Puerto Rico-USMNT preview: Youth served, win expected, eyes on Wood

Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
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  • First ever matchup of sides
  • U.S. first match since Feb. 5
  • PR beat Anguilla, lost to Guyana in late March

The United States men’s national team heads to Puerto Rico on Sunday for its first ever matchup with The Blue Hurricane (Kickoff at Noon ET).

With Jozy Altidore injured and a blowout expected, special attention will be paid to a young and inexperienced batch of strikers which includes St. Pauli’s Fafa Picault and Club Tijuana duo Paul Arriola and Amando Moreno. German-based forwards Julian Green and Bobby Wood will be expected to see time, too.

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The latter is the name to monitor, as Wood is coming off a fantastic 17-goal campaign in 2.Bundesliga, where he earned a transfer to the top flight with Hamburg. Altidore’s absence provides the 16-times capped striker a chance to build on a 2015 that saw him score goals against the Netherlands, Germany and Mexico (as well as St. Vincent and the Grenadines). Will he seize his opportunity?

(Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Jurgen Klinsmann has plenty of experience in Sunday’s squad, though how much he’ll use it is within question. Fifteen are in Klinsmann’s 40-man roster for the Copa America Centenario, a unit which will be officially trimmed to 23 on Saturday.

Puerto Rico is led by a Polish coach with plenty of experience in the United States, as interim boss Jack Stefanowski has led men’s programs at Briarcliff College and assisted at NYU, Saint Peter’s and Stony Brook. He also ned Nepal’s national team from 2013-15.

The side has several American-based college players, like Albany’s Carlos Clark and Loyola Maryland backstop Matthew Sanchez. New York City FC’s Jason Hernandez was not called up for the USMNT’s visit, but there are also players from PR Sides Bayamon FC and Puerto Rico FC.

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The United States will roll through this game, and that’s no insult to Puerto Rico and its home field advantage. It’s the first of three USMNT friendlies in seven days, and easily the most straight-forward (Bolivia and Ecuador are next).

With the Copa America Centenario kickoff versus Colombia about two weeks away on June 3, look for a big U.S. win to kickstart good feelings ahead of a major tournament.