The United States Men’s National Team will continue its slow rollout of a new era with a friendly Monday, taking on fellow 2018 World Cup Non-Participant Bolivia. What are we going to see?
CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifying consists of a home-and-away round-robin between all 10 South American teams. Bolivia finished ninth with a 4-12-2 mark (wins at home against Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, and Venezuela, draws at home against Brazil and Ecuador), ahead of only Venezuela. The top four teams in the table automatically qualified for Russia 2018, No. 5 went to an inter-confederation playoff – Peru beat New Zealand 2-0 on aggregate to book its ticket. The qualifying cycle actually improved Bolivia’s FIFA ranking significantly, taking Los Altiplanicos from No. 67 to No. 57 in the world. They are currently No. 47 according to ELO ratings. Both of those marks are well behind the USMNT’s No. 24 (FIFA) and No. 26 (ELO).
None of the players who helped Bolivia in qualifying – at least on the scoreboard – will take the field Monday evening. This is a really fresh lineup, with one international goal in the whole bunch (from midfielder Jose Luis Vargas), and a combined 68 caps – led by 21 from keeper Carlos Lampe and 17 from midfielder Danny Bejaranos.
- Carlos Lampe (Huachipato/CHI; 21/0)
- Guillermo Vizcarra (Hapoel Ra’anana/ISR; 1/0)
- Carlos Añez (Oriente Petrolero; 0/0)
- Oscar Baldomar (Universitario de Sucre; 0/0)
- Cristian Coimbra (Blooming; 4/0)
- Luis Haquim (Oriente Petrolero; 2/0)
- Gustavo Olguin (Oriente Petrolero; 0/0)
- Jesus Sagredo (Blooming; 0/0)
- Jose Sagredo (Blooming; 7/0)
- Danny Bejarano (Panteolikos FC/GRE; 17/0)
- Rodrigo Borda (Universitario de Sucre; 0/0)
- Leandro Maygua (Universitario de Sucre; 4/0)
- Sergio Moruno (Aurora; 0/0)
- Edson Perez (Nacional Potosi; 0/0)
- Miguel Quiroga (Nacional Potosi; 0/0)
- Juan Ribera (Oriente Petrolero; 0/0)
- Rodrigo Rodriguez (Oriente Petrolero; 0/0)
- Luis Jose Vargas (Blooming; 3/1)
- Bruno Miranda (DC United/USA; 5/0)
- Hector Ronaldo Sanchez (Oriente Petrolero; 1/0)
- Leonardo Vaca (Blooming; 0/0)
- Rodrigo Vargas (Karpaty FC/UKR; 3/0)
That’s a whole heck of a lot of domestic players – 17 of 22 play in Bolivia’s Liga de Fútbol – and those plying their trade in foreign leagues aren’t exactly at the world’s largest clubs. Chile, Greece, Israel, Ukraine, and Major League Soccer aren’t bad leagues. They also aren’t the Premiership (in before #ProRel4USA stans flood my mentions complaining about MLS).
None of the selections for Monday evening play for Bolivar or The Strongest (dope name), at least one of which – and often both – almost always finishes in the top two of the league. This is not going to be the strongest squad Bolivia could put out, and probably not even the strongest squad if they chose to compose it entirely of players based in the domestic league.
You can see the US Squad in my previous post.
The United States only has a 1-2-4 record against Bolivia, though the six non-wins all came in the 90s – before the renaissance of American Soccer that came about when domestic leagues have taken hold – and the lone victory was two years to the day before Monday’s game will be:
- May 23, 1993 0-0 draw (friendly)
- Feb. 18, 1994 1-1 draw (Joe Robbie Cup)
- March 26, 1994 2-2 draw (friendly)
- July 11, 1995 0-1 loss (Copa América)
- June 12, 1996 0-2 loss (U.S. Cup)
- Jan. 24, 1999 0-0 draw (friendly)
- May 28, 2016 4-0 win (friendly)
Only seven games played may seem like very few, but the eighth game will return them to a tie with Paraguay for 6th-most played CONMEBOL side (of 10 – Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana are inexplicably in Concacaf despite being continental South American nations/territory) after Paraguay pulled ahead in March.
From a strict opponent quality perspective, this should be a very winnable (and potentially high-scoring) match for a United States team composed primarily of players who ply their trade in some of Europe’s largest leagues.