US Men’s National Team vs Antigua & Barbuda Preview
The US Men’s National Team finished the first three games of their 5-game tournament with a 1-1-1 record. That record was enough for the US to advance out of the “group stage” of friendlies into the second stage of World Cup Qualifiers. The USMNT’s first opponent of qualifying is the two-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda. With a FIFA ranking of 100, Klinsmann may use this game to give starts to players like Parkhurst, Wondolowski or Corona to see what they can do against a weaker side and provide rest to players who have seen significant play time in the past eight days. Antigua and Barbuda is not expected to challenge the Americans, but most would not have expected the team to get this far.
This round of World Cup qualifying marks the first time Antigua and Barbuda have advanced into the fourth round. To get here Antigua and Barbuda finished at top of their group that included the Virgin Islands, Curacao, and group favorites Haiti. Part of the team’s success is the level of team chemistry that the players possess despite the handful of international games the nations play. Out of the 36 players listed on the roste,r 21 play for USL Pro team Antigua Barracuda. The head coach for Antigua Barracuda, Tom Curtis, has also been named the national coach of Antigua and Barbuda. While most other national teams have to use camp to get players used to playing with each other again, most Antigua and Barbuda players share the same locker room all summer.
Leading Antigua and Barbuda out of the third round of qualifying was forward Peter Byers who added 8 goals during qualifying bringing his international tally to 23. After successful seasons playing in Antigua and Barbuda and Trinidad and Tobago, Byers has been moving around the lower leagues of American soccer without equaling his international performance. Joining Byers up top could be Randolph Burton who tallied 4 goals during the third round.
The US backline and ‘keeper Tim Howard should have no problem keeping two USL Pro forwards in check. After his performance against Canada, Goodson looks good to team up with Bocanegra in the center, but there are questions on the outside. After being dropped from the starting lineup against Canada, Fabian Johnson might still take a seat for Castillo just in case. On the right it may be time for Cherundolo to get a break from Parkhurst, especially after Klinsmann’s comments about the team’s fatigue.
It is common for lower level CONCACAF teams to utilize a defensive shell in hopes to absorb the attack of opponents and spring a counter attack. The US should expect no different from Antigua and Barbuda. Scotland played a similar style and saw their midfield and defense torn apart by the play of Bradley, Edu, Jones, Torres and Donovan. Unfortunately the games against Brazil and Canada did not provide the same result. With the return of Dempsey, Edu ended up on the bench against Canada, but the lackluster performance of Torres could mean Klinsmann will ditch the standard 4-4-2 and revert to a 4-3-2-1 that would see Edu or Kyle Beckerman getting the start as the defensive midfielder. Whoever ends up with the defensive responsibilities will have to keep an eye out for Tamorley Thomas who found the back of the net 6 times during qualifying.
We still have yet to see Wondolowski get any real time playing up top for the US. This game will be his best and probably last chance to earn a start, but Klinsmann may end up looking to Altidore or Boyd to use their size to win long and crossing balls and just create a general havoc for the Antigua and Barbuda back line. The pair enjoyed successful seasons with their respective clubs and are looking to continue their goal scoring with the national team. Only Boyd has been given any real chance to do so, but he has failed to get a goal thus far. Expect Altidore to be the lone forward with Boyd or Wondo coming in later in the game.
Kickoff for the game is scheduled for 6 pm CST. The game will be shown live on ESPN.