The United States men’s soccer team will face a major test in Paris when they take on France in a friendly match.
The Americans have struggled so far during the still-new reign of Jurgen Klinsmann, having only scored twice and winning only once. Klinsmann wants to implement an offensive style, but has had problems developing chemistry in his squad so far.
It hasn’t helped that Klinsmann has yet to have both Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey on the field together, a problem that will persist for this match as well. Donovan opted last minute to skip the trip over the Atlantic to prepare for Los Angeles’ MLS Cup title match next weekend.
Defensively the US has been fine, they have not conceded more than a goal during a game, but they are still seeking answers, especially in the center of the D.
Sporting Lisbon’s Oguchi Onyewu showed flashes of his old self in the loss to Ecuador and should be given another start in the center alongside long time stalwart Carlos Bocanegra. Hopefully this will put to rest the Michael Orozco Fiscal experiment, though the San Luis man is still inexplicably on the roster over LA’s Omar Gonzalez.
At fullback look for Timmy Chandler and Steve Cherundolo to use their Bundesliga experience to their advantage. Both players have the talent and make-up to dominate a game down their respective flank, both defensively and offensively. If these two can control their wing, the US is instantly better.
The middle of the field is as much of a cluster you-know-what as always. This is not a bad thing, center mid is where the most talent in the USA squad lies outside of between the goal posts, but it certainly makes for difficult decisions.
Will Kyle Beckerman be given another look? The Real Salt Lake star has had mixed results in his time in the Red, White & Blue. Will Michael Bradley be back in the starting 11? The former coach’s son is back in game shape since transferring to Chievo, and when on his game remains the best option in the middle.
Jermaine Jones is back in the fold. To say the former German international and Schalke 04 man has been a disappointment is an understatement. Jones has immense talent, but it has not translated for the Americans. An intriguing option is the anticipated debut of Fabian Johnson.
Johnson is a former star for the German youth national teams, but has been ignored for the senior squad and holds American roots so Klinsmann gave him a call. Johnson has been influential for Hoffenheim at the age of 23 and provides a significant influx of talent if he blends with his new teammates.
On the wings look for the emerging Brek Shea to get another start, deservedly so. FC Dallas’ young winger is going to train with Arsenal and has been a spark in an otherwise dull offense in the Klinsmann era and looks to be a lock for the US for the next dozen years. Who plays opposite of him probably depends on how Jurgen wants to line up.
Preferably Dempsey will slide into the hole behind Jozy Altidore and provide linking play. This would free the right wing for another appearance from Danny Williams, who has looked bright in his early minutes for the US.
This is a major test for the Americans. Yes they are still looking for the right mix, but they need to test their squad away from home and what better way than to travel to the former European and World champions?
Laurent Blanc’s side will be heavy favorites but are not unbeatable. The French will be without influential Man City play-maker Samir Nasri and are carrying a lot of their own youth and inexperience.
What they don’t lack is talent. Eric Abidal and Laurent Koscielny will lead a strong defense in front of all-world keeper Hugo Lloris and will make the Americans earn each scoring chance.
Alou Diarra, Franck Ribery, and Florent Malouda will lead a very potent midfield. Karim Benzema will look to shake off rust from being relegated to the bench for his club and live up to his talent at striker. Loic Remy could join him up top.
Similar teams with similar colors, similar young, experimental make-ups and a desire for a strong back line to supplement an attractive, creative offense. It should make for quite a match.
Desired USA Starting 11: Howard-Chandler-Onyewu-Bocanegra-Cherundolo-Shea-Edu-Johnson-Williams-Dempsey-Altidore.
Prediction: 1-1. Altidore and Remy cancel each other out.