So tomorrow afternoon the USMNT plays Turkey. This game is decidedly more important, to me, than Tuesday's game. We know our squad, now let's see if they can go out and win a game.
Here's somethings that I think are crucial to see/look for in Saturday's game.
He was clearly rusty on Tuesday. Didn't jump to defend in the box, and more often than not seemed at least a clear step behind the players he was defending. Let's face it, the U.S. is not deep at defenders. Onyewu was a clear asset to the team, quick, tall, willing to throw his body into a play and really good in the box on set pieces. If he's a step behind, especially when it comes to the critical first World Cup game vs England, it might not make complete sense to start him. Therefore, Bob Bradley and the team need to see on Saturday which Onyewu is going to be on the pitch. With the strength of Englands front, I think it would be better to have someone out there who is fresh and ready to run, as opposed to someone with legs that are heavy (and also someone who has a quick temper and could easily cost us a red card or costly free kick if he were to get beat on a play). And if Onyewu can't start, who? Saturday's game hopefully will help clear up the back field issues.
2. Who's standing next to Altidore
Most of us were surprised with Bradley's forward selection. On Saturday, hopfully we'll all start to see a little more clearly what he was thinking. Who will start next to Altidore? What formation will we run? Will Altidore be up front alone, with Buddle and perhaps Dempsey flanking? Is it Buddle or Gomez who gets the start, if either? And if/when do Dempsey and possibly Donovan move up for more forward pressure? I feel that our striker position has a lot of depth, if not the caliber of many European sides. What will be crucial in these next two games is finding the right combination.
3. Subs and quick changes
One of the things that I think the US has improved on in the last two years has been its willingness to keep fighting and make appropriate changes. The team has gotten progressively better at this, but if Tuesday's game can serve as any framework, there is still a long way to go. With a squad of players with limited international experience fighting against the world's best, it will be critical that the US team start the game with a plan and if its not working continue to fight and make appropriate changes to the game. After digesting Bradley's roster choices for a day or two, I can see that he picked players with specific game skills and needs in mind. The goal will be that Bradley will be able to spot these needs mid game and insert the best player to fit it. Saturday will be the first test to see if this plan will come to be.
4. Altidore and Donovan
Both players had runs at EPL teams this last season. Altidore's ended with a straight red care for, unfortunately a not out of character, head butt. Altidore's team was relegated and odds are against him returning to the side. Donovan was the opposite. He seemed to be embraced by both the players and fans of Everton. He played well, and really adapted quickly and thoroughly to the English style of playing. Will Donovan be able to translate his success at his English side to his international play? Will he take on more of a leadership role both on and off the field? Will Altidore be able to shake off his frustrating end of last season and once again because a leader on this team? Will he show us what he learned about the game and how he's grown? Or will he show us a man who was stifled last year and is not in the form that we remember him in from the Confederation's Cup?
These are just some of the things that I've been thinking about. Either way, we can be sure Saturday's game will be our A squad and I can't wait to see what the USMNT will bring to the table!