Cuba vs. US Men’s National Team preview
The semi-final round of World Cup Qualifying is over and the final round of World Cup Qualifying is only a month away. The United States Men’s National Team has a pair of friendlies to prepare for a tough pair of World Cup Qualifiers against Mexico and Costa Rica in November. The first of these two friendlies is in a place where the US has only played once: on the road at Cuba.
Jurgen Klinsmann certainly seems to have the USMNT back on track after a dismal 2015 and a shock loss to Guatemala in an away World Cup Qualifier in March. A run to the semifinals of the Copa America Centenario and a pair of crushing victories (6-0 against St. Vincent & the Grenadines and 4-0 against Trinidad & Tobago) in World Cup Qualifiers in September have tremendously raised the level of optimism and belief among the players and the fans. Klinsmann’s youth movement finally seems to be paying off as well with players like Christian Pulisic and Paul Arriola performing well of late. There is also hope that Jozy Altidore may finally have put his injury problems behind him (though it does seem like that gets written every other year) and found the scoring touch again (another one that is written about Altidore an awful lot).
The US roster for this pair of friendlies was released on Sunday and contained a few mild surprises. Neither Tim Howard nor Brad Guzan were included on this roster, giving a chance for David Bingham, Ethan Horvath or William Yarbrough to make their mark for the US. On the back line John Brooks and Geoff Cameron make their return after missing the September qualifiers with various injury problems. The aforementioned Arriola and Pulisic are in the midfield along with newcomer Lyden Gooch, who plies his trade with Sunderland in the English Premier League. Sacha Kljestian earned another call up after his outstanding September performances. Up front Altidore is there along with Bobby Wood (who is having a fine season with Hamburg) and Seattle Sounders rookie Jordan Morris. Julian Green is also on the roster, his second call up this year and only his fourth since the World Cup in 2014.
For Cuba, it’s been a quiet year. They have only payed three games so far. They lost a Copa America Play-off against Panama in January and played a pair of Caribbean Cup Qualifiers in March, beating Bermuda 2-1 and losing to French Guiana 3-0. They played a number of friendlies to close out 2015 (five to be exact, of which they won zero) but it’s safe to say that none of them will be as big as this one against the US.