BRIAN SCIARETTA - Wednesday, February 29, 2012
The United States national team faces their first major test of 2012 tonight when they take on four-time World Cup champion Italy at Stadio Luigi Ferraris in Genoa, Italy.
The US team is coming off of two wins last month in January against Venezuela and Panama but those games were not FIFA international dates so clubs were not required to release players. The only players from those games who are on this roster are winger Brek Shea, and central defenders Michael Parkhurst and Geoff Cameron.
The big story this week from Italy happened on Sunday when head coach Jurgen Klinsmann was forced to make numerous roster changes due a number of players suffering injuries or illness over the weekend.
During last weekend's games Timothy Chandler, Jose Torres, and Jermaine Jones all suffered injuries and had to be removed. The team's all-time leading scorer Landon Donovan was scratched at the last minute due to a bout with bronchitis. This is all in addition the previous injuries to regulars Oguchi Onyewu and Stuart Holden who are also not in camp.
On Monday Klinsmann added Anderlecht midfielder Sacha Kljestan and Brek Shea to the team. Shea had been in Dallas with the US U-23 team.
The United States is likely to start the game with a backline consisting of Cherundolo on the right, captain Carlos Bocanegra and Clarence Goodson in the middle, and Hoffenheim's Fabian Johnson at left back.
In the midfield, Klinsmann has the most options and he will likely start Maurice Edu, Michael Bradley, Shea, and Clint Dempsey. Up top Klinsmann will probably have Edson Buddle and Jozy Altidore since that combination worked well in November in the 3-2 win over Slovenia.
On the bench the US will likely have Michael Parkhurst, Jonathan Spector, Geoff Cameron, Nick Rimando, Sacha Kljestan, Danny Williams, and Terrence Boyd who may earn his first cap despite never having playing in a first team professional match for his club Borussia Dotmund.
The Italian team enters the game in final preparations for the European Championships this summer where they are drawn into a difficult group with World Cup Champions Spain, Croatia, and Ireland.
The Italian lineup for the game is widely known with a 4-3-1-2 formation expected and it starts in goal with the regular number one keeper Gianluigi Buffon.
The backline will consist of Napoli's Cristian Maggio, Juventus' Andrea Barzagli, Torino's Angelo Ogbonna, and Zenit's Domenico Criscito.
In the midfield, Milan's Nocerino, Juventus' Andrea Pirlo, and Claudio Marchisio will also being the starting lineup. In front of them will be the Brazilian-born Thiago Motta who is at Paris St. Germain.
Up top, the Italians will have Sebastian Giovinco from Parma and Alessandro Matri from Juventus.
The game will be a rematch from the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa when the United States took an early 1-0 lead but midfielder Ricardo Clark suffered a first half red card. The Italians eventually wore the US team down and rose to a 3-1 win. In that tournament, however, the US advanced to the final game and Italy did not make it out of the group.