much like he was able to do against Mexico in place of the injured McKennie.
On the wings, Tim Weah had a moment of brilliance vs. Colombia, and he has the pace and creativity to make like difficult for Peru as well. It's not as if PSG is using him so frequently that his minutes need to be watched. It's a win for all parties if Weah gets another extended run out. On the opposite end, Sarachan should see what he has in another teenager, 19-year-old Jonathan Amon. The South Carolina native has found success in Denmark with Nordsjaelland and is another burner to complement Weah. If the match is going to be a track meet, you might as well get some runners.
Bobby Wood has been the forward of choice for Sarachan, but it's time to see what you've got in Josh Sargent, the 18-year-old who is on the cusp of joining Werder Bremen's first team. He's excelled with the club's U-23s and has an element of excitement to his game that deserves to be nurtured. Wood's goal against Colombia was great, but he didn't have a particularly good game outside of it, and these friendlies are all about opportunities for the future, anyway. Wood has shown his penchant for being a useful sub for the U.S., and in the interest of rotation, Sarachan could do worse then turning the keys over to Sargent–or his other alternative, Andrija Novakovich.