Game: United States vs St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Date: Friday, September 2nd
Time: 3:30pm Eastern
Venue: Arnos Vale Stadium, Kingstown, St. Vincent
Television: beIN Sports
The US men travel to the small island in the Atlantic for a crucial match in their quest to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. They currently sit second in the CONCACAF Group C table with seven points, trailing Tuesday’s opponent Trinidad & Tobago, who have 10 points. A United States victory coupled with a T&T win put both teams through to the final round of qualifying. That scenario would keep US three points behind the leaders, but four points clear of Guatemala with just one match left. Also, a US win will give them a shot to win the group Tuesday. Even if T&T win Friday, the US plays them on Tuesday so a win would put them level on points, with just the goal differential to decide the group winner.
Their previous meeting in this round of qualfying was back on November 13th. US would concede first, after just 4:30, but would go on to win 6-1. That match was played at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, MO, home to Major League Baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals.
Lineup Issues: Michael Bradley is suspended for this match due to yellow card accumulation, and Clint Dempsey and Gyasi Zardes are currently injured. Also, former Union defender Michael Orozco-Fiscal is unavailable for Friday’s match due to being shown a red card during the Copa American Centenario third-place match vs. Colombia. Thankfully, St. Vincent and the Grenadines are the 154th-ranked team in the world, so Jurgen Klinsmann should be able to get away with playing some people he wouldn’t normally prefer.
Klinsmann has already anounced that Brad Guzan will be in goal for Friday’s match. The defenders should be pretty straight-forward, as well. They’ll likely line up Fabian Johnson, Omar Gonzalez, Geoff Cameron, and DeAndre Yedlin. Jozy Altidore has been named team captain, so I’d say that makes him a fair assumption to start up top. The questions creep in with the space in the middle. Will they partner Jozy with Bobby Wood? Will they play a 4-3-3 to also get Jordan Morris up top? I’ll venture a guess that due to being brought in as an injury replacement, Sacha Kljestan will not start. I could see them going 4-3-3 with the aforementioned back four, with Beckerman, Jones, and Nagbe behind Wood, Altidore, and Morris. Don’t be surprised if Philadelphia Union’s Alejandro Bedoya starts in the midfield either, since his defensive play and veteran presence could help make up for Dempsey’s absence.
The weak opponent may mean that the US can afford to play less-experienced players. However, the goal differential is something that can’t be ignored in this format. There’s some compelling advantages to winning the group versus advancing in second. I’d expect Jurgen to play his best defense to get them acclimated before Tuesday’s big showdown, but maybe experiment a little with his front six.