Here's the bad news: FIFA's insistence than the whole world must play friendlies whenever Europe has a qualifier for Euro 2016 or anything else is dumb, but that dumbness won't stop US Soccer from scheduling games in every single one of those windows. That brings us to today, which should be the day before an MLS playoff game but instead is the day before no games of major importance. Having this gap in the playoffs disrupts the rhythm of the postseason and potentially exposes critical players from those chasing MLS Cup to injury or overuse. It also forced MLS to compress the schedule elsewhere, which likely meant more mid-week games (which in turn mean lower attendance figures, less money, and more complaints from fans).
The good news - and there is good news, I swear - is that the USMNT has scheduled an extremely tough game against arguably the most entertaining national team on the planet these days. Colombia took the world by storm this summer, and given Brazil's capitulation in the semifinals, most of us would have been better served if Los Cafeteros had won that quarterfinal instead. In terms of using this unnecessary friendly window to truly challenge the USMNT, Klinsmann nailed it by getting Colombia on the schedule.
Kickoff Time: 2:30pm Eastern (that's the broadcast start time, but US Soccer says the game will kick off at 2:45pm)
Venue: Craven Cottage (London, England)
TV/Streaming: The game will be on ESPN (not ESPN2), online at WatchESPN, and on phone via the WatchESPN app. It will also be carried on Univision Deportes and UniMas in Spanish, as well as the Univision Deportes app. Basically, you can't miss it.
Projected USMNT starting XI: We know via Jeff Carlisle that Brad Guzan will start in goal, and that Jozy Altidore will start up top (as well as don the armband). The rest of this is pure guesswork, as no one knows for sure what Jurgen Klinsmann is thinking at any given time. What I hope to see is a back four featuring Fabian Johnson at right back, Greg Garza at left back, and a center back duo of Geoff Cameron and John Brooks. Ahead of them, Alfredo Morales should get a shot as the defensive midfielder in a 4141. The midfield four should be DeAndre Yedlin, Mix Diskerud, Alejandro Bedoya, and Julian Green.
Off the bench? I want Bill Hamid to get some time, and I'd also like to see what Lee Nguyen and Rubio Rubin are capable of. The rest of the roster doesn't get my heart pumping if I'm being honest, though I can say two things I do not want to see:
1. Sean Johnson playing at all, since he's clearly and by a wide margin the 4th best goalkeeper in the squad (nor is he the 4th best non-Tim Howard American male goalkeeper).
2. The end of this "Jermaine Jones, center back" experiment. We have 4 years to prep a new generation of center backs that won't be 36 years old for Russia 2018. I like Jones, but using him in central defense doesn't make sense in the short-, medium-, or long-term.
Naturally, Klinsmann will do both of these things.
Match previews: First and foremost, here's the USMNT roster. Colombia's roster includes most of the guys you probably fell in love with over the summer, like James Rodriguez and Juan Cuadrado. MLSsoccer notes that Klinsmann is expecting a pro-Colombia crowd, which strikes me as odd. I feel like there are more American ex-pats in London, and probably by an order of magnitude, but he's there and I'm not so maybe JK knows something I don't. Anyway, getting away from diasporas, Charles Boehm previews the game for USSoccerPlayers.com with a special focus on Lee Nguyen's strange journey to this point.
Prediction: Like most Klinsmann-era games against teams that are more technically skilled than us, the USMNT will defend for long periods and rely on good goalkeeping. This is progress, remember. Anyway, I think Colombia will edge this 2-1, with the goal coming from...let's say Bedoya on a scramble.
What are you drinking? There's only one thing you can drink when playing Los Cafeteros, and that's coffee. Also, it's cold outside, so definitely coffee.
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