18:30 EDT, Monday 28th May, Talen Energy Stadium (Chester, Pa., USA), FoxSports1
The youthful makeover of the United States national team will continue Saturday in this friendly against Bolivia as the first of three matches for the Stars and Stripes.
Their two subsequent games will serve as World Cup warm-ups for Ireland and France in Europe next month, the closest the USA will get to the summer competition as they are sitting out of football’s biggest event for the first time since 1986.
Interim coach Dave Sarachan’s roster skews heavily to youth as the average age of this 22-strong group checks in at 22 years, 286 days.
The squad’s youthfulness is typified by Borussia Dortmund midfielder Christian Pulisic. The 19-year-old is expected to be the linchpin of the national team going forward. This match will also be a homecoming of sorts since Pulisic grew up in Hershey, Pennsylvania, less than 150 kilometres from Talen Energy Stadium in Chester.
The USMNT will not take part in a tournament until next year’s Gold Cup. Without a permanent coach, the federation has focused on increasing the depth of the player pool following last October’s disastrous 2-1 loss at Trinidad & Tobago in the final CONCACAF qualifying match that shockingly ended their World Cup campaign.
Bolivia, who finished ninth in South America’s ten-country qualifying round-robin with just four wins and two draws in 18 matches, will be without most of their regular players since many of their first-team play for domestic sides The Strongest, Bolivar and Jorge Wilstermann, all of whom are in the semifinals of the league’s playoffs.
The 25-man roster selected by Cesar Farias has 14 players who could get their first cap for La Verde and five non-domestic players, one of whom is reserve D.C. United forward Bruno Miranda. The 20-year-old has five caps for Bolivia and made two substitute appearances for the MLS squad this season.
Last Time Out
United States 1-0 Paraguay (International Friendly)
Bobby Wood’s penalty right before halftime after Tyler Adams was felled by Paraguay keeper Roberto Fernandez proved to be the only goal of an uninspiring match.
Four USMNT players got their first starts: Cameron Carter-Vickers, Marky Delgado, Kenny Saief and Zack Steffen.
Andrija Novakovich and Timothy Weah also got their first caps for the Stars and Stripes, appearing as substitutes in the 77th and 86th minutes respectively: Weah the first player born in 2000 or later to play for the national team.
Carter-Vickers and Matt Miazga, who are expected to contend for spots on Tottenham and Chelsea’s respective rosters in 2018/19, were paired together in central defence at the start of a match for the first time after playing the final 45 minutes together in a 1-1 draw at Portugal in a friendly last November.
Curacao 1-0 Bolivia (International Friendly)
Leandro Bacuna’s penalty in the 60th minute stood as the difference in a foul-tempered match that saw La Verde finish with nine players after Diego Bejarano and Pablo Pedraza earned red cards minutes apart early in the second half.
Diego Bejarano and Curacao’s Jarchinio Antonia were both ejected in the 54th minute for fighting each other before Pedraza was given his marching orders for a second yellow card after a tackle on Charlison Benschop which led to Bacuna’s penalty.
Dave Sarachan likely will use this match as a chance to view most of the MLS and North American players he called into camp before the squad heads over to Europe.
Toronto FC’s Alex Bono is likely to get his first cap between the sticks and LAFC defender Walker Zimmerman could be in line for his first USMNT start.
Mexican league players Jorge Villafana (Santos Laguna) and Club Tijuana teammates Alejandro Guido and Rubio Rubin should also be in the first XI.
With only two forwards called into camp, Andrija Novakovich and Josh Sargeant should get plenty of opportunities to make their presence known over the next few weeks.
Carlos Lampe, who plays for Huachipato in Chile, is Farias’ most-capped player on this roster with 21 international appearances, followed by Danny Bejarano (17).
It would not be surprising if Bolivia opt for continuity on the backline and use Club Blooming regulars Jose Sagredo, Jesus Sagredo and Cristian Coimbra.
Key Battle: Andrija Novakovich (USA) vs Cristian Coimbra and Luis Haquim (Bolivia)
Andrija Novakovich earned another call-up to the USMNT following a stellar season with Dutch Eerste Divisie side Telstar in which he totalled 20 goals in 35 matches across all competitions.
After getting his debut as a substitute in March versus Paraguay, Novakovich should be on the field from the opening kickoff versus Bolivia serving as a target forward for playmaker Pulisic.
Pedraza’s red card against Curacao has given a chance for Cristian Coimbra and Luis Haquim to show they can be a solid partnership in central defense for La Verde.
They will also have a familiar face in the midfield as a release valve in Luis Vargas, who is expected to earn his fourth cap.
Who are the playmakers besides Pulisic for the USMNT?
The Borussia Dortmund midfielder will be the best player on the pitch in this match but these are the matches where he must also learn to make the players around him better.
While there was hope Darlington Nagbe would be part of this camp to see how they could coexist in the midfield, the Portland Timbers star has three matches during this set of friendlies.
After Timothy Weah and Rubio Rubin, Weston McKennie, Lynden Gooch, Julian Green and Keaton Parks are also slated to get plenty of match time over the next 270 minutes of USMNT play. The sooner a core develops, the better the Yanks are going to be going forward.
Getting to know you, Bolivia style
The total number of caps for Bolivia’s roster is 70 which is 20 more than Yedlin has alone for the USMNT.
Without players from their three strongest domestic teams, this is a chance for La Verde to blood youngsters and build depth since the grind that is South American World Cup qualifying begins again in 2019.
Bono’s chance to shine
With Bono getting an early release from Toronto FC for the USMNT, the expectation is he will make his first appearance for the national team.
The 24-year-old is drawing interests from European clubs, most notably Belgium’s Club Brugge and a good showing in this match will further the momentum gained in a season in which he helped Toronto reach the CONCACAF Champions League final.
Prediction: United States 3-0 Bolivia
This game offers the United States a good chance for a positive performance before more tricky performances against the Republic of Ireland and France.
The US should have enough to easy past Bolivia on this occasion and Dave Sarachan will be looking for positive performances from younger members of the squad as he looks to build for a long-promised future in American soccer.
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