It isn’t every day that Utah and the loyal soccer fans here have the chance to host a national team match, friendly or otherwise. The very best of American soccer will be on display beneath the bright lights of Rio Tinto this Saturday, June 3rd with kickoff set for 8 p.m.. Here is everything you need to know about the friendly matchup against La Vinotinto of Venezuela.
Why it matters
The national team will be squaring off in World Cup qualifiers against Trinidad and Tobago on June 8th in Colorado and against Mexico in the Azteca on June 11th. The away match against Mexico is always one of the premier matches in CONCACAF qualifying across all competitions. Bruce Arena is doing everything he can to prepare the Nats for the high altitudes of Mexico City (7,382’) by playing both Saturday’s tune up, and June 8th’s qualifier on each side of the Rocky Mountains (Sandy at 4,449 and Commerce City at 5,164).
How to watch
- In person of course! If you didn’t purchase a ticket to this one then you have missed an amazing opportunity to see the likes of Christian Pulisic, John Anthony Brooks, and Fabian Johnson live. They will be joined by 9 other players on the roster who don’t play in MLS and are unlikely to be back in Utah any time soon.
- TV Broadcast: You can also tune in on FS1, Univision, or UDN.
What to expect
With only one warm up game on the docket leading up to qualifying, expect to see the preferred 11, or close to it, playing the first half of Saturday’s game. During the second half plan on seeing a lot of subs as Bruce Arena has to actively manage fitness. The two qualifiers are only 3 days apart and he will be trying to balance giving meaningful minutes to the starters while not putting them at risk for injury.
Although the US had strong outings during the last international window, beating Honduras 6-0 and tying Panama 1-1, you have to remember that this team has only played 2 meaningful games under Arena’s stewardship. So while this game is only a friendly, Arena will be looking to build connections and cohesiveness that only come from in-game reps. I anticipate he will roll out a 4-4-2 diamond formation, similar to what we saw against Honduras when the US looked like world beaters.
I am predicting a starting lineup that will feature Tim Howard in goal, with Jorge Villafana, John Anthony Brooks, Geoff Cameron and DeAndre Yedlin across the back. In the middle of the pitch look for Michael Bradley to play the role of defensive holding midfielder, with Fabian Johnson and Alejandro Bedoya as the shuttlers, and Christian Pulisic at the point of the attack. Up top, it is a little harder to get a read on who will get the start. Personally, I’d love to see Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood combining, but it is highly likely that you see Clint Dempsey and Altidore getting the starting nod for what seems like the 100th time. From a purely selfish standpoint, we all secretly hope that Nick Rimando gets to see minutes, even if it is as a substitute.
Players to watch
USA’s Bobby Wood - Bobby is still on the rise as an American forward at only 24 years of age. After a promising 2016 showing for both club and country, Bobby seemed primed to take that next step in the hexagonal. However, he was held out of the last international campaign in March due to injury. He is back, fully fit, and just helped Hamburg SV stave off relegation from the Bundesliga. While he doesn’t have the experience and polish of Dempsey, the reality is that Dempsey is aging and now more than ever we need someone to step up and command the starting role next to Jozy Altidore. I believe that Wood has the best chance of doing that for World Cup 2018.
Venezuela’s Jefferson Savarino - If you have yet to hear about Savarino, you haven’t been paying attention. Jefferson Savarino joined RSL on loan from Venezuelan Club, Zulia FC back on May 13th when he featured against the New England Revolution. Although slight of build, listed by Fox Soccer as weighing only 132 lbs., Savarino has a great engine and plays with grit. He has yet to be capped by the senior Venezuelan team, but we see little reason as to why he wouldn’t see minutes in front of his new fanbase. Is it too early to find him a nickname? La Avispa (the wasp), or how about El Ratón (the mouse)? Did we mention we really like this guy!
Something else worth knowing
Tomorrow from 7 p.m. to midnight, there will be an American Outlaws party at the Bourbon House, 19 E 200 S, Salt Lake City, Utah 84111. It will be a great opportunity for our community of fans to welcome many of our fellow national team supporters who will be traveling in from outside of Utah. Come on down, grab some grub, and get to know the countries largest national team supporter group. Who knows, there is always a chance a coach or some players make an appearance.