DAVID SMITH - Friday, September 2, 2016
The United States will be confident of putting themselves on the brink of advancement from Group C when they visit Kingstown on Friday night to take on the Vincy Heat in World Cup qualification.
As things currently stand in Group C, Jürgen Klinsmann's squad are in second place, trailing Trinidad and Tobago by three points. If results if both of the night's games go well - meaning wins by both the US and the Soca Warriors - then both teams could have their tickets to the hexagonal round punched, with the final game on Tuesday only to decide first and second place.
The Americans' half of the equation should be straightforward, as their Caribbean opponents have lost all four of their group games by a combined 19-3 margin. The first game between these to teams last November yielded a 6-1 victory for the US in St. Louis, and a similar type of win would not be completely unexpected.
The only time when tonight's hosts have come close to any kind of result was when they hosted the Soca Warriors in March, forcing their opponents to pull an 83rd-minute winner out of the air in a final 3-2 result.
Jürgen Klinsmann does have some minor selection issues this time around, however was able to recall 20 of the 23 players which reached the semifinal of the Copa América barely two months ago.
The only players from that fourth-placed squad who did not make the selection this time around are Jermaine Jones, Gyasi Zardes and John Brooks, all of whom are out due to minor injuries.
Additionally, Michael Bradley and Michael Orozco are suspended for this game, although will both be eligible to return on Tuesday for the final group matchup.
This will mean a significantly changed lineup from what was seen in the Copa two months ago, however the spots will likely be filled with familiar faces such as the now-healthy Jozy Alditore, and players such as Darlington Nagbe, whose ascent to the limelight has been eagerly awaited by fans.
Sacha Kljestan, who looks to be in MVP form for club team New York Red Bulls this season, was a late addition to the roster, but could be an interesting choice in central midfield if Klinsmann decides to roll the dice.
The choice of who will replace Brooks will likely remain a mystery until shortly before kickoff. Steve Birnbaum, Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler have all filled that role in the Stars and Stripes. The decision will likely come down to whether Klinsmann opts for the veteran presence that Gonzalez and Besler can provide, or the hot foot of Birnbaum who has also shown his abilities as a scoring threat in recent weeks for DC United.
The game is set to kick off at 3:30pm east-coast time, in the Arnos Vale Stadium in Kingston.