BRIAN SCIARETTA - Friday, October 12, 2012
The United States national team faces a must-win World Cup qualifier tonight against Antigua & Barbuda tonight at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in North Sound, Antigua.
Currently in a three way tie in CONCACAF's Group A with Guatemala and Jamaica, the United States will likely need four points from its games against Antigua and Guatemala on Tuesday in Kansas City.
The task of earning these four points has become more difficult as Jurgen Klinsmann's team has become riddled with injuries. On Wednesday, back up left back Edgar Castillo suffered a foot injury that will sideline him two weeks. The usual starting left back Fabian Johnson is out of the Antigua game with the flu but should return for the Guatemala game.
When camped opened on Tuesday, the team's all-time leading scorer in Landon Donovan and winger Brek Shea were forced to withdraw because of existing injuries.
So the U.S team will be short-handed but still will be the heavy favorites against winless Antigua and Barbuda. Klinsmann is expected to start Steve Cherundolo at right back and Geoff Cameron in central defense. Captain Carlos Bocanegra will start but he could play at left back in place of Johnson which would allow Clarence Goodson to start. If Bocanegra plays in the middle with Cameron, Michael Parkhurst would be the likely left back.
In the midfield, Michael Bradley has rejoined the team and should start in central midfield with Graham Zusi taking the spot on the right wing. Zusi, enjoyed a breakout performance in the team's last game against Jamaica in September.
In the central midfield, Bradley will either start with Danny Williams or with Jermaine Jones who are both off to good starts this season in the German Bundesliga. Left midfield, normally played by Shea or the injured Jose Torres remains the biggest question mark for Klinsmann's team.
Up top, the choice is likely to be Clint Dempsey and Herculez Gomez who were the partnership against Jamaica in Columbus.
The US team is coming off two uneven performances against Jamaica last month. In Kingston, the team was flat and unable to possess the ball and lost 2-1. In the second game in Columbus, the US team moved the ball well and created several opportunities yet were only able to score once on a free kick for a 1-0 win.
The last time the two teams faced each other was in June when the US posted a 3-1 win on a rainy field in Tampa. In the game, the U.S. struggled to take advantage of several scoring opportunities but were in command thanks to a Bocanegra goal off a corner kick and a Dempsey goal off a penalty strike on a play created by Donovan.