US Soccer

Match Preview: U.S. Men's National Team wraps up Copa America prep versus Bolivia

Clint Dempsey with USMNT - kneel 160526

Fresh off of Wednesday’s 1-0 win against Ecuador, the US national team will play their final Copa América Centenario tune-up on Saturday, when they’ll host Bolivia at Sporting Kansas City’s Children’s Mercy Park.  

The match will be the US’s second with their final, 23-man Copa América roster, and will offer manager Jurgen Klinsmann a crucial opportunity to iron out any kinks prior to the US's tournament opener against Colombia on June 3.

Bolivia were ranked No. 79 in the latest FIFA rankings, last in CONMEBOL. They’re currently ninth out of ten teams in the confederation’s World Cup qualifying standings, posting a 1-5-0 record through their first six matches. They won’t be as formidable of a foe as Ecuador, and Klinsmann will perhaps have a little more room to tinker as he attempts to finalize his lineup and tactics ahead of next Friday’s Copa opener.

Will the young guns start?

Three of the least internationally-experienced players on the US roster made big contributions off the bench on Wednesday night. Darlington Nagbe was the headliner, coming in at the start of the second half, then grabbing a 90th-minute winner in his sixth senior cap. Seventeen-year-old attacker Christian Pulisic put in a solid 27-minute shift in just his second senior USMNT appearance, while 23-year-old striker Bobby Wood looked good in his 45 minutes of action.

All three players contributed to the US's strong second-half performance. Wood, who is coming off of a record-breaking season for Americans in Germany and recently moved from second-division club Union Berlin to Bundesliga side Hamburg, continued to look like a solid option to start at striker, while Nagbe and Pulisic firmly inserted themselves into contention – if they hadn’t already – for spots in Klinsmann’s first XI.

“All 23 are ready to play from the beginning on, and they’re fighting now for spots,” Klinsmann said after Wednesday’s match. “Yes, we have established players and they deserve a certain kind of [respect]. But we always tell the younger ones to come in and sooner or later push them out. It’s their job.”

Klinsmann has a predilection for surprises, so we shouldn’t take too much away from any lineup he runs out in Kansas City. Still, an extended run out for any of the three – particularly Nagbe or Pulisic – would be a welcome sight for USMNT fans on Saturday.

Whither Geoff Cameron?

Time is ticking for the US’s No. 1 option at center back. Cameron entered last week’s Miami camp with a nagging hamstring injury he picked up in Stoke City’s English Premier League finale on May 15. He didn’t play against Ecuador and didn’t even make the trip for Sunday’s win at Puerto Rico, and Saturday’s contest will be his last chance to get a game under his belt before the start of the Copa. He could theoretically start against Colombia without playing against Bolivia, but everyone – Klinsmann, fans, Cameron himself – would likely feel a lot more comfortable if he’s able to snag some minutes on Saturday.

Will Michael Bradley play holding mid? 

With Jermaine Jones taking a more-advanced role with the Colorado Rapids so far and succeeding, the question turns to whether central midfield partner Michael Bradley will as a result drop deeper, into a role he has thrived in for his club teams in the past. Clearly, Klinsmann is intrigued by Bradley's two-way skills and has tried to set him up as a No. 10, but more often than not the Toronto FC man has appeared to be out of place there with the USMNT. With Jones showing a new dimension to his game in MLS, does that mean Bradley will be freed to put out fires and initiate the attack from the back of the midfield?

Players to Watch

Darlington Nagbe, USA: Fresh off his game-winning appearance on Wednesday, it seems Nagbe may be really pushing for a look in the starting XI. But even if he comes off the bench, if he continues to make a decisive impact he should be in line for meaningful minutes at the Copa America.

Alejandro Melean, Bolivia: American born and raised, the midfielder has forged a successful career in his parents' native country and could come full circle by playing in the Copa América hosted in the US. The 28-year-old has been interested in moving to MLS in the past – could Saturday's game be the start of a showcase for him this summer?



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