Last time out the US Men's National Team recorded a rather routine 1-0 victory over Venezuela, despite the fact they did not breakthrough until Rico's 97th minute goal. Wednesday night figures to be anything but routine for the US squad, even though Panama is ranked 47th in the FIFA rankings, it is NEVER an easy task to go to any country in Central America and get a result. Also when you take into account that a good deal of the US roster has never played a full national team match in Central America, let alone Panama's raucous Estadio Rommel Fernandez, well that is a recipe of a dish I would be a bit hesitant to try.
For many of the guys on this roster, this game is quite possibly their final chance to show Jurgen Klinsmann that they can compete on the international level and can contribute to the US' efforts to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. There is no way to simulate a World Cup qualifier, but this game is about as close as some of these players may get to stepping on the hot grounds at Azteca.
A good performance in a game like this will not necessarily guarantee a player a spot on the 'A' squad but it will undoubtedly put them on the short list of last minute replacements for World Cup qualifiers. We all know that this list will come in great use once qualifying is under way, as depth is important when you are dealing with injuries and inconsistent player form throughout the long and arduous path to Brazil in 2014.
Now to the players and who needs to have a good performance....
First up is Benny Feilhaber, who is coming off a decent performance against Venezuela in which he showed some flashes of how good he can be. Benny is a World Cup veteran and needs to play like one in this game. The team behind and in front of him is relatively young and inexperienced. Thus, they will be in great need of a player who can get on the ball and control the tempo of the game. Benny has the ability to be the guy who controls the pace, sprays the ball around the pitch, and gets everyone involved, if he can show Klinsi he is capable of this then I would expect to see him involved in more camps moving forward.
Next up is the 'crowd favorite', Ricardo Clark. Rico got a bit of redemption with his stoppage time goal against Venezuela, couple that with a quality substitute appearance--yes, I know, there wasn't much work to be done-- that makes for a pretty solid start to a national team comeback. By no means whatsoever will another solid game put Rico into the 'A' squad, but a solid veteran performance will certainly put him on that shortlist I was talking about earlier.
Lastly, with no great surprise, we move to the forwards. Someone, one of you, score a goal!!! Teal Bunbury was pretty ordinary in the Venezuela game, looking like Jozy Altidore's statue-esque stunt duble. Wondo is Wondo, by that I mean a guy who scores a boatload of goals in MLS, but is just not cut out to play on the international level. Then we come to Sapong, in whom we have seen very, very little, and is still very young so to expect anything grand from him would be presumptuous. If any of these guys can manage to muster up a goal then I think Jurgen will have to put them on his shortlist of players to be called up, especially with the extreme lack of depth at the forward position.
Also while Im at it, if Zach Loyd can put together another solid performance then why not throw his name into the running for a possible left-back replacement. Let's face it, nobody other than Timmy Chandler, has looked half way decent in this spot. Maybe you can say Eric Lichaj but his hip injury has slowed him up a bit and he always has seemed more comfortable on the right just like every other strong US wing defender. God forbid Chandler were to pickup a freak injury, who would Klinsi turn to?? (scary thought)
With that being said, here is how they SHOULD lineup...
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