USMNT v. Scotland – Match Day Preview

You smell that?  No, not the dogwood that just started blooming in Buffalo.  The other slightly less syrupy smell.

The smell of a fresh 2+ years worth of excitement, anguish, victory, defeat and above all – love.  Tonight marks the (unofficial) start of Brazil 2014 for the United States of America as Scotland comes to Jacksonville to kick off a crazy stretch of 5 games in 18 days…all leading up to the first two qualifying matches in the semifinal round of CONCACAF qualifying

We’ll keep this simple and to the point.  Scotland comes into Northern Florida with a less than full strength and not terribly impressive squad:

GK: McGregor, DF:Bardsley, Caldwell, Webster, Mulgrew, MF: Brown, Bannan, McArthur, Phillips, Maloney, FWD: Miller.

While several EPL starters feature, critical players like Charlie Adam have been left behind in Caledonia.  A probable 4-5-1 suggests Scotland will look to absorb pressure and try to capitalize on set pieces.

Klinsmann has hinted at adopting a rotating formation between a traditional 4-4-2 and a more ambitious Christmas tree (Tannenbaum?) that would fit in with Jurgen’s long term 4-3-3 Barcelona style aspirations.  With Brazil and the prospect of a 90 minute siege looming on Wednesday evening we figure tonight will be an opportunity to force the issue a bit more and see how well the past 9 months of preaching the gospel of attractive, ball on the ground, short passing football has sunk in.

Given those factors, here’s what we’re expecting in way of a starting XI:

Some notes:

1.  With Gooch coming in a bit late to camp from an extended cup run with Sporting Lisbon and Klinsmann preferring an attacking mindset developing out of the back line we think we’ll see Geoff Cameron start next to Bocanegra in the center of defense.

2.  Klinsmann will get his wing play from the back and more than likely unbalanced towards the left side of the field.  Look for Fabian Johnson and Donovan to combine up the left wing for crosses and passes going into…

3.  Terrance Boyd.   He’ll get his first international start tonight – or we think so at least.  If you couldn’t tell that Klinsmann was bullish on the young man from (for now) Dortmund, his inclusion/sub role against Italy in February was telling considering he’s yet to start at a first division level in any capacity.

Boyd has been extremely prolific for Dortmund U-23s and it was revealed recently by the Dortmund manager that only the excellent form of the strikers in front of him kept him from playing for one of the best teams in the Bundesliga.  Athletic, strong, and smart – he gives off a young Brian McBride vibe which, if you haven’t noticed the banner, we are ALL about.

With a move to Austrian side Rapid Vienna in the works, a big night against Scotland would do much for his USMNT standing, not to mention his pocketbook.

4.  Look for Jose “Paco” Torres to feature again in the #10 role behind Boyd & the wingers.  Torres was beginning to look like one of Klinsy’s favorites with some impressive performances towards the end of last year but an unfortunate foot fracture took him out of the picture for January camp and the winter friendlies.  With true creative central midfielders at an absolute premium in the US pool, a world of opportunity lays at the feet of the young Pachuca string puller.

5.  If he isn’t already, Michael Bradley is quickly earning the “world class” label.  We had the utmost privilege to witness a passing/tackling performance for the ages (in American terms at least) this past Leap Day in Genoa. All the cries of nepotism and “Daddy’s boy” died forever on that chilly Italian field as Mikey Jr. showed us all what he’s learned in Verona.

He’ll get the start tonight as the box to box engine we’ve always known he was.  Maurice Edu will be on mop up duty as the two form a quality defensive pair that should get Jose Torres plenty of touches and time on the ball.

And that’s that – we don’t do predictions so we’ll just say we hope we see encouraging signs for when the games REALLY count in a couple weeks.  Come to The Library at 4224 Maple Road in Amherst to watch the game with American Outlaws’ Buffalo chapter.  Vamos EEUU!!!

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