Now is the time! The American 2014 World Cup hopes are on thin ice due to the 2-1 loss in Honduras, and with a home match against Costa Rica on Friday and a rough trip to Mexico city on Tuesday, this team will surely need to find a result or else watch the panic button get mashed repeatedly surrounding America’s qualification hopes.
Additionally, with key components missing from the American roster due mostly to injuries, the ragtag group will need to come out firing on all cylinders, most importantly on offense. Missing from the defensive makeup of the American soccer team are Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo, Fabian Johnson, Timmy Chandler, Jonathan Spector, and most importantly, goalkeeper Tim Howard.
So what is this group to do, when the starting center backs in both games will be Omar Gonzales and Geoff Cameron? America simply needs to out-score their opponents. Goals will surely be conceded, especially in the away match in Mexico. Will America have the firepower to compete in a shootout?
I think so. Clint Dempsey has been named captain and is far and away the nation’s best player. Michael Bradley is an imposing figure in the heart of the American midfield, and his forward venturing ways often result in goals and decent opportunities. This is also a huge moment for Jozy Altidore.
Although the striker has had a phenomenal season in the Netherlands for AZ Alkmaar, breaking the record for goals scored in a European club season by an American, Altidore hasn’t scored a single goal for the red, white, and blue since 2011. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann even dropped Altidore last fall for several games due to his poor national team performances. America needs their top striker to step it up now more than ever.
Further making the task difficult is the omission of Landon Donovan, the face of American soccer for the last decade, who has taken an extended leave of absence from the game. His playmaking impact will surely be missed, but other American forwards like Eddie Johnson, Terrence Boyd, and Herculez Gomez can produce some fireworks, and we must hope that they do.
So how does this set of games look to shape up for America? I think that they can handle Costa Rica at home, and will emerge victorious 3-2. The trip to Mexico will not be as fruitful, and although I do hope for an unexpected draw or improbable victory, I do fear that this test will be too tough and that America will lose 3-2.
Either way, the long list of absentees on the defensive side for America should result in some fun, high goal-scoring games. And due to the fact that 4 of the 6 teams in the CONCACAF group will progress in qualification, America will probably be fine regardless of the outcome in these two games against some of the toughest opponents in the group. However, if America stumbles in these two games and has 0 points from the first three matches, there will definitely be serious panicking that could even result in Klinsmann losing his job. American soccer is on the brink of a serious challenge, and they must produce during these two key games.