The weather is hot in Salt Lake City, and a cross country journey is ahead.
So there’s really little surprise that U.S. national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann would make several changes – six of them, or over half the team, to be exact – for today’s match with Cuba.
The lineup looks like this: Nick Rimando in goal;
Tony Beltran, Michael Orozco, Oguchi Onyewu and Edgar Castillo along the back line;
Joe Corona, Kyle Beckerman, Stuart Holden (pictured) and Brek Shea in midfield;
Landon Donovan and Herculez Gomez at forward.
It may be a little surprising that Chris Wondolowski goes back to the bench after his hat trick, but not much, really. A hat trick is a hat trick, as we said the other night – but one against Belize does come with a little asterisk, doesn’t it?
Mostly, the changes are about squad rotation. Remember, if they go all the way to the final, we are talking about six matches in 20 days. (Update: Or, as ESPN.com pal Doug McIntyre just reminded me via Twitter, seven matches in 24 days if you include that Guatemalan friendly.) That’s a lot for anyone, and certainly an especially steep climb for players like Holden and Shea, neither of whom have played an entire match in months.
This, by the way, will be Holden’s first start internationally since late in 2010 in a 2-2 draw with Poland in Chicago.
With a result today in Sandy, which would secure passage into the Gold Cup’s second round, Klinsmann is likely to rest anyone who has started the first two group play contests. (Especially since the team will be traveling across three times zone, up into Connecticut for the group play closer vs. Costa Rica. ) That means Donovan and Beckerman most noticeably.
And then from the other side, there’s this …