Michael Bradley is playing the best soccer of his life. Landon Donovan followed up comments about his “hunger” for the game possibly waning by blasting three goals and helping set up two others in a 5-1 thrashing of Scotland (LD also hit the post in the game). Fabian Johnson looks very much like the solution to the long-running problem at left back. Jose Torres is coming off his best game ever in a U.S. shirt.
With all those cylinders firing, the U.S. tore apart the Scots on Saturday night in Jacksonville. Take a look:
And tonight, the Americans can add Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore to the mix.
Of course, Brazil is about as distant from Scotland as a soccer opponent as Rio is from Edinburgh (geographically, culturally, and meteorologically). They’ll be bringing the likes of Neymar (Santos), Hulk (Porto), and Alexandre Pato (AC Milan), and even though most of the players lining up in yellow tonight (8:00 ESPN2) are U-23 Olympic hopefuls, Brazil will have over-23 stars Thiago Silva (AC Milan) and Marcelo (Real Madrid) joining Hulk in the starting lineup.
A win will be a tall order for the Yanks, who have played Brazil 16 times and lost 15, but it’s not out of the question. Of those 16 matches, 11 were decided by one goal, and this roster is by far the most talented group Klinsmann has had at his disposal during his U.S. stewardship. Tonight’s as good a time as any to match the Yanks’ 1-0 win in the 1998 Gold Cup.
The most intriguing questions concern how Klinsmann—who has tinkered continuously with the U.S. lineup and formation since taking over the team—will line up his side, who he’ll put out there, and what style they’ll attempt to play. It seems doubtful that they’ll try to take the game to Brazil as they did Scotland, but sitting back too much could put Brazil in their comfort zone, from which they can unlock any defense in the world. Klinsmann has hinted (see below) that the U.S. will try to dictate the game at times.
Another question mark facing the U.S. will be the play of the backline, particularly the central defenders, who were not heavily taxed versus Scotland. Will Geoff Cameron get to test himself against mighty Brazil? If the experienced duo of Carlos Bocanegra and Oguchi Onyewu get the call, will the U.S. have enough speed at the back?
On the other side, apart from the youth spread throughout the team, there appears to be only one potential soft spot, and that’s between the pipes, where 22-year-old Santos keeper Rafael will be making his full national team debut. (Well, that and their atrocious new teal unis.)
Here’s the U.S. camp, previewing the match: