The US National Team is gearing up for the Gold Cup this summer, and they are trying to find the right mix of players for the Gold Cup by using the upcoming friendlies against Argentina (yep, that Messi guy is really good), and Paraguay. The first friendly is this Saturday, March 26th at 7:30 PM (CST). The game will be televised on ESPN2/Univision. Just 3 days later, our boys face off against Paraguay at 7PM on Fox Soccer Channel/TeleFutura. Join me after the break for rosters for the US and Argentina teams, and some of my thoughts on the upcoming friendlies.
Here is the roster for the US:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Marcus Hahnemann (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Tim Howard (Everton), David Yelldell (MSV Duisburg)
DEFENDERS (8): Carlos Bocanegra (Saint-Etienne), Jonathan Bornstein (UANL Tigres), Timothy Chandler (FC Nürnberg), Jay DeMerit (Vancouver Whitecaps), Eric Lichaj (Leeds), Oguchi Onyewu (FC Twente), Tim Ream (New York Red Bulls), Jonathan Spector (West Ham United)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Michael Bradley (Aston Villa), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Mikkel Diskeruud (Stabaek), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Benny Feilhaber (AGF Aarhus), Jermaine Jones (Blackburn Rovers), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht)
FORWARDS (3): Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls), Jozy Altidore (Bursaspor), Edson Buddle (FC Ingolstadt)
The roster seems pretty straight forward to me. I expect Bob Bradley to really mix up the looks in both games. He has stated recently that he wants to get a good look at all players he is considering for the final Gold Cup roster, so it will be interesting to see some of the player mixes he puts on the field. I really look forward to seeing if our younger players will shine, as Juan Agudelo already has. Two other players to keep an eye on are Mikkel Diskeruud (nicknamed Mix by many) and Chicago area product Eric Lichaj. Mix has been VERY impressive so far in his short USMNT stint in my opinion. He has shown good control, vision, and passing, which he displayed when setting up Juan Agudelo for a late game winning goal in the friendly against South Africa. Another thing to keep in mind is that, depending on the rules of the match the teams decide on, many times there are unlimited or a vastly increased number of substitutions. This further helps Bob Bradley get a number of different looks in trying to size up his Gold Cup roster. Let me put it this way, sometimes international friendlies end up looking like a baseball scorecard after a 15 inning game. Lichaj looked very good earlier this year when he was playing for Aston Villa, but he had one bad game. There is a popular conspiracy theory that Aston Villa manager Gerard Houllier is no fan of Americans as it seems they get into his doghouse easily and once there they can't get out. Long story short, Lichaj was loaned out and wears the yellow and blue of Leeds United these days.
In case some of you are wondering where some of the familiar faces are, such as Stuart Holden and Steve Cherundolo, they are injured so will not be making the squad for either game. Zak Whitbread was also an injury scratch. It's really a shame about Holden because I always like to watch him play. He is tearing it up for Bolton in the EPL this year, but was injured by a horrific tackle against Manchester United this weekend. Johnny Evans got a red card for it, and Holden got 26 stitches. Thankfully, there doesn't appear to be any major damage. Some of you may remember Dutch butcher Nigel De Jong break Holden's leg shortly before the World Cup last last year. Warning, that video link may be hard to watch for the squeamish. Holden definitely has had some bad injury luck the past year. Let's hope that goes away.
Here is the roster for Argentina:
Defenders: Javier Zanetti (Inter Milan), Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City), Ezequiel Garay (Real Madrid), Gabriel Milito (Barcelona), Nicolas Otamendi (Porto), Federico Fazio (Sevilla), Nicolas Burdisso (Roma), Marcos Rojo (Spartak Moscow).
Midfielders: Javier Mascherano (Barcelona), Mario Bolatti (Internacional), Ever Banega (Valencia), Fernando Belluschi (Porto), Esteban Cambiasso (Inter Milan), Lucas Biglia (Anderlecht), Javier Pastore (Palermo).
Looking over the roster, one surprise to me is no Carlos Tevez. Apparently Argentina manager Sergio Batista and Carlos Tevez have a rift going on right now. Although it's good for the US to have one of the world's top strikers out against us, the bad news is that the world's best player, Lionel Messi, is still playing against us. How much time he'll get is a question since La Liga and the UEFA Champions League are still going on for him so they may play him sparingly. Either way, if you haven't seen him play, take a look at this highlight reel. I sometimes wonder how many goals he would score if he played in the MLS. I don't know, but it would be an insane amount, I know that much.
The last interesting thing I wanted to mention is a new 3rd kit that will be debuted. In fact, you can Twitter in your suggestions for a motto using this link. I really hope they don't copy the home and away kits. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of the home and away kit design, but I hope they do a redesign for the 3rd jersey. Someone photoshopped what they thought it would look like. To be clear, this is a fan creation and not the final jersey design. And, if it is, it has not been confirmed by the US yet. If that did end up being the design, it looks neat, but we already have two jersey designs like that, so I hope US soccer is not lazy and they bring out a unique kit. So there you have it, there are at least a few reasons to watch the upcoming USMNT matches. Apart from many of the players have played in the MLS in the past, along with some current MLS players, you get to see the debut of a new jersey with a new, original motto printed on it. I really like "Don't Tread on Me", but here's to hoping for two wins, a cool third kit with a new motto, and the continued rise of US soccer up the world power charts.