As we discussed yesterday, the United States needs to get more than just a run-out from today's friendly against Peru. With next month's first-ever CONCACAF Cup - that's the official name for the US-Mexico playoff at the Rose Bowl - approaching, the USMNT needs to make significant steps towards playing better soccer than we saw during this summer's Gold Cup. The Americans had issues all over the field, and arguably only got as far as they did thanks to having a gigantic advantage in individual talent over their group stage opponents. Playing anywhere near that badly next month will mean missing out on the Confederations Cup in 2017.
Today's opponent should provide a strong test. After years of being one of CONMEBOL's minnows, Peru shot back to relative prominence in this summer's Copa America, surprisingly making it to the semifinals. That included only losing to Brazil in the group stage thanks to a 91st minute strike and generally being tough to score on. That's not to say there's no danger at the other end, though: Bundesliga veterans Jefferson Farfan (now playing in the UAE) and Paolo Guerrero - currently with Flamengo - are good enough to trouble any defense.
Key player: Greg Garza
With Fabian Johnson and Timothy Chandler injured, left back is once again a problem for the US. Jurgen Klinsmann opted to call in a herd of natural center backs, and the result is that Garza is the only specialist on the left side of the back four in this squad. Like many USMNT fans, anything that pushes Chandler out of the team is something I approve of. Garza had a brief moment where he looked like he could be the best American left back, but faded out of contention with some underwhelming performances. This might not be a last chance for him, but it's probably his best chance at breaking into the lineup and holding onto a starting role.
Key question: Will the US sort out any of the issues they had at the Gold Cup?
Despite Klinsmann's claims to the contrary, the Gold Cup was a disaster due to the USMNT's performance rather than referees or lucky opponents. When a team with this many talented players is given real trouble by Haiti on home soil, there are major problems involved. It was no real surprise to see the team get bounced by Jamaica after their group stage performance, and despite the Reggae Boyz scoring on set pieces rather than from open play they were deserved winners back in July.
This is supposed to be a concise preview, so I won't detail every single issue the US had at the Gold Cup. Instead, I'd like to see them make progress on two big ones: Showing some forethought in defense - particularly central defense - and piecing together some sustained, meaningful possession. Peru recently finished third at the Copa America, which as you can probably guess is a tougher competition than the Gold Cup. If that wasn't just a flash in the pan, we'll find out very quickly what (if anything) the US has improved upon.
Match previews: In addition to the earlier link, Steven Streff also checked in with Jermaine Jones on his return to the USMNT after a lengthy injury problem. Over at Stars and Stripes FC, Rob Usry highlighted five things to keep an eye on while Ryan Rosenblatt called on Klinsmann to take some responsibility for his team's play.
Match date/time: Friday 9/4, 7:30pm Eastern
Venue: Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium (Washington, DC)
TV: Fox Sports 1 (English), UniMas (Spanish), Univision Deportes (Spanish)
Online: Fox Soccer 2Go (English, requires subscription)
Your humble B&RU staffers are either at the game or hours away at the beach, so treat this as tonight's gamethread.