USA vs. Brazil preview: Young USMNT squad faces tough test against Seleção

The World Cup is over and it’s now time for the USMNT to being a new World Cup cycle. It’s been almost a year since they failed to qualify for the 2018 edition in Russia but many of the players and fans are attempting to put all of that in the rearview mirror and focus on the exciting young talent working its way up to the senior team. However, the US is still without a full-time coach (and recent reports have suggested that new GM Earnie Stewart has failed to even begin to contact possible candidates for the job.) So for the time being Dave Sarachan is the interim manager tasked with getting the national team back on track. He did a solid job from November to June with several impressive friendly results: wins against Paraguay and Bolivia; draws against Portugal, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and France; and even a respectable showing in a loss to Republic of Ireland. The task now gets much tougher as US Soccer has lined up a daunting string of friendlies against Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, England, and Italy (and possibly another South American opponent, rumored to be Peru). The game immediately at hand: Brazil.

The roster for the US for this pair of games has a very similar makeup to that of previous rosters: lots of young, exciting talent and few of the old guard responsible for the qualifying failure. In fact, there are only two players over the age of 25 on this roster (Eric Lichaj and Gyasi Zardes). On the flip side of that there are also two players under the age of 20 being brought into camp as well (Tyler Adams and Tim Weah). Overall it appears that, despite the youth, this is a strong and competent roster. Zack Steffen, Ethan Horvath, and Alex Bono are all possible options in goal. The backline looks strong with the likes of DeAndre Yedlin, John Brooks, Matt Miazga, Cameron Carter-Vickers, and Shaq Moore. The midfield could be quite impactful as guys like Cristian Roldan, Weston McKennie, Wil Trapp, Julian Green, and Kellyn Acosta. And up front Bobby Wood and Andrija Novakovich complement Gyasi Zardes. All in all not a terrible group of players. Not only are most of the players relatively young, but only four of the 25 players on the roster have more than 20 caps (Yedlin, Brooks, Wood, and Zardes). It appears that the youth movement is still in full swing.

One question that fans have been asking since the US missed the World Cup is, “How important are all of these friendlies?” Well, the games from November to June were basically just lame duck games until the new World Cup Qualifying cycle begins in earnest, but they were not without import. They provided a testing ground for these youngsters in low stakes environments that also served to help try to get the fans back on board with this team. Now that the World Cup is over and a new cycle has officially begun these friendlies feel more important than normal (and no not because of the ridiculous labels and sponsorships that US Soccer has attached to them like “Kickoff Series” etc). The games are all against quality opponents and it’s important to get the full cycle off on the right foot. In 2014 the US closed the calendar year (but the start of the new cycle) with one win, two draws, and two losses and wound up missing the World Cup. One thing that many fans like that US Soccer has done since missing the World Cup is scheduling higher quality opposition. From November to June the US played four European teams and two South American teams. For these upcoming games, there are two South American opponents (plus the possible addition of one more), two European opponents and one CONCACAF opponent. That approach serves two good purposes: it helps test the young players against quality opposition and it helps put eyeballs on TV and butts in seats, which is something the US is in dire need of after missing the biggest showcase soccer has to offer. And it all gets started against Brazil.

Brazil comes into this round of friendlies after what they consider to be a disappointing World Cup. After all, they are Brazil and not winning the World Cup is considered a failure. However, they didn’t seem to feel it was enough of a failure to part ways with their manager, Tite. At the World Cup Brazil was a good side, if not overly impressive. They topped their group before being knocked out in the quarter-finals by Belgium. Along the way the soundly beat two CONCACAF opponents by a score of 2-0: Costa Rica in the group stage and Mexico in the Round of 16. The roster they’re bringing for their two Stateside friendlies (they play El Salvador in the DC area after the US game) is a typically stacked Brazilian roster. In goal is Alisson, who just made the world record transfer for a goalkeeper to Liverpool. Their backline consists of Thiago Silva, Felipe Luis, Fabinho and Alex Sandro. Their midfield is loaded with Casemiro, Philippe Coutinho and Fred. Up top is where they are most dangerous with Willian, Roberto Firmino and of course the rockstar, Neymar. It’s going to be a tough task for the US to try to get a result against this team, but there’s no reason why they can’t.

Notes:

1. In a press conference in Nashville in August, Dave Sarachan had confirmed to World Soccer Talk that Christian Pulisic would be on the roster for these two friendlies. However, Pulisic picked up an injury with Borussia Dortmund, hence his absence.

2. Sarachan has said that following the Brazil game, John Brooks will be released back to Wolfsburg.

3. As of August 30, only 20,000 tickets have been sold for the game against Brazil while only 25,000 have been sold for the game against Mexico. It’s almost like fans don’t want to pay $90 a ticket to watch a team that just missed the World Cup play a friendly. Strange.

When and where to watch the game on TV and streaming

Friday, September 7, 2018
MetLife Stadium
East Rutherford, New Jersey
7:30pm ET
Live on FS1, UniMas, Univision Deportes, Sling Blue and fuboTV (7-day free trial)

All-time series

USA trails 1-17-0

Last meeting

September 8, 2015
Gillette Stadium
Foxborough, Massachusetts
USA 1–4 Brazil

Current FIFA ranking

USA: 22
Brazil: 3

Next game

Tuesday, September 11, 2018
International Friendly
USA vs. Mexico
Nissan Stadium
Nashville, Tennessee

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