International Friendly: Republic of Ireland vs USA – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
John O’Shea’s final match for the Boys in Green is more than just a spectacle with both sides looking to build international success upon youthful foundations.
20:08 BST, Saturday 2nd June, Aviva Stadium (Dublin, Ireland)
Ireland welcome the United States to the Aviva Stadium for a friendly tie for the first time since November 2014, with both sides still overcoming their World Cup qualification woes.
Ireland missed out on a spot in Russia through a 5-1 aggregate defeat to Denmark while the USA succumbed to a shock defeat on the final matchday away to Trinidad & Tobago.
The two teams are in the process of building new squads capable of competing in international tournaments to come, with an exciting selection of youngsters recently added to the ranks of both sides.
With the USA manager Dave Sarachan opting to overlook some of his more experienced players for this tie, Republic of Ireland boss Martin O’Neill is set to choose a more balanced team with John O’Shea being given a runout in his final match for the Boys in Green.
Last Time Out
France 2-0 Ireland (International Friendly)
Ireland were outclassed in every aspect of their performance by an indomitable French side on Monday as France continue to cement their World Cup credentials.
While many of their key players were rested for the exhibition tie, Les Bleus lined out with a starting XI capable of beating the World’s best. Martin O’Neill opted to choose a largely inexperienced Irish team which was reflected in both the performance and scoreline.
Olivier Giroud opened the scoring for the French in the 40th minute, capitalising on a goal-line scramble.
The second goal followed three minutes later as a result of a goalkeeping error from Bradford City man Colin Doyle. Nabil Fekir’s shot was reached by the palms of Doyle, only for the ball to land subsequently in the back of the net.
The French frontline continued to pose a threat for the remainder of the game, with Giroud, Fekir and Kylian Mbappé failing to make the most of some glaring opportunities.
Encouraging passages of play were few and far between for the Irish, whose midfield trio of Browne, Rice, and Williams struggled to keep extensive possession of the ball.
USA 3-0 Bolivia (International Friendly)
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Dave Sarachan was widely praised for fielding such a young team in a comprehensive victory over Bolivia on Monday, which marked the beginning of what looks to be a new era in football for the USA.
Four teenagers featured in the USA’s starting lineup, with Sarachan giving six of his players their international debuts in the tie.
Walker Zimmerman gave the USA the lead in the 37th minute, heading home Joe Corona’s corner kick to score his first international goal.
18-year-old Werder Bremen striker Josh Sargent doubled the lead after 52 minutes, marking his debut with a goal of pure class, skillfully intercepting a misplaced pass from Bolivian keeper Vizcarra and finishing with aplomb.
Timothy Weah completed the USA’s goal tally with a composed finish from Antonee Robinson’s low cross.
Republic of Ireland Lineup
Ireland’s team should feature some minor changes from the defeat to France on Monday night with some injury concerns becoming apparent since the aforementioned tie.
Derrick Williams has sat out of training with groin problems and the left-back is expected to be replaced by Preston North End’s Greg Cunningham.
Jeff Hendrick is also likely to return from his back injury while John O’Shea will lead Ireland out for one last time in his final match for his country.
Ireland’s line is expected to be lead by Shane Long, who has endured a barren run for both club and country in recent times.
Long will be keen to bag a goal in order to break the dry spell while retaining his spot ahead of Graham Burke, who could well make another appearance from off the bench.
Sarachan’s USA squad for the Republic of Ireland friendly features a number of changes from Monday’s selection.
Walker Zimmerman and Christian Pulisic are just two high profile omissions and are replaced by Levante’s Shaq Moore and Columbus Crew’s Wil Trapp respectively in this lineup. 19-year-old Tyler Adams also replaces Weston McKennie in the holding midfield position.
The frontline remains unchanged, with Sarachan likely to further explore the effective combination of Rubio Rubin, Timothy Weah and Josh Sargent up front.
Both Weah and Sargent bagged goals in the Bolivia tie and, with the support of attack-minded fullbacks such as Robinson and Lichaj, there is plenty of goal-scoring potential in this lineup.
Key Players: John O’Shea (Republic of Ireland) vs Timothy Weah (USA)
In John O’Shea’s last match for his country, it would seem like an injustice not to give him an honourable mention.
O’Shea has been a stalwart in the Irish backline for 17 years, not to mention an enviable club career with Manchester United and Sunderland.
While he was once a regular in a formidable Manchester United lineup, at the age of 37 his best days are well and truly behind him.
However, his physical prowess shouldn’t be underestimated and he is still capable of winning many an aerial duel.
Action Images/Lee Smith
O’Shea will be tasked with the role of keeping the USA’s front men at bay, including the young Timothy Weah.
The son of former FIFA World Player of the Year George Weah, the Paris Saint Germain youngster has been turning heads of late with his performances, grabbing a well-taken goal against Bolivia on Monday.
There are high expectations placed on the young forward, who is known for his ball-carrying and blistering pace.
He will inevitably cause problems for veteran O’Shea and he could wreak havoc on the Irish backline should he use his acceleration to exploit an Irish centre-back pairing with scant pace.
O’Shea will surely hope to deal with aerial through balls for the most part, as he lacks the sharpness to deal with a game played solely on the ground.
Out with the old, in with the new
Ireland and the USA are both enduring a transitional period, in which both management teams are acknowledging the urgency of replacing a diminishing old-guard.
Both sides have been heavily reliant on aging statesmen in recent times, and both know that to secure the long-term success of their respective footballing institutions, something needs to change.
While Ireland still deployed the likes of Jon Walters and Shane Long against France on Monday, their selection was met with a youthful balance in the midfield positions, filled by Alan Browne, Declan Rice and Callum O’Dowda.
Exhibition ties such as this serve as a perfect opportunity for the Ireland management to assess their long-term goals while taking risks with selections without any debilitating repercussions.
The USA’s radical roster selection is perhaps even more striking, with Dave Sarachan choosing a squad whose average age comes in at just 23 years old.
Sarachan has accommodated 15 debuts in his last 4 games as head coach while leaving senior players such as Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley out of his plans on a temporary basis.
It will be fascinating to see how these tactics play out in the long run, with Sarachan keen to rebuild the USA’s footballing reputation in light of their World Cup qualification failure.
Positivity without complacency
There is a striking air of positivity around the USA’s camp presently with many of the current crop of players new to the international scene.
One of Dave Sarachan’s main goals is to bury the haunting memories of the World Cup qualification flop by nurturing a new generation of players to start afresh.
This positivity must be channeled correctly, however, and needs to be prevented from turning into complacency. It was complacency itself that arguably led to the USA’s heartbreaking fall at the final hurdle of the CONCACAF qualification process, with few expecting the growing powerhouse of US Soccer to miss out on a much-coveted World Cup spot.
Martin O’Neill’s changing selection policy
Another tactic that is being employed by Martin O’Neill to increase the magnitude of his selection pool is to look towards domestic Irish football.
Former Ireland boss Giovanni Trappatoni once infamously said that there “is no league in Ireland” and opted to overlook the domestic scene for the entirety of his tenure.
The League of Ireland has produced some exciting players in recent years, including Daryl Horgan, Seán Maguire and David McMillan, all of whom have recently moved to various clubs in the UK.
However, Martin O’Neill opted to hand a debut to Graham Burke of Shamrock Rovers on Monday while also selecting Bohemians goalkeeper Shane Supple in his matchday squad.
The selection of players directly from the League of Ireland will surely prove to be mutually beneficial, expanding Ireland’s player pool while raising the standard of the league itself in the process.
Sarachan’s determination to outline his managerial credentials
Dave Sarachan is currently operating as head coach of the USA on an interim basis, receiving the job after the sacking of Bruce Arena.
While it’s likely that there is an ongoing hunt for a long-term replacement, Sarachan could put himself in the running should he prove his worth against both Ireland and France in the USA’s upcoming friendly ties.
His desire to impress could well instil an added hunger for victory in his side.
Prediction: Ireland 1-1 USA
This is a friendly match in which both teams are expected to take an experimental approach, subtly testing various tactical formulae with previously unseen lineups.
While the two young sides will more than likely be encouraged to perform with freedom and flair, the will to avoid error may lead to a somewhat conservative approach from the two sides.
A low-scoring draw would be a fair assumption for a match between two sides in a remarkably similar situation.