Canada friendly presents a chance for U.S. to take care of business
The U.S.-Canada friendly may be the right time to reintroduce Jozy Altidore
The U.S. must stay healthy with two World Cup qualifying matches looming
Jurgen Klinsmann is looking for better U.S. play in front of both goals
Three thoughts heading into the U.S.' friendly against Canada in Toronto on Sunday (7 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network, Univisión Deportes):
Is it finally Altidore time? This is the third of five U.S. games in an 18-day period, but first-choice forward Jozy Altidore has yet to play after joining the squad on May 28, a full 13 days after the start of camp in Orlando. After the conclusion of Altidore's breakout season with AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands, in which he scored 19 goals in all competitions, AZ refused to release him until it was required to by FIFA regulations. Jurgen Klinsmann pronounced himself "very angry" with AZ's decision, the latest snag in relations between the U.S. coach and AZ manager Gertjan Verbeek. (Former U.S. forward Earnie Stewart, now AZ's director of football, may have to play peacemaker again.) The Canada game, the last tune-up before World Cup qualifying starts on Friday, should be an ideal occasion to reintroduce Altidore, but it's not a certainty. Terrence Boyd showed promise at center forward against Scotland, and Hérculez Gómez was even better against Brazil. Might Klinsmann even consider a two-man front line with Altidore and Gómez?
Message one: Stay healthy. Klinsmann has called this stretch of matches "a five-game tournament," but that's not entirely the case. If it was a tournament, the U.S. would be needing a win at any cost after a victory and a loss in its first two games (against Scotland and Brazil). But the games that matter most are the World Cup qualifiers against Antigua and Barbuda (June 8) and at Guatemala (June 12), and Klinsmann doesn't want to lose someone from a squad that appears to be without injuries at the moment. How that impacts Klinsmann's lineup choices remains to be seen. I suspect we may see some players on the field who weren't involved much against Scotland and Brazil. One position in particular I'll have my eye on is the one in central defense next to Carlos Bocanegra, where Clarence Goodson could get the start. Goodson got positive reviews against Italy in February, and both Geoff Cameron and Oguchi Onyewu had issues in the position over the past two games.
Be better in the box -- at both ends. The main reason the U.S. lost 4-1 to Brazil wasn't that the team was lacking in "nastiness," as Klinsmann said after the game, but rather that the Yanks didn't perform well in front of the goal -- theirs and Brazil's. Attack-wise, the U.S.'s combination play and tempo in the midfield was pretty good against Brazil, creating several chances, but those opportunities too often weren't converted. Defensively, the Americans also made some key mistakes allowing uncontested runs into the box that resulted in goals. Brazil played like Brazil, too, and while Canada is expected to be more like Scotland than the five-time world champs, this game provides the chance in a road environment to show the U.S. can professionally take care of games the team is supposed to win.
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