It’s a bit of an odd matchup tonight at the catchily named New Meadowlands Stadium.
The 2010 World Cup ended only one month ago, but Brazil is already well into a new national-team cycle, having fired its coach from South Africa and invited a raft of internationally-inexperienced youngsters in to camp for this game.
And the U.S. is … well, what is the U.S. doing, exactly? Bob Bradley’s status as coach is in limbo (though we think the Aston Villa rumors are a stretch), and the team he’s called in for tonight consists of 14 players we just saw in South Africa, several of whom are unlikely to be a part of the team come 2014 (when Brazil hosts the World Cup).
We’re not saying the U.S. should have turned over its ranks and brought in all youngsters—this is Brazil, after all, and just because the roster is young doesn’t mean it’s not completely stacked with talent.
No, we’re saying the timing and circumstances of this game are just a little off-kilter.
Still, there will be more than 65,000 in the stands, a great atmosphere, and some young players up to prove they can play for their national team.
Here are five to check out (club team in parentheses):
Neymar (Santos): We saw him play against the Red Bulls in March, and despite a subdued overall performance, he showed some flashes of the form that produced 14 goals in 19 games for his club last season, and prompted both Pelé and Ronaldo to press Dunga to include the 18-year-old on his World Cup roster. Dunga declined, and Neymar will be eager to prove that was a mistake. Much like…
Alexandre Pato (AC Milan): The 20-year-old already has 77 appearances and 36 goals for the Serie A giants, yet Dunga chose not to include him for South Africa 2010. Kind of incredible, really.
Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht): The 24-year-old Huntington Beach, California, native is still inexplicably rocking the Rupert Pupkin ’stache (see top), but he’s off to a good start in Belgium, and his girl, Entourage’s Jamie Lee Darley, doesn’t seem to mind, so maybe it’s working for him. Kljestan was one of the last U.S. players cut before South Africa 2010, and he got red-carded the last time he faced Brazil (in the 2009 Confederations Cup), so this is a big game for him.
Alejandro Bedoya (Orebro): The two-time Hermann Trophy nominee out of Boston College narrowly missed out on a trip to South Africa (DaMarcus Beasley nabbed his spot), but is a solid bet to make Brazil 2014. That quest starts tonight.
Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy): He was only called in for this game after Columbus’s Chad Marshall withdrew with an injury, so he won’t be starting, but it would be interesting to see what the 2009 MLS Rookie of the Year can do against the world’s best. Hopefully he gets a run. The 6’ 5” 21-year-old is probably the future at centerback for the U.S., and after South Africa 2010 (see first two questions here), that future can’t get here soon enough.