By Money Mike
We're only one match into the Hexagonal Round of the CONCACAF Qualifier for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil and already it feels like the United States need to get a result in one of these two matches. The U.S. are coming off a 2-1 defeat down in Honduras in the first match of the Hexagonal round and now for the two upcoming matches tomorrow against Costa Rica at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Colorado and Tuesday at the Estadio Azteca against Mexico, they're going to be without a few key players including their goalkeeper. Tim Howard is out with a back problem, so Brad Guzan will be called upon to fill in for the injured Howard. Now Guzan does have experience playing in big games like these. He's appeared in five WCQ matches and has registered a clean sheet in three of the five. He's done well in goal lately for Aston Villa, so we'll see how he does. Howard's not the only one ruled out, as I just said earlier. Steve Cherundolo is still not fully recovered from his knee injury, Timmy Chandler suffered a hamstring injury during a match last Saturday, Fabian Johnson has been out for two weeks with a hip problem and Danny Williams has been dealing with an illness. Another player that isn't on the squad is their leader Carlos Bocanegra, who was left out due to the fact that he hasn't seen any playing time for his club for over a week and a half now. Other players that haven't been getting any playing time...... the ones that you'd consider as a possible replacement in the back of course. Oguchi Onyewu has made only 1 appearance for Malaga this season (what the hell is going on with this guy?). Michael Parkhurst has lacked playing time since his move to FC Augsburg in the Bundesliga. And here's one that I don't recall anyone mentioning, Eric Lichaj. He's had a good run of form up to December 23 and then he's only appeared in two matches since then. So the inexperience in the back has led to concerns for the entire week now.
Now if you hadn't read anything regarding the critics of this U.S. team, you might want to do that. There was a piece on Sporting News about 11 anonymous players criticizing Jurgen Klinsmann's coaching methods (which were pathetic as of last match), but there criticism was a step too far. Not even Michael Bradley appreciated any of it.....
“It’s shameful, and it’s embarrassing. I think for every guy who has ever played on a team, you give everything you have … and on every team in the world, not every guy is going to be happy. There’s going to be guys who go back to their room and talk with their roommate about things they wish were different. But that’s normal.
…But you cross a line when you take those thoughts and you take your disappointments outside of the team, outside of the inner circle."
And Bradley's 100% right. We hear about shit like this every year. Players not being happy, wondering why they're here, etc. But when you spread this crap outside the system, you're taking it a step too far (I don't know, I can't explain). Here's a look at the squad. You can see the lack of experience in the back. DeMarcus Beasley is back in the side along with Terrence Boyd and of course Brad Guzan will be back in net for the Red, White and Blue.....
U.S. squad by position (caps/goals):
Brad Guzan (Aston Villa; England) - 20/0
Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake) - 6/0
Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire) - 3/0
Clarence Goodson (Brondby; Denmark) - 34/3
Geoff Cameron (Stoke City; England) - 12/0
Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles Galaxy) - 4/0
Tony Beltran (Real Salt Lake) - 1/0
Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City) - 1/0
Justin Morrow (San Jose Earthquakes) - 1/0
DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla; Mexico) - 97/17
Michael Bradley (AS Roma; Italy) - 73/11
Maurice Edu (Bursaspor; Turkey) - 43/1
Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht; Belgium) - 39/4
Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04; Germany) - 27/2
Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake) - 24/1
Brek Shea (Stoke City; England) - 15/0
Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City) - 8/1
Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo) - 6/0
Joe Corona (Tijuana; Mexico) - 3/0
Clint Dempsey (Tottenham Hotspur; England) - 92/31
Jozy Altidore (AZ; Netherlands) - 53/13
Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders FC) - 46/14
Herculez Gomez (Santos Laguna; Mexico) - 19/5
Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna; Austria) - 7/0
USA vs Costa Rica prediction:
So for this one, I'm gonna break everything down and go from there. I mentioned that the U.S. lacks experience defensively, Costa Rica brings in a good attacking side with Alvaro Saborio (who last I heard, may not play due to injury). They also have Bryan Ruiz who struck twice against the American's the last time these two teams met in a World Cup Qualifier. Then there's young Joel Campbell and of course Jairo Arrieta. But as good as their attack is, Costa Rica is not that good at defending. I mean, they are not a physical team and when it comes to that. Whether it's from open play or on set pieces, they are just not that good. I mean, the American's are a physical team. Eddie Johnson's an aggressive player, Herculez Gomez, Michael Bradley and Omar Gonzalez are aggressive players. So I kind of draw this to who's the more physical side, and it's definitely the U.S. If they can hold their ground defensively and on put the Costa Rican backline under a ton of pressure, I think they can put in a couple of goals and come away with a result. The U.S. has a 24-match home unbeaten streak in World Cup Qualifying play, and I've been wrong before, but I think they'll get a result and extend it to 25.
USA - 2
Costa Rica - 1
USA vs Mexico prediction:
Last time the U.S. visited Mexico, they defeated them 1-0 on an 80th minute goal by Michael Orozco Fiscal. However this is not going to be the same Mexico side we saw in the last visit. Mexico is off to a slow start themselves after drawing at home to Jamaica in their first match of the Hexagonal round. But again, the El Tri has had their number against the American's in this stage and I don't see why the match on Tuesday would be any different. I just hope I'm wrong with this one, but I have to go with a loss.
USA - 0
Mexico - 2