A win today in Kingstown against 156th-ranked St. Vincent and the Grenadines (2:30, BeIn Sports) paired with a Trinidad and Tobago victory at home against Guatemala will qualify the United States Men's National Team for the final round of qualifying for World Cup 2018. St. Vincent and the Grenadines are already eliminated from contention, but before you mark this down as 3 points in ink, remember they took Trinidad and Tobago to the wire in their last match with the Soca Warriors only securing a 3-2 victory in the 81st minute. Also, weird stuff always happens in CONCACAF. This might give US fans the jitters.
Seriously, take a deep breath. Bad auspices aside, the US will advance. Sure among the
bordering on bipolar more rabid anti-Klinsmann camp there may be a sense of dread, but when your opponents' two biggest weapons come from Sounders 2, it's fairly straight forward. If you can't get 2 goals against a hybrid semi-pro team, you don't deserve a spot in the Hex anyway. The over/under on margin of victory is around 4. What will we see over the next 2 match days?
Copa America Redux:
Despite the giggles from the naysayers, Jurgen Klinsmann and his charges made the stated goal of reaching the semifinals in the Copa America Centenario. Aside from all of the U23 guys, Klinsmann called in a mostly veteran team familiar with the rigors of CONCACAF qualifying:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Middlesbrough), Ethan Horvath (Molde FC), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids)
DEFENDERS (8): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Monchengladbach), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United)
MIDFIELDERS (10): Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jermaine Jones (Colorado Rapids), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls) Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Caleb Stanko (FC Vaduz), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
With a few key exceptions, you should expect a starting XI that consists mainly of Klinsmann's preferred XI for Copa America.
About those exceptions:
They are pretty significant. There will be no Bradley (suspension), Jones, Dempsey, Brooks, or Zardes (injuries) today for the US, and that's actually a fair piece of heft missing from the Copa America semifinalists. Beckerman will probably slide in for Bradley, and given the opponent, he should be more than capable. Besler can easily slide in for Brooks, Altidore for Dempsey, and there's a plethora of options to fill the wing position usually manned by Zardes.
Sacha Kjlestan is the wildcard here, and there have been throngs of supporters clamoring for his inclusion due to his strong form in MLS. With Jones out and a minnow opponent, it's now or never for Kjlestan who has never really impressed at the national team level. Will his MLS form transfer to the international game in a different setup than he enjoys while playing for Red Bulls? A spot in the starting XI and a strong performance could boost his chances to contribute during the Hex.
The young guns: Eight players on the roster were U23-eligible for the Olympics cycle, and there has been some intimation that they'll get a run out if the US qualifies today. A win in both matches means the US would face Mexico in the first game of the Hex, so winning the group isn't necessarily a huge priority. What absolutely must be #1 on Klinsmann's checklist is integrating youth. 6 of the field players in the team are the wrong side of 30, and currently unfit Dempsey and Jones (still major parts for the team) also are long in the tooth. If there's nothing on the line in St Louis Tuesday, Klinsmann would be making a huge mistake not playing the kids.