Unlike bigger tournaments, this evening's game between the United States and Guatemala is the USMNT's only Gold Cup warm-up match. It's a good rehearsal for the Americans, as Guatemala is a bit stronger than Group A opponent Haiti while also providing broad stylistic similarity to Panama. Guatemala, meanwhile, gets to test themselves against one of the two favorites in their pursuit of an unlikely run at still being in the tournament when the semifinals come around.
Key player: Clint Dempsey
The modern history of USA-Guatemala games mostly consists of the Guatemalans defending very deep and in numbers, while on some occasions trying to provoke a retaliatory red card (Carlos Ruiz, looking your way here). I don't expect too much of the dark side of soccer in this game, but there's still likely to be a bunkering opponent trying to slow things down for the US.
In situations like that, your clever, skillful attackers are going to be vital. For the USMNT, that means Deuce needs to have a good game. He's had plenty of rest lately after his 3 game suspension after tearing up a referee's notebook, so Klinsmann will probably be using this game to get his sharpness back up to 100%. Beating teams like Guatemala is part of winning the Gold Cup, as there are only a handful of teams that are going to play open soccer when facing the US in this tournament. It's a good dry run for the team, and it's an especially good dry run for Dempsey.
Key question: Will anyone seize some of the unsettled positions along the US back four?
With the group Klinsmann has assembled, there aren't too many roles available in the midfield or up top for the biggest games. We know Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Alejandro Bedoya, and Jozy Altidore are going to be on the field if they're fit. It's probable that Kyle Beckerman and Brad Guzan will be out there too.
However, in the back things are more unsettled. John Brooks has more or less taken over at left-center back, but the other three positions are more open. The addition of Greg Garza to the squad for the injured Brad Davis probably means Fabian Johnson will be considered more in the midfield, while Garza will be battling with Timmy Chandler for the left back job. Here's hoping Garza plays his best, because Chandler remains an untrustworthy option.
We could also see Chandler fighting for time at right back with Brad Evans. Chandler is the faster player and contributes more to the attack, while Evans is probably less likely to make positional errors. The other center back spot is also available, though I think Klinsmann has taken a liking to Ventura Alvarado. He'll be up against Omar Gonzalez for that spot, and Klinsmann's choice will be between Alvarado's use of the ball against Gonzalez's size and emergency defending.
Match date/time: Friday 7/3, 6:30pm Eastern
Venue: Nissan Stadium (Nashville, TN)
TV: Fox Sports 1 (English), UniMas (Spanish), Univision Deportes (Spanish)
Online: Fox Sports Go (English), Fox Soccer 2Go (English, subscription), Univision Deportes En Vivo (Spanish)
Check back in two hours for our gamethread.