Normally visits to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Florida during Labor Day are for vacation purposes. Elaborate drinks with little hats, beaches, alligator wrestling. You know, the simple things.
But for the United States Men’s National Team this weekend is all work. With two upcoming matches against Saint Vincent (Today 3: 30 pm BeInsport) and Trinidad and Tobago (8pm FS1, Univision) and a spot in the final round of World Cup Qualification on the line it is all business for USMNT. The question is now: Can they deliver?
On the surface this seems like a slam dunk. Saint Vincent (0-0-4, 0 points), despite featuring Sounders supporters favorite Oalex Anderson, are a lightweight in international football and have scored just three goals during this round. Trinidad and Tobago (3-1-0, 10 points) are a bit more formidable, featuring the likes of Kenwyne Jones (Atlanta United) and Kevin Molino (Orlando City SC). But the Soca Warriors have never beaten the United States on the road and have been outscored 25-4.
But as USMNT supporters have witnessed over the past few years no match can be taken for granted. Time and time again Klinsmann’s sides have entered matches where they were expected to either trounce their opponent or will lose in heartbreak. Their loss to Guatemala (2-0-2, 6 points) has put them into a position where these last two matches must win. The United States could get in with a victory over Saint Vincent and a victory for T and T over Guatemala on Thursday. However, the likelihood is strong that the States will enter Tuesday needing a result at EverBank Field in Jacksonville.
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Make no mistake about it: the United States must win the match against Saint Vincent tomorrow and win it convincingly. Although they will be without the two Michaels (Bradley and Orozco) due to suspension and Clint Dempsey, Gyasi Zardes, and John Anthony Brooks because of injuries. That being said there is certainly players on this result to get three points, even if they will be playing on a cricket pitch.
The big question for the United States will be on the attack. Jozy Altidore seems to have had his third comeback with Toronto FC this season. After having been left off of the Copa America due to match fitness and his ever-persistent hamstring issues, Altidore earned his spot back on the roster after scoring five goals in his last seven matches for The Reds. If he can work with Bobby Wood up top in Klinsmann’s 4-4-2 then the United States may have filled their two striker positions.
Replacing Michael Bradley will also be a tricky issue for Klinsmann. Despite not being an internet darling, Bradley has served for the better part of eight years as the conductor of the USMNT midfield. Perhaps the Saint Vincent match is the perfect time to find alternatives to the Toronto FC center mid position (Sacha Kjlestan supporters would tend to agree). Nonetheless it is a big question as to who will step up into Bradley’s role against SVG.
The other player to keep an eye on is Omar Gonzalez. After being left off of the Copa America roster under curious circumstances Gonzalez is back and will likely receive significant playing time in either of the next two matches.
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Klinsmann did call in Orozco (Tijuana), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), and Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United) which makes for a crowded center-back corps.
But aside from Orozco (suspended) and Besler no player has more experience in these type of matches than Gonzalez. That, coupled with his strong play at Pachuca, gives him the advantage in terms of minutes.
All signs seem to point to the USMNT getting the results needed to advance to the final stage of World Cup Qualification in CONCACAF. But for a side that has their fair share of poor results in qualification and a bad run of form nothing is a given.