Yeah, I get it. We are missing a shit-ton of guys (ie, everybody who plays in Europe) so it is tough to get too excited about these January friendlies. Understandable but the games are still important to give some live-bullets action to guys with a shot at filling out the roster this summer or even – potentially – shining bright enough to snag a starting role at one of our problem positions (eg, fullback).
So tune in and watch. After all, what the hell else do you got going on tonight?
Gregg Berhalter’s first starting XI is here and it includes some interesting twists.
Giving the captain’s armband to Aaron Long while Michael Bradley is on the field is a bold move. I respect the hell out of it if we’re being honest.
Other rapid reactions:
GK: Steffen is our #1 (despite what Bill Hamid thinks). No surprise there.
Defense: Interested to see Long and Zimmerman paired at the CB spots. John Brooks and Matt Miazga are probably are starting duo at the moment, and Cameron Carter-Vickers has played well in the time he has gotten, but these two (Long/Zim) are definitely not a huge step down. A big performance out of Lima and/or Lovitz would be feel like found money.
Midfield: Listen. People are gonna get all hung up on Bradley. Don’t. He is out there for leadership, cohesion and because of who was NOT available to be called up. The fact Berhalter didn’t make him captain is a big message. He will sit deep and do what he always does… which at this point is keep that position warm for Tyler Adams and/or Weston McKennie. No Wil Trapp is a surprise. I don’t hate it. Zardes is Zardes. He will probably be on the roster this summer but if he is in the XI for meaningful games things took a left turn at Albuquerque. Christian Roldan bring some vision to the table but has never excelled for the national team. If there is one guy worth watching it is Mihailovic, who has had moments of individual brilliance for the Fire.
Striker: Ebobisse is behind a LOT of guys at the moment up top but the young fella is fresh off a damn good rookie season for Portland and deserves a look.
This ain’t gonna be pretty, folks. It would be better for everybody to set your expectations accordingly going in. The “team dynamic” is going to be hit and miss at best. Far more important than the final score is seeing some standout individual performances from the likes of Long/Zim, Mihailovic, Roldan and Ebobisse. That said the optics of starting off with a loss against a lesser CONCACAF opponent would be bad. Real bad. I’ll say USMNT to win 2-0.
So there we have it. A glorified reminder that there is a game to watch tonight masquerading as a preview. GO AMERICA!