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Barstool’s USMNT WCQ Preview – The “How Do Our Balls Taste, Panama?” Edition

Sam’s Soccer Safe Space for Stoolies

1-USA

Hi haters,

It has been a rough week and an interesting year here in the United States of America. Talking heads can’t stop crowing about how “divided” our great nation is at the moment. No better time than tonight for a little reminder of what it feels like when we all come together. I don’t care what your politics are. I don’t give a shit what your thoughts are on abortion or fixing the healthcare system, or keeping automatic weapons out of the hands of tiny-dicked psychos. Tonight we are ALL Americans united against one common opponent (Panama) with one common purpose (qualifying for WC18).

Before we get balls deep in the previewing though, here’s a little reminder of how great America is, was and can be again:

and another version… I don’t know wtf he is saying but I do know that it is giving me a boner

LETS F-ING GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

***

USMNT vs Panama

I went into some detail in a blog posted on Monday – link HERE – about the Hexagonal table as it stands right now and the schedule for the next five days, but the quick and dirty rundown is we are not in a good spot right now:

2-schedule

BUT importantly we do still control our own destiny with two games remaining:

3-table

There are all sorts of possible scenarios as far as how things could play out, but the only one that matter is this: beating Panama tonight is absolutely critical.

USMNT vs Panama
Kickoff: 6:35pm CT
Location: Orlando, FL
TV: espn2

Speaking of the Panamaniacs, let’s take a quick look at what our adversary brings to the table…

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PANAMA

Credit where credit is due, while we have gotten the better of them historically, Panama has been a legitimate thorn in our sides recently.

Little known fact: “Uno a uno” is Panamanian for “Dos a cero”

Little known fact: “Uno a uno” is Panamanian for “Dos a cero”

The little buggers are riding a four-game unbeaten streak against us into tonight’s game (including a win on penalties after extra time in the 2015 Gold Cup), which doesn’t mean much aside from the fact that they clearly aren’t going to come in feeling all that intimidated by The Great Satan.

Personnel-wise, those of you who follow MLS will be intimately familiar with the Panamanian team. The team’s strength is their spine – CBs Roman Torres (Seattle) and Adolfo Machado (Houston) with DM Anibal Godoy (San Jose) in front of them – is a strength and they are pretty good about packing it in defensively.

They tend to go with a 4-2-3-1 setup on the road with someone like octogenarian Blas Perez floating around up top. The team rarely sends many guys forward but when they do it will be incredibly important for the US to take advantage and counter their counter. Panama’s only real threat is usually on set pieces where they have some big bodies willing to mix it up. Thankfully we have always been great at defending these so it shouldn’t be a problem.

Oh, what’s that? Our set piece defending is Liveprool-esque? Fuckkkkkkkkkkkkkkk. Well whatever, let’s just move on…

***

USMNT

5-roster

I already went into great detail in Monday’s blog (for those of you wanting to read it but too lazy to scroll up, don’t worry, I gotcha: HERE) about some of Arena’s more questionable decisions, so if you want to hear my thoughts on all that go read up. Needless to say, I’m not a big fan of a lot of them. However, to quote a wise man:

***HERE IS THE MOST/ONLY IMPORTANT THING***

The only “talking point” that really matters is the question about Fabian Johnson, as it is the only one that SHOULD have any impact on the most likely starting lineup. Everything else is immaterial at this point.

A lot of people have been complaining about the addition of Benny Feilhaber. What they fail to realize is that he (or as I said before someone like Sacha Kljestan or Lee Nguyen) brings a different look in the center of the field that we don’t otherwise have – and honestly haven’t really had since Claudio Reyna retired. Do I wish we could call in someone like David Silva or Luka Modric? Yes, I do. I also wish I had a dick magical enough that exes would text me “gfs being lame, what u up to?” at midnight every weekend. But unfortunately we live in the real world and have to deal with the cards/dicks on offer. And while I do not think Feilhaber should start, I do believe he could be a useful changeup to offer a new way of unlocking a team like Panama or T&T if they have been successfully packing it in and/or concentrating on shutting down anything on the wings for the first 60 minutes.

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KEY QUESTIONS

Moving right along, I have seen a LOT of potential XIs being thrown around out there on the interwebs and twitter machine. Let’s start by running down some of the big questions marks Q&A-style…

• 4-4-2 or 3-5-2?

One of the bigger uncertainties seems to be whether Arena will go with a four-back, and thus something akin to a 4-4-2 formation, or three-back set with more of a 3-5-2 look. The strongest rationale for going with the latter is that the team looked a lot better after Arena switched to three at the back against Honduras. That said, I am NOT a fan. One of the reasons we went with three at the back last month was because the roster was incredibly thin at both left and right back. The return of DeAndre Yedlin from injury should shore up at least one of the two sides. At least as importantly it would mean including Omar Gonzalez or Tim Ream (if not both) in the XI, which would give me an acute case of nervous shits. So my preference is for 4-4-2.

• GK: Tim Howard or Brad Guzan?

I would have liked to see someone like Ethan Horvath or Jesse Gonzalez included on the roster at the very least but the fact is that Arena’s loyalty and conservative nature means he always leans most heavily on guys who have performed for him in the past so nobody other than Howard or Guzan ever had a shot at being handed the gloves for the Panama and T&T games. Unfortunately neither have been lighting it up in MLS. For me it comes down to Howard’s performance against Costa Rica, where he took a terrible angle and lacked explosiveness on the first goal and looked tentative on the second. With the exception of the awful goal against Martinique, Guzan has been pretty consistent for the USMNT recently, and I think he should get the start. However, I heard from SAUCES that Arena is leaning heavily towards Howard.

• Which CB pairing?

Some people have argued that Geoff Cameron could be pushed out wide (or even up to DM) but, despite his surprisingly bad game against Costa Rica, I think he absolutely has to be one of the CBs. Then comes the choice between Omar Gonzalez, Tim Ream and Matt Besler. Gonzo is Arena’s guy, which is unfortunate because he has – to put it nicely – not been good for us throughout this WCQ cycle. Ream’s speed, or lack thereof, has been a problem on several occasions. For me the choice is easy: Besler.

• Could this game make or break Michael Bradley’s legacy with USMNT?

Yes. Plain and simple. He has had moments of brilliance (eg, goal from half-field against Mexico) but a lottttttt more moments of insignificance. Right or wrong, if the US does not win today a lot of the blame will fall on his shoulders. Go get em, Cappy!

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• Where should BVBabyjesus be positioned?

There has been a lot of discussion about whether Pulisic should play wide or more centrally. This seems like another no-brainer for me. He has too often been taken out of the game by teams that have essentially double-teamed him down the wing. Positioning him in the middle of the field with explicit instructions to go wherever the hell he wants to find space and get the ball is the play. Anything else would be unthinkable.

• Should Dempsey start?

No. I have consistently advocated for bringing Deuce in after an hour to run at defenders once they have tired, and still think this super-sub strategy is ideal.

**

STARTING XI

This is my preferred lineup:

6-myXI

But I suspect that Arena will go with something more like this (note: I am including Besler rather than, say, Gonzo out pure hopes and prayers not because I actually think it most likely):

Super-sub: Deuce

Super-sub: Deuce

***

PREDICTION

Oops, looks like I already let the cat out of the bag on this one. And for those of you looking for an actual score prediction:

DOS A CERO, LETS GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

8-balls

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I’ll be back to bother you on Tuesday when the USMNT – gulp – should – gulp – be in a position to once and for all punch its ticket to Puty’s World Cup. For the time being though it’s all about Panama.

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PS: the twitter gods let me out of jail this week just in the nick of time:


Holler,
Samuel Army