Wednesday at 1:25 Central the USMNT will take on Spain, the #1 team in the world. They will look to continue their recent form and catch a very confident Spain napping to snag a victory and head to the Confederations Cup Final against the winner of the Brazil v. South Africa game. Here are some key matchups and some thoughts about the game.
To see projected lineups and more thoughts about the game, check out Soccer By Ives by Ives Galarcep. He is one of the best bloggers out there, and his insights are always spot on.
Jozy Altidore against Carlos Puyol: This looks like a great battle. Young Altidore has been showing some very good time on the ball in this tournament and has been a handful for every centerback that has played against him. Puyol is a tenacious veteran who does his job very well and can normally take care of any striker in the game. Altidore will look to use his skill on the ball and his hold up ability to keep the ball and distribute to the midfielders for runs in the box. His turn against Egypt that created the first goal by Davies was magical.
Advantage: Puyol. I think he is too good and has been in the game too long. He has played against the best in the world (Cristiano Ronaldo) and made them pretty invisible in a match. I see him doing that here too.
Micheal Bradley and Ricardo Clark against Cesc Fabregas and Xavi Hernandez: The duo of Bradley and Clark did well against Egypt shutting down the midfield and controlling possession, as well as keeping Pirlo quiet for 3/4 of the Italy game. They are good open field tacklers and if they can keep their composure and stay away from the yellow and red cards they have a chance of outworking the European Champions. Fabregas and Xavi are two players that can create in the midfield and win balls better than nearly anyone in the game. They are fluid passers and know when to move up the field and when to stay back. I think their skill outweighs the Americans and have had a very good tournament so far. I don’t see that changing in this matchup unless Bradley and Clark can step up their game and outwork the Spainards.
Advantage: Draw. I see Bradley (who has been playing very well recently) and Clark stepping up and keeping up with the combination play of Xavi and Fabregas. It will be a great battle.
Oguchi Onyewu and Carlos Bocanegra against David Villa and Fernando Torres: I have to say that this is the best matchup of the day, and probably the most crucial for the Yanks. Gooch and Boca have to keep up with the speed and raw ability of Villa and Torres or the USMNT don’t have a chance of winning. Bocanegra will be coming off of an injury that has kept him sidelined for most of the tournament, so his fitness could be an issue. Oguchi Onyewu has probably played the best he ever has internationally and he will have to continue this run of form to keep up with Villa. Torres and Villa are two of the best in the world (notice a trend?) and can tear apart a defense that is unorganized and slow, so the Americans will have to be at the top of thier game.
Advantage: Torres and Villa. I see one of them scoring at least once in this game, and that could prove the difference. The Americans are going to have to have the games of their lives to beat these two.
To win tomorrow, the USMNT will have to play the best game they have ever played. They have the chance to win a game that will go in the history books as the best ever, beating the US v England game in the 1950 World Cup. The players know this, and they also have been playing with a bit of a chip on their shoulders which could prove to their advantage. Every player will have to have a good game. Bob Bradley will have to make the right subs and execute the correct formation. If any of these things are not correct, the US will lose and it could be a scoreline rivalling the Brazil game.
Spain will have to keep up their form and not let their focus slip. They have had a very easy tournament so far and the US will be their hardest game yet. They must control possession and keep the US on their heels. If they can do that, then they will get the chances needed to beat the young American side.
It will be a very exciting game…I hope. I don’t see the Americans trying to bunker like Iraq did against Spain in their 1-0 loss but it could be the strategy Bradley employs. Only time will tell.
My Prediction: My head tells me it will be Spain 2-1 with Xavi and Torres for Spain, and Landon Donovan for the US. My heart hopes for the other way around. 2-1 United States, with goals from Bradley, Clint Dempsey and David Villa.
The game will be on ESPN 360 and Univision at 1:25 Central
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