This is not just a Nashville SC blog! A bit on my first soccer love, the United States Men’s National Team (though the depth will not be the same as a team I cover day-in and day-out). See my overview of the roster linked below.
Opponent: Paraguay (No. 30 FIFA, No. 27 ELO), 2-3 in last five matches.
The Line: USA +120, draw +220, Paraguay +230
Time, Location: 6:30 p.m. CDT • Cary, N.C.
Event: Friendly between loser-ass teams who won’t be in the World Cup.
Weather: 47° F, 2% chance of rain, 4 MPH Southerly winds.
Watch: Fox Sports One. See the list of soccer bars in Nashville – Tailgate Demonbreun with the American Outlaws.
Etc.: My look at the roster of call-ups.
Elsewhere: Plenty of great content all week from American Soccer Now and Soccer By Ives.
I won’t claim to know a ton about Paraguay, outside of a few key players. Those are Atlanta United’s Miguel Almirón, an attacking midfielder, along with some guys plying their trade with big Mexican clubs (defender Bruno Valdez and forward Emilio Dominguez of América), and a few names I recognize who play at European clubs, like Gustavo Gomez (a bit player in defense for AC Milan), Júnior Alonso (a left back for Lille with a bit of a scoring punch), and former Villareal/Espanyol right winger Hérnan Pérez.
Cristian Riveros is among the team’s all-time caps leaders and goal-scorers (16 in 100 appearances), despite being primarily deployed in defensive midfield.
The majority of the threats are a little under-the-radar from an American perspective. That’s where I think Almirón plays a big role. He’s just 24, he plays at a bigger club than the majority of the squad (domestically-based for the most part, outside of those I listed above), and that club is located a drivable distance – five-plus hours – from the location of tonight’s game. From a marketing perspective at the very least, it makes sense for him to be the centerpiece. He has just 12 caps to date (Shanghai Shenhua left winger Óscar Romero, with 34, is second on this squad to Riveros), and has a chance to parlay this into not just some publicity, but a chance to lock down a leadership role for his nation for the next eight-plus years
I like the composition of this roster, though I’m not entirely convinced we’ll see exciting lineup selections from Dave Sarachan from the 23 he has called in. There are eight players looking to make their first caps, the average age is under 23 years old, and some of the players are going to be stars in the future.
There are also some old standbys though, including a couple fullbacks (Eric Lichaj and Jorge Villafaña) who may be the best players at their respective positions right now, but will probably age out by the next World Cup, if not the next meaningful game in Summer 2019.
Here’s what I’d like to see:
I could live with Manneh on the right wing too, I’m just really excited to see Weah with the senior team. It’s also possible to flip the wingers – Saief is a lefty, Weah a righty, and they could be on the opposite flanks for in-cutting rather than crossing. I’d want to see Shaq Moore, Alex Bono, Erik Palmer-Brown, Wil Trapp, and Bobby Wood off the bench.
I’m expecting something more like this, though:
Sarachan went with the 4-1-4-1 last time out, and I expect him to lean a bit more on experience (Villafaña, Trapp, Wood in particular), and that would most likely see Hamid in net instead of Steffen but I forgot to change him in the graphic, so :shrug:. Lichaj might even be a starter or key sub in Sarachan’s eyes, which would frustrate me because that would be a very Arena-y thing to do (aside from the fact that he’s not in MLS, of course – but it’s a waste of an opportunity to give minutes to a young guy).
I like the way the 4-2-3-1 works with this particular roster, and also with the type of talent we tend to see produced in our country (defensive midfielders, more of a target striker, with wings imported from abroad thanks to the expat spread around the world, particularly England and Germany… but also Israel?
Paraguay has a bit of talent on the roster, even if “domestic players from South America” (and particularly outside of Argentina/Brazil) doesn’t ring a whole lot of bells with American fans. I think Almirón, even if he’s not the best player on the pitch – you could argue (I think incorrectly, though) that he wouldn’t be the best Atlanta United player on the pitch – is one of them.
The United States’ lack of urgency against Bosnia and Herzegovina was ridiculously frustrating, and aside from a much younger group, I don’t see a whole lot changing.
USA 1-1 Paraguay.