PREVIEW: HOLLAND - UNITED STATES
It will be a stern test on Wednesday evening for the US national team stocked with European-based players when they take on high-powered Holland at Amsterdam Arena in one of the final tune-ups before this summer's World Cup.
Despite only being a friendly, Wednesday night's match between the US and Holland will be very important as it represents the last game the US will play before head coach Bob Bradley announces his final 23 man roster.
The 14th ranked US national team will also look build momentum as a team as they progress towards the World Cup where they will face England, Algeria, and Slovenia. The match against the third ranked Dutch team will provide the American team with a key opportunity to test themselves against a world power in a hostile environment.
With the US team having suffered injuries to first team regulars like Steve Cherundolo, Oguchi Onyewu, Charlie Davies, Benny Feilhaber, Clint Dempsey and Ricardo Clark, Bradley will have the opportunity to see how a few non-regulars react to the challenge.
Rangers midfielders DaMarcus Beasley and Maurice Edu will both be looking to re-establish themselves with the US after not being part of the team since early last summer. Beasley has not been capped since struggling at the Confederations Cup in June proving to be unsuccessful at the left back position where he played in a few World Cup qualifiers.
Edu, on the other hand, has been out since May when he hurt his knee after a dangerous challenge while playing for the Scottish champions. He enters this game against Holland after scoring an injury time winner for Rangers in their 1-0 victory over arch-rival Celtic this past weekend.
Also in the midfield, Jose Francisco Torres and Stuart Holden will both hope to earn time after each player was regularly selected to World Cup qualifying rosters but nevertheless failed to see consistent minutes. Both Torres and Holden are likely to see the field Wednesday and a strong performance against Holland could lead to either becoming a key contributor for the US national team in South Africa.
The American midfield is also likely to have the usual first team starters of Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley. For Donovan, who is currently on loan with Everton, it will be his first time with the US team since the end of World Cup qualifying in early October. The team has gone 1-3 in the four games since he last played.
In defense, the US will likely start captain Carlos Bocanegra and Watford captain Jay Demerit in the central positions. At right back, Jonathan Spector will look to use his passing and crossing abilities to help the US build the US offense from the back.
At left back, Jonathan Bornstein and Heath Pearce could both receive time Wednesday night. Pearce has been out of favor with Bob Bradley for nearly a year but a strong performance last week against El Salvador could have marked a turning point in the improved performance for the 25 year old native of Modesto, California.
The forward position is by far the biggest weakness on the US team. With Charlie Davies still highly questionable to be healthy in time and forward/midfielder Clint Dempsey still hurt, it remains unsettled as to who Bob Bradley will take to South Africa. The game against Holland could go a long way to removing the uncertainty at this position.
Jozy Altidore will likely start since he is the only lock to make the roster at the forward position. Real Salt Lake forward Robbie Findley is probable to see time as well. While Findley has been inconsistent with the US team in his few appearances, Bradley will hope Findley will be able to produce when surrounded by the top players of the first team unlike the friendlies he has played in which consisted of mostly reserve players.
Eddie Johnson is also a player with alot at stake in the game against the Dutch. Johnson, who recently went on loan from Fulham to Greek club Aris Thessaloniki, has largely struggled this entire cycle despite being given numerous chances by Bradley to earn a roster spot. He has managed to see playing time in recent weeks with Aris, however, so this match will provide Johnson with a chance to prove that he will be able to help the US offense against a high level of competition.
The Dutch enter the game after an enormously successful World Cup campaign where they posted a record of 8-0-0 and scored 17 goals while only allowing two. They are now preparing for the World Cup where they will face Denmark, Japan, and Cameroon.
Wednesday's game will be the fourth meeting between the two teams and the Netherlands have won all three games. The most recent game was at the Amsterdam Arena in February 2004 where Holland won 1-0.
After the game against the Dutch, the US national team will next play in late May for a two game send-off series against the Czech Republic and Turkey in the US prior to leaving for South Africa.