Bruce Arena’s men didn’t look so hot on Saturday, a 1-1 home draw against a Venezuela side that won’t be terrifying too many hosts in the near future (granted their U-20 side looks quite good).
But the players’ rationale for the tough night made enough sense; Arena has them training and playing at altitude in preparation for Thursday’s World Cup qualifier against Trinidad and Tobago in Colorado, and Sunday night’s test at Azteca against Mexico.
Plus, the Yanks were experimenting. Forget for a moment that the previous administration would be torn to bits for “experimenting on the eve of important games.” That’s for another post. But the Americans simply have to win their home qualifiers, especially have thrown one away already.
The good news is that the Yanks are fairly healthy. John Brooks could be a big loss if he cannot play, but the rest came through the friendly relatively unscathed.
Tim Howard was exceptional on Saturday, and the backs should remain unchanged outside of Brooks’ fitness test. Geoff Cameron only went 45 minutes versus Venezuela, and both Jorge Villafana and DeAndre Yedlin played well on the outside.
Michael Bradley struggled again, and at best was unspectacular. But Arena is not going to go away from his captain, and Christian Pulisic is an absolute certainty, too. Jozy Altidore is back with the team following a family obligation, and both Fabian Johnson and Bobby Wood seem certain to feature.
It remains to be seen whether Arena though Darlington Nagbe did enough to insure he stays in the mix, and Clint Dempsey‘s very off night could cost him playing time with Altidore’s health. Could it be as simple as this?
Yedlin – Cameron – Hedges – Villafana
Nagbe – Pulisic – Johnson
Altidore – Wood
That means there could only be one change, Altidore for Dempsey, should Brooks return to health by Thursday.
Arena may choose Omar Gonzalez over Hedges given their long history with the LA Galaxy.
The manager could also move Alejandro Bedoya or Kellyn Acosta for Nagbe, or even use Dempsey there. It does seem like the 34-year-old Dempsey won’t go 90 in three-straight matches, and Arena may prefer to save him for Azteca.