This just might be the most meaningful meaningless match the US national team has played in a long time – and not just because it’s serving as a benefit for wildfire victims in Portugal.
With the pain of missing out on the 2018 World Cup (USA’s first absence from the field since 1986) still setting in, caretaker coach Dave Sarachan has started the process of finding a team that can qualify for Qatar 2022.
Out – at least for Tuesday’s friendly in Leiria – are the old guard: Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, Tim Howard and more. Sarachan has kept a few veterans around (Alejandro Bedoya, DeAndre Yedlin, John Brooks, Tim Ream) and brought in some little-used players from years past (CJ Sapong, Eric Lichaj, Jorge Villafaña) – but for the most part, Tuesday’s friendly will largely be an audition for new blood, with younger regulars like Christian Pulisic and Bobby Wood staying with their European clubs this time around.
There are plenty of storylines in play, though: Who will emerge as the top ‘keeper, the top center back tandem? Is Yedlin, with 48 caps under his belt, the captain-in waiting?
The questions won’t all be answered on Tuesday. Some of them might not be answered for quite some time. But it’s a start – a chance at a promising start, really – and for now, that has to be enough.
The hosts, who won’t be sitting at home next summer, are also using Tuesday’s friendly to give lesser-used players a shot at filling out the World Cup roster – but coach Fernando Santos has salted his 24-man roster with some players who should present stiff challenges for the young Americans.
Cristiano Ronaldo won’t be there, but 21-year-old striker Andre Silva will, after scoring nine times in 10 World Cup qualifying matches. Portugal’s stable of attackers also includes Eder, who scored the winning goal in the 2016 Euro title match.
And at the other end, the inclusion of Pepe in the defensive corps guarantees that the US forwards will be in for a night – or at least part of one – of being banged around by one of the world’s more physical back-line players.
With Pulisic left off the roster, the US will be looking for someone who can pull strings on the attack – both to push the young star and to provide depth in that playmaking spot.
That’s not the only area which will be under scrutiny. To be fair, though, pretty much all of them will — especially with other possible young contributors staying back in North America for the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs.
There will be eyes be on who pairs with Ream in central defense, or whether Sarachan goes with a young duo – perhaps Cameron Carter-Vickers and Matt Miazga – there.
GOALKEEPERS (3): Anthony Lopes (Lyon/FRA; 4/0), Beto (Goztepe/TUR; 11/1), José Sá (FC Porto; 0/0)
DEFENDERS (9): Antunes (Getafe/ESP; 12/0), Edgar Ié (Lille/FRA; 0/0), Kevin Rodrigues (Real Sociedad/ESP; 0/0), João Cancelo (Inter/ITA; 5/3), Luís Neto (Fenerbahçe/TUR; 15/0), Nélson Semedo (Barcelona/ESP; 7/0), Pepe (Besiktas/TUR; 90/5), Ricardo Ferreira (Braga; 0/0) Ricardo Pereira (FC Porto; 2/0)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Bernardo Silva (Manchester City/ENG; 19/2), Bruno Fernandes (Sporting; 0/0), Danilo Pereira (FC Porto; 25/1), João Mário (Inter/ITA; 29/0), Manuel Fernandes (Lokomotiv Moscow/RUS; 9/2), Rúben Neves (Wolverhampton/ENG; 2/0)
FORWARDS (6): André Silva (Milan; 17/11), Bruma (RB Leipzig/GER; 0/0), Éder (Lokomotiv Moscow/RUS; 33/4), Gelson Martins (Sporting; 13/0), Gonçalo Guedes (Valencia/ESP; 3/0), Rony Lopes (Monaco; 0/0)
United States Squad
GOALKEEPERS (3): Jesse Gonzalez (FC Dallas; 0/0), Bill Hamid (Midtjylland/DEN; 3/0), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge/BEL; 1/0)
DEFENDERS (7): John Brooks (Wolfsburg/GER; 32/3), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Sheffield United/ENG; 0/0), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest/ENG; 13/1), Matt Miazga (Vitesse/NED; 3/1), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 26/1), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna/MEX; 14/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United/ENG; 48/0)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas; 16/1), Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls; 0/0), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union; 65/2), Lynden Gooch (Sunderland/ENG; 2/0), Weston McKennie (Schalke/GER; 0/0), Kelyn Rowe (New England Revolution; 3/1), Danny Williams (Huddersfield Town/ENG; 22/2)
FORWARDS (4): Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution; 26/3), Dom Dwyer (Orlando City SC; 3/2), C.J. Sapong (Philadelphia Union; 2/0), Josh Sargent (St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri; 0/0)
With the history from the previous matches, our pick for this duel is :
Over 2.5 Goals