CHRISTOPHER MCCOLLUM - Friday, November 11, 2011
The U.S. National Team will play France today for only the third time in history, and only the first time since 1978 at Stade de France in Paris.
Jurgen Klinsmann's boys begin their European trip by facing the number 15 team in the world according to FIFA rankings, and although French coach Laurent Blanc has said that he expects to field a young, experimental lineup against the Americans, it is still being anticipated as being the toughest test for the U.S. National Team as they struggle to find their footing under the new coach.
While naming a strong roster, Klinsmann did exclude a number of players who many fans believed had earned the right to be called up, even more so after the team's linchpin, Landon Donovan, withdrew from the roster in order to focus on the MLS Cup. While the USA has played fairly without Donovan in the lineup during recent games, such as this past summer's Gold Cup, his presence is expected to be missed.
Le Bleus will also be without the services of several key players due to injuries and club commitments, including Samir Nasri, Eric Abidal, Patrice Evra, and potentially Karim Benzema. However, Flourent Malouda and Franck Ribery are expected to see serious playing time alongside their less experienced counterparts, and if Benzema plays, it is likely to be in the role of a late substitution, which will be something weary American defenders will need to be cautious of.
Ribery is enjoying a fine season with Bayern Munich so far, scoring five and assisting eight in 12 Bundesliga games. While he won't have his club teammates that he thrives with, the left midfielder will provide plenty of tests for whoever Klinsmann lines up across from him.
Carlos Bocanegra will be one of the key instruments to shutting down the French attack, and looks to make a triumphant return to France after spending three years in Ligue 1 before transferring to Glasgow Rovers. Similarly, Bocanagra's probable center back partner, Oguchi Onyewu, will return to where his club career began. Onyewu enjoyed a short spell with Metz before beginning his storied Belgian career.
The two long time partners, along with potential center back subs Clarence Goodson and Michael Orozco, will try to provide a strong enough defense to relieve pressure on the struggling American attack, which once again, will not be fielding the two best American attackers at the same time. They will be joined on the flanks by Steve Cherundolo and Timmy Chandler, while newcomer Alfredo Morales could make his U.S. debut.
Clint Dempsey, fresh off his second U.S. Player of the Year award, will be the focus of the American attack, along with probable starter Jozy Altidore. DaMarcus Beasley, coming off of a strong Apertura season in Mexico, will look to continue his run of good play, as well as Michael Bradley who has quickly worked his way into the starting lineup at Chievo Verona. The American attack will be bolstered by the addition of Jermaine Jones who has finally worked his way back into Schalke 04's plans, and will be looking forward to his long awaited debut under Klinsmann.
One player who could have the most anticipated performance is Brek Shea, who has finally had a bit of rest between games as FC Dallas lost in the first round of the MLS Playoffs. The hardworking left winger has been noticeably exhausted in previous National Team games, and a large cause of that was from logging 90 minute games with both club and country in short time spans. A well rested Shea could end up being the wildcard of the American attack, that has only produced one win out of five chances under Klinsmann.
The game will be at 2:55PM Eastern Time, with cloudy conditions and temperatures in the low 50's