U.S. national team likely to experiment vs. Scotland
U.S. is unlikely to field a full-strength lineup against Scotland
Landon Donovan has not featured much so far under Jurgen Klinsmann
Reserve forwards such as Terrence Boyd look to press their claims
My three thoughts heading into Saturday's U.S.-Scotland friendly in Jacksonville, Fla. (8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network, Galavisión):
The U.S.'s full-strength lineup may not see the field until Wednesday's Brazil friendly. Some U.S. players won't be available, whether it's Clint Dempsey (groin strain) or Jozy Altidore (joins team on Monday), nor is it likely that we'll see starters who just arrived in camp the last couple days (Clarence Goodson, Michael Parkhurst, Hérculez Gómez, Oguchi Onyewu). But that's OK -- a home friendly against a midlevel European team like Scotland should give some useful international experience to potential Saturday starters like Geoff Cameron, Chris Wondolowski and Terrence Boyd. It's almost impossible to know with any certainty who will be in the U.S.' starting lineup, but here's my best guess (4-1-3-2): Tim Howard; Steve Cherundolo, Geoff Cameron, Carlos Bocanegra, Fabian Johnson; Jermaine Jones; Landon Donovan, Michael Bradley, José Torres; Chris Wondolowski, Terrence Boyd.
Let's see what Landon Donovan offers. The U.S.'s all-time leading scorer hasn't played for the national team in almost nine months and spoke this week of trying to find his hunger for the sport again. Can Donovan get back the mojo he had during the 2010 World Cup and his loan spell at Everton earlier this year? Remarkably, Donovan and Dempsey have yet to play together during any of Jurgen Klinsmann's 10 games as coach, and that streak will extend to 11 here with Dempsey's minor injury. (He's hoping to play against Brazil on Wednesday.) Donovan's creativity may well be useful in unlocking a largely defensive-minded Scotland team, which should test the U.S.'s ability to build attacks from the back. This would be a good time for Donovan to show he can still be an indispensable player for the Stars & Stripes.
Which reserve forwards can make a case for inclusion? If they were available, Dempsey and Altidore would likely be the top front pairing after their excellent European club seasons. But in this game we may get a sense of whether Wondolowski, who has lit up MLS this season, can replicate that form at the international level. And though Boyd has yet to play for the first team at Borussia Dortmund, his success with the Dortmund's U-23 team and the U.S. Olympic qualifying team has put him ahead of Juan Agudelo on the U.S. depth chart for now. Klinsmann likes Boyd's potential, and this would be an ideal game to give him some sizable playing time.