International soccer fans across the world are only 18 days away from the opening game of World Cup Russia 2018. First kick for the biggest tournament in the world will be at 9am mountain on June 14th when Russia and Saudi Arabia get the festivities started.
For the United States of America, players and fans alike will be watching the World Cup from home, as the US failed to qualify for the first time since 1986. But that doesn’t mean the US won’t be playing at all this summer, in fact, on beautiful Memorial Day the Yanks will be kicking off against Conmebol minnow, Bolivia. We are breaking down this week’s friendly as the US continues to prepare its youth movement to take over our long term World Cup hopes and dreams.
Kickoff: 4:30pm Mountain Time at Talen Energy Stadium in Chesterfield, Pennslyvania
How to watch: FS1, Unima, and UDN
About the United States: The last time the US faced off against Bolivia was exactly two years ago to the day that this match will be played. It was on May 28th, 2016 as the US was preparing to face other regional nations in the Copa America Centenario. In their lead-up friendly to the tournament, then 17 year old Christian Pulisic scored his first ever international goal for the U.S. Now, 2 years later, the veterans who surrounded Pulisic at the time have been banished to the far corners of the USMNT player pool and that same Pulisic will be the fulcrum of the attack going forward.
The United States has played Bolivia only 7 times in the history of each nation, with the US only managing 1 win, 2 losses, and 4 draws. All of the matches were friendlies, with the exception of 1 competitive match played in the 1995 version of the Copa America. The US lost that game 0-1 in Paysandu, Uruguay.
With the result not really mattering, this game still has us salivating due to the number of young Americans who we will finally get to see link up on the field. The two players that we are dying to see combine is Schalke’s Weston McKennie and Borussia Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic. Both have featured prominently for their Bundesliga sides in 2018.
McKennie helped Schalke finish second in the table just behind Bayern Munich, their highest finish since the 2009/2010 season. In the central midfield McKennie saw very meaningful minutes during the final stretch of the season, playing in every game except one from March on. Including an impressive run of form going the full 90 minutes in three of their last four games. Due to their 2nd place finish, Schalke will receive an automatic berth into the 2019 version of UEFA Champions League. After clinching their spot in one of the most prestigious tournaments in the world, the young midfielder said, “It was a wonderful feeling at such a young age to be able to say that I’m going to play Champions League next year...To have the season that we did have, it was very emotional and very lively. To be a part of a group like that, with a lot of people not believing that we probably would finish second in the league, it was an amazing feeling.”
Christian Pulisic also had a fantastic year, despite Dortmund finishing 4th in their league. On one of the most iconic of Bundesliga teams, Pulisic managed to start all seven games since the March international break for Dortmund, helping them to clinch their third straight berth in the UEFA Champions League. It is still uncertain whether he will represent Dortmund in that tournament, as he has been linked recently with his old coach Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool in the Premier League.
We will watch with baited breath as two of the most talented youngsters the US pool has ever seen will finally take the field together for the first time for the senior national team. This could be the start of a partnership that could dominate the CONCACAF region for the next decade.
About Bolivia: Known as either La Verde, due to their signature green kits, or Los Altiplanicos (The Highlanders) due to the extreme elevations found in Bolivia. La Verde have a rich soccer heritage that goes back to the very first World Cup in 1930 where they were one of 12 nations that participated.
The nation of Bolivia is a part of arguably the second best federation in the world, Conmebol. Despite holding an extremely strong home field advantage, their national stadium sits at 12,000 feet above sea level, La Verde have struggled to qualify for the World Cup in recent years. In fact, the last time they qualified was in 1994 when the United States of America played host to the tournament. There, Bolivia failed to make it out of the group stage, drawing once, and losing twice to finish 21st among all nations. Bolivia has only qualified for the World Cup three times in its history, never advancing out of the group stage.
Most of the Bolivian team players will be unrecognizable to American fans, as many play regionally in Bolivia, with 6 of their 22 players coming from Club Deportive Oriente Petrolero. However, one player on the squad may sound familiar, Bruno Miranda, a forward for Bolivia happens to play for D.C. United.
Our prediction: Although the result matters less than the growth and cohesion, it is hard to ignore the talent on the US side. Tim Weah features regularly for PSG, Matt Miazga for Vitesse, and as noted previously Weston McKennie and Christian Pulisic for their respective Bundesliga sides. We predict the US will win this one 2-0.