USA-Venezuela: Mindset, then fitness are U.S. priorities

The USA plays the first of three games in June when it hosts Venezuela Saturday in a friendly at Sandy, Utah, home of Real Salt Lake. Who head coach Bruce Arena starts will be a good indicator of who and how he's thinking of playing five days later when the USA hosts Trinidad & Tobago in the home leg of its two June qualifiers. Here are three keys to the game ...

1. How the USA comes out in attack.

Arena has had his players the train in Colorado this week, and the Venezuela game in Sandy (altitude: 4,449 feet) is part of the plan to get his players ready to play in altitude against T&T in Commerce City (5,164 feet) and then -- most important -- Mexico at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City (7,382).

(The Mexico game comes three days after the USA plays T&T and Mexico faces Honduras. That's one less day than normal for the Hexagonal as Mexico must head off to Russia for the Confederations Cup. The advantage Mexico will have is that it won't have to travel, facing Honduras at home.)

He'll be more concerned about the mindset of his players than their fitness as he'll want them to come out and make an early statement like they did in their last home game, the 6-0 win over Honduras in Arena's first qualifier since returning as national team coach.

Clint Dempsey scored four goals in the two March qualifiers and should start alongside Jozy Altidore, though Bobby Wood is back after missing the Honduras and Panama games with a back injury. Dempsey, who needs one more goal to tie Landon Donovan's U.S. career record of 57 goals, and Wood could split time -- as they might do against T&T and Mexico.

2. Where Christian Pulisic lines up.

Arena started Pulisic at the tip of the diamond in a four-man midfield against Honduras, then moved him to the outside against Panama. All he did was have a hand in all seven goals the USA scored.

Since then, Pulisic played in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals and won the German Cup with Borussia Dortmund, completing his first full season with the German club. He'll remain the focal point of the U.S. attack.

USA vs. Venezuela:
1993: 3-3 Tie (Copa America)
2003: 2-0 USA (friendly)
2006: 2-0 USA (friendly)
2012: 1-0 USA (friendly)

3. Three into two at center back.

In March, DeAndre Yedlin was injured, so Arena moved Geoff Cameron to right back for the Honduras game, giving John Brooks and Omar Gonzalez the start in the middle of the backline. Without Cameron and Brooks four days later in Panama, Graham Zusi slotted in at right back and Tim Ream moved into Brooks' spot.

Yedlin and Jorge Villafana are the likely choices at outside back, but Arena will have to decide among Brooks, Cameron and Gonzalez for the two spots at center back. One other option, as Arena looks ahead to Mexico, is to save Cameron and use him as a second central midfielder -- the position he plays at Stoke -- alongside Michael Bradley.

USA Roster:
GOALKEEPERS (4): Brad Guzan (Middlesbrough/ENG), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge/BEL), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake).
DEFENDERS (10): Matt Besler (Sporting KC), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin/GER), DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/ENG), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca/MEX), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jorge Villafana (Santos/MEX), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United/ENG), Graham Zusi (Sporting KC).
MIDFIELDERS (8): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (Tijuana/MEX), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Fabian Johnson (Bor. Moenchengladbach/GER), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund/GER).
FORWARDS (4): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Bobby Wood (Hamburg/GER).

Venezuela Roster:
GOALKEEPERS (2): Alain Baroja (Sud America/URU), Jose Contreras (Deportivo Tachira).
DEFENDERS (10): Alexander Gonzalez (Huesca/ESP), Pablo Camacho (Deportivo Tachira), Jefre Vargas (Arouca/POR), Jose Manuel Velazquez (Arouca/POR), Jhon Chancellor (Delfin/ECU), Yordan Osorio (Tondela/POR), Mikel Villanueva (Malaga/ESP), Rubert Quijada (Caracas FC), Jose Luis Marrufo (Mineros de Guayana), Rolf Feltscher (Real Zaragoza, ESP).
MIDFIELDERS (11): Arquimedes Figuera (Universitario/PER), Aristoteles Romero (Mineros de Guayana), Francisco Flores (Mineros de Guayana), Junior Moreno (Zulia FC), Francisco La Mantia (Deportivo La Guaira), Alejandro Guerra (Palmeiras/BRA), Jhon Murillo (Tondela/POR), Romulo Otero (Atletico Mineiro/BRA), Jefferson Savarino (Real Salt Lake), Jacobo Kouffati (Millonarios/COL), Darwin Machis (Leganes, ESP).
FORWARDS (4): Salomon Rondon (West Bromwich Albion/ENG), Andres Ponce (Lugano/SUI), Edder Farias (Caracas FC), Christian Santos (Alaves/ESP).

12 comments about "USA-Venezuela: Mindset, then fitness are U.S. priorities".
  1. Quarterback TD, June 2, 2017 at 9:08 a.m.

    Will skip this Venezuela event as this sounds a bit boring-- USA will handle Trinidad with ease however Mexico at the Azteca is all about conditioning of which the US has a lot of and is accustom to playing at that location. Game can go either way but if I was suppose to chose I will give Mexico a 2-0 win. I don't believe our young players like Christian will be effective for more than 40 mins due to the height and low oxygen.

  2. Wooden Ships, June 2, 2017 at 11:45 a.m.

    Looking forward to the Venezuela match. I'm likely in the minority camp, but our best mid would be made up of Johnson, Nagbe, Acosta and Pulisic. Up top, Wood and Deuce. MB and JA are movement killers. And, we should be thinking one match at a time.

  3. John Soares, June 2, 2017 at 3:23 p.m.

    Hey QTD, it's supposed to be sunny on Saturday. So even "fair" weather fans can watch and enjoy:).

  4. Quarterback TD replied, June 2, 2017 at 5:46 p.m.

    If the weather is sunny and nice why lock yourself indoors to watch a game ?

  5. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, June 3, 2017 at 6:34 p.m.

    It starts at 10pm eastern so it won't be sunny where QTD is. He'd rather be watching an NFL game.

  6. John Soares, June 2, 2017 at 6:16 p.m.

    OK; First it was a joke... Second; You have every right to watch or not. BUT, why make such an announcement. Soccer in the USA needs all the support it can get. Objecting to a "friendly" or not watching because it is not a WC game does not help. :) at least do it quietly:)

  7. Quarterback TD replied, June 2, 2017 at 7:14 p.m.

    I hear you-- I will keep quiet on these events going forward-- sometimes saying nothing is best

  8. Quarterback TD replied, June 2, 2017 at 7:24 p.m.

    BTW.. Richard Pryor, Jackie Gleason and greats like Jim Carrey were comedians you suck badly-- I am certain you already know that :)

  9. Nick Daverese, June 2, 2017 at 7:47 p.m.

    Smart to train at high altitude. But the game in Azteca is another matter. Not only is it at high altitude your playing in the dirtiest air on the face of the earth. It's like smoking a carton of cigarettes a day :) I would use my subs first. Then gradually enter the more experienced guys after that. Hopefully, the team will get stronger and stronger towards the end. Hopefully, to win it within regulation time.

  10. Quarterback TD replied, June 2, 2017 at 8:20 p.m.

    Not agreeing with subs first at all.. Mexico is not an easy team to come from behind. I give the US a 40% chance of winning but taking out Trinidad should be priority.

  11. Nick Daverese, June 2, 2017 at 8:09 p.m.

    I think of those three comedians Jackie Gleason was the best. Remember the chef of the future zip zip zip can it core an apple? Not with out breaking it can't. Remember Reggie Van Gleason. When I was young I once called Ed Norton's tv wife on the phone. Joyce Randolf she was actually listed in the telephone book back then. She loved to talk to people even people making a crank call. I could not believe it was actually her :)

  12. Quarterback TD replied, June 2, 2017 at 8:23 p.m.

    Yes yes yes-- I have all the Great One Honeymooners compilations.. that is comedy at its best.. people on this board need to watch these episodes so they can relax and stop blowing up like Hiroshima..

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