The US men's national team has a strong challenge in front of them today, as they'll take the field against the Netherlands in Amsterdam. The Dutch are using this game as a rehearsal for their must-win trip to Latvia next week, while the USMNT are simply testing themselves against one of the best sides in the world. A look at the US roster indicates that Jurgen Klinsmann is thinking long-term, but today that might mean a problem against the full-strength group called in by Guus Hiddink.
Key player: Ventura Alvarado
Given that Klinsmann called in just one 100% specialist center back - John Brooks - and filled out the CB ranks with versatile players who sometime play centrally, it's a big chance for one of those players to prove they're a real option at this position. I don't think that guy is going to be Brad Evans, and I know it's not going to be Michael Orozco Fiscal, so by default we land on Alvarado.
The Club America man plays more on the right of a back three or at right back in a back four normally, but his previous USMNT appearances have indicated that Klinsi sees him as a central defender first and foremost. However, those appearances didn't come in this sort of high-profile game against one of the world's elite national teams. This may be the biggest test of the 22 year old's career to date.
Key question: Can this A- (at best) USMNT roster compete against the Netherlands?
This is not the USMNT"s best possible roster. Klinsmann is once again experimenting, and with all due respect to Denmark this is a far more demanding test. The Netherlands are preparing for a legitimate game in a few days, and they are not giving the kids a shot like JK is. Robin van Persie and Wesley Sneijder are in the Dutch squad tonight.
As such, this isn't just the biggest test of Alvarado's career. The same applies to players like Miguel Ibarra, Gyasi Zardes, Jordan Morris, and probably Alfredo Morales too. There aren't a lot of veteran leaders in the squad, especially with Jermaine Jones missing out through injury. Regardless of the result, this will be a beneficial game for these young players down the road. However, in terms of gauging the USMNT's readiness for the upcoming Gold Cup...well, I guess Mexico did play the Dutch as closely as one could while still losing last summer, right?
Klinsmann loves to talk about taking players out of their comfort zone. One way to do that is to ask them to play a style they haven't tried before. Another is to schedule a road friendly against a team that by all accounts is significantly better than your A+ team, and then not bring that group. A successful performance today would include not being played off the field. If the kids on this team can stay within touching distance of the Dutch, I'd call the game a success even if the scoreline indicates a loss.
Match date/time: Friday 6/5, 2:30 EST (8:30pm local)
Venue: Amsterdam Arena (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
TV: ESPN (English), UniMas (Spanish), Univision Deportes (Spanish)
Online: WatchESPN (English), Univision Deportes En Vivo (Spanish)
Check back in a bit for our gamethread.
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