It all starts tonight.
Well, that is to say that the time immediately before it all starts, starts tonight. The United States will take the field against mighty Azerbaijan in the first match of their three-game Send-Off Series. We'll get our first taste of the Landon Donovan-less World Cup side and the first glimpse of where Jurgen Klinsmann could be taking this team tactically as he prepares for Ghana, Portugal and Germany. In any event, we get some national team soccer tonight, so let's get down to business.
Kickoff Time: 10pm EDT
Venue: Candlestick Park, San Francisco, Ca.
TV/Streaming: National telecast on ESPN2 and UniMas, with English simulcast online via WatchESPN. The lead-up programming will be Sporting Kansas City vs. the New York Red Bulls, so turn your TV on to ESPN2 at 8:00 and just leave it there for the duration.
Projected USA XI: The big question is whether we'll see the diamond midfield that worked so well in the first half against Mexico, or whether that will stay under wraps until closer to the World Cup (or at the tournament itself). I'm guessing we'll see it. With that in mind, look for Tim Howard in goal (Duh.) and Fabian Johnson, Geoff Cameron, Matt Besler and DaMarcus Beasley in front of him in defense. (Yes, F. Johnson at right back.) Jermaine Jones will try his hand at the base of the diamond; Graham Zusi and Alejandro Bedoya will play the shuttling roles, and Michael Bradley will man the top point. Jozy Altidore will lead the line up front, and Clint Dempsey will do what he does in his free role underneath.
For more lineup discussion, be sure to check out Stars & Stripes FC's take. Once they're announced, look for the official lineups in the comments.
Prediction: Friendlies are always weird to predict, but I'll try my hand here and say 3-0 to the Yanks. An early goal from Ale Bedoya starts things off right, but the US fail to find more joy until late on. Garbage time goals from substitutes Omar Gonzalez and... Julian Green provide the final margin.
What Are You Drinking?: I'll give the same answer I'll give tonight when we record Filibuster (spoiler alert!). I'm having Flying Dog's Double Dog double IPA, which, at 11.5% abv, means I'll probably be in a pretty good mood by kickoff.
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