PREVIEW: UNITED STATES - EL SALVADOR
The U.S. Men's National Team hosts El Salvador at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Wednesday night in the first of four scheduled friendlies for the Americans before the World Cup.
Coach Bob Bradley opted for a largely domestic-based roster for the game, with late addition Clarence Goodson of IK Start the only player outside of MLS picked to travel with the squad.
After last month's disappointing 3-1 loss to Honduras, the pressure is on players like Robbie Rogers and Sacha Kljestan to prove their worth against El Salvador in the hopes of earning spots on the World Cup roster.
Los Cuscatlecos have proven to be a tricky opponent for the U.S. in the past. Despite finishing a disappointing fifth in World Cup qualifying, El Salvador recorded only one loss at home.
The last meeting between the two teams came during the Hexagonal in October, where a Jozy Altidore header proved the difference as the U.S. came from behind to win. The U.S. has never lost to El Salvador at home.
With both Michael Orozco and Omar Gonzalez failing to impress during training camp, Goodson looks set to start alongside Chad Marshall in the center of defense. Bornstein is expected to get the nod on the left, while Marvell Wynne will rival Pearce for a spot on the right.
El Salvador's midfield features four MLS players: William Ósael Romero of Chivas USA, Julio Martinez of the Chicago Fire, and Ramón Alfredo Sánchez and Arturo Álvarez both of the San Jose Earthquakes. Álvarez in particular has in-depth knowledge of the American system, having featured for U.S. youth teams before switching national allegiances last year.
Look for Kyle Beckerman to partner Kljestan in the center of midfield, the latter squaring off against future teammate Romero. Rogers is a quick option on the right wing while Bradley could give Chris Pontius his debut on the left after a strong rookie season for D.C. United.
Considering El Salvador's notoriously porous defense, Bradley will likely partner the roster's leading goal scorer, Brian Ching, with a quicker striker like Robbie Findley to make supporting runs. Now that Charlie Davies is recovering faster than expected, Findley and Jeff Cunningham will need to make an impression up top.
With Bradley expected to depend heavily on European-based talent in upcoming tune-ups against the Netherlands, Czech Republic, and Turkey, Wednesday's game remains one of the last chances for MLS players to stand out before the official World Cup roster is announced in May.