It's another friendly tonight for the United States, as they take on five-time World Cup champions Brazil in Massachusetts. Coming off of a 2-1 victory against Peru last Friday, the USMNT made some forward progress from the struggling, reactive soccer we saw during the Gold Cup. However, the proactive play Jurgen Klinsmann has talked about since taking over as manager continued to elude his side, who looked more like a typical USMNT side at RFK: Hard-working, tough to play against, and reliant on good saves from the goalkeeper.
Brazil comes into this game also smarting after a shock elimination in their own continental competition, having been knocked out in the quarterfinals of the 2015 Copa America by Paraguay. Going back to their thrashing at the hands of Germany in the 2014 World Cup, it hasn't been a good spell for a country that traditionally expects to beat everyone they play against.
Key player: Jermaine Jones
The USMNT talks about Jones as the man who sets a tough, rugged tone for the team. Setting aside concerns about a team that is apparently unable to be at their best without a 33 year old starting every game, this roster is going to lean on Jones once again tonight. Brazil may coast on the reputation of beautiful soccer established in the distant past rather than play jogo bonito these days, but they still have plenty of skillful attackers. If the US is going to repeat Friday's win over Peru, they're going to have to be hard to play against and they're going to have to put in plenty of work on both sides of the ball. Look to Jones to inspire his teammates in what is his home stadium these days.
Key question: Will the US continue to build momentum towards next month's actually important game?
Friendlies are at this point all of the following: Money-grabs (this one failed on that count, incidentally), training exercises, and treats for fans who attend. A list of what they are not includes "important beyond building towards winning real games."
It doesn't actually matter if the US beats Brazil tonight. It will be cool because Brazil is Brazil, but it comes with no tangible gains. What is important for the US is to use this game to continue to improve after a totally unacceptable Gold Cup (note to Jurgen Klinsmann: It was terrible, please stop pretending otherwise). At RFK, we saw a more competent USMNT than we saw at any point during the Gold Cup save the thrashing of a semi-pro Cuba side. That can't be the end of the growth here. The US has to improve upon Friday's performance and learn more about which individual players - not to mention which combinations within the group - are best suited to defeating Mexico next month. If they do that and lose, great. If they win via dumb luck while taking few lessons, this game will be worse than meaningless. The process is what matters tonight.
Match date/time: Tuesday 9/8, 8:45pm Eastern (note: The broadcast will start at 8:15pm, but ESPN is running a 30 minute pregame show before kickoff)
Venue: Gillette Stadium (Foxborough, MA)
TV: ESPN2 (English), UniMas (Spanish), Univision Deportes (Spanish)
Online: WatchESPN (English, requires subscription)
Treat this as tonight's gamethread.
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