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June 7, 2011

USA vs. Canada Preview

The U.S. men opens Gold Cup group play tonight against Canada as they hope to make a strong statement after being freshly embarrassed against Spain. Starting the Tournament against a moderately strong team like Canada should provide a good test as they Americans begin play; the Canadians are a skillful, athletic team that could easily surprise some and should advance from the group.

The Americans will start a much stronger side tonight than the group that performed the comedy-sketch against Spain on Saturday night. Here's what we'll see, more that likely: 

There are some exceptions, of course. Bradley likes Tim Ream's ability to pass the ball from the back, as well as his mature level of composure. It wouldn't be a stretch to see him get time. 

Left-back is a bit of a toss up. Bocanegra should start tonight but Bradley could opt for speed on the left with Lichaj or Bornstein (Lord, no).

Central midfield has been somewhat of a revolving door recently. Michael Bradley has secured his place, while Jermaine Jones and Maurice Edu have had mixed reviews. We think Edu gets the nod, but Coach Bradley may find Jones' strength and passing ability a valuable contribution. Even if Jones doesn't start, he should get some time.

It's a bit of a long-shot, but Bradley COULD opt for trying a 4-5-1 again. He can insert Klejstan as an attacking midfielder in front of Edu and Bradley, use Dempsey and Donovan on the wings, with Altidore up top. This is a versatile formation that can easily be changed back to a 4-4-2 as Agudelo can be added up top with Altidore (Agudelo off the bench is a formula for his success, apparently).

Canada has been taken lightly by the media in recent weeks, but really could be up for surprising the U.S. They'll be motivated to prove something to the rest of the region and surely have somewhat of a chip on their shoulder after being constantly looked over behind the U.S. and Mexico's success. They'll hope for a chance to qualify for a World Cup and the Gold Cup is a strong first step. 

Canada has a strong core of veteran players, while they also cope with a sharp drop-off in talent through some of the roster. Atiba Hutchinson (PSV Eindhoven) anchors the midfield, while Dwayne De Rosario, Will Johnson, and Simeon Jackson lead a potent attack. Their goalkeeping and defense will also be somewhat of a liability going forward for them, and they'll need to perform admirably as a unit in order to stifle the U.S. attack. 

This is a possible line-up, but don't be surprised if veteran forward Rob Friend or emerging Vancouver (MLS) midfielder Terry Dunfield either start or see serious time. Versatile midfielder Tosaint Ricketts also impressed in a recent draw in a friendly versus Ecuador. 

 Bottom Line:
Expect this to be hard-fought game that could end up being a lot closer than many expect or hope it to be.  The U.S. really need to win by at least a 2 goal margin, anything less than a firm victory may be a moral defeat. Going 3 goals up to start the tournament means a lot more than insurance on the field in this case--here it means they shut people up and salvage some pride.  

As unlikely as a blow-out may be, anything is possible considering the results of the trigger-happy tournament we've enjoyed so far.


  1. Here's the actual line-up for tonight:






  2. And Canada's actual: