[USA-BRAZIL] A month after the World Cup final, the next four-year cycle begins with a match at the New Meadowlands Stadium against Brazil on Tuesday, and for some reason, U.S. coach Bob Bradley has selected 14 members from the squad he took to South Africa.
It’s not the strongest squad he could have selected, but it’s designed to be a competitive one, and not an experimental, what-the-heck throwaway selection some proposed.
It’s a wonderful dream to roll out MLS rookies and national-team debutants to start a new four-year cycle awash in eager, fresh faces and fluffy, happy thoughts. It’s also a bad idea, as is usually the case when setting yourself up to get thumped. It makes more sense to field a real team to play a real team, i.e., Brazil, in a real game.
Friendly or not, any game against Brazil is a great chance to test mettle, acumen, and intuition; it is also an excellent opportunity to be thoroughly and utterly drilled, no matter who pulls on the hallowed shirts.
Friendlies are not scrimmages, especially when played on national television (ESPN2 and Univision, 8 pm ET) and a few minutes from downtown Manhattan in a new stadium teeming with fans.
Those players left off the Brazilian World Cup team by former Coach Dunga won’t lack for motivation when they get their first chance at the next go-round.
As New Jersey native and former U.S. goalkeeper Tony Meola once uttered, “If you can find 11 bad Brazilian players, I’d like to see them.”
It’s safe to say that while he’s named only four of the 23 players taken by Dunga, successor Mano Menezes hasn’t stocked his squad with stiffs. By coincidence, Menezes named 11 who have yet to be capped. He has that luxury, Bradley doesn’t.
Three years ago, Brazil overpowered a good U.S. team, 4-2, at Soldier Field in Chicago. Though most of the 23 World Cup players to represent Brazil at the 2010 World Cup haven’t been selected, those that are on the list include Neymar and Alexandre Pato, who many thought should have been in South Africa.
There are more than a few younger U.S. players who can derive benefit from this match without dipping deep into the ranks of the uncapped.
Alejandro Bedoya, Benny Feilhaber, Jonathan Spector, for example, are at different points on their development curves and need minutes far more than wild longshots like Zak Whitbread and Lee Nguyen.
Whether Bradley is the coach or not next year, there’s a Concacaf Gold Cup to be won so a spot in the 2013 Confederations Cup can be secured. The USA may be top dog in Concacaf, but as the 5-0 thrashing inflicted by Mexico in last year’s Gold Cup final demonstrated, a U.S. "B" team playing on tired legs isn’t a great advert for the game.
Due to television and sponsorship obligations, the USA is required to play two more matches before the end of the year. Those may be better situations for experimentation. This game is the real thing.