Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up
NBCSports Header Logo

A few study points ahead of tonight’s U.S.-Brazil meeting

US striker Landon Donova (C) and other m

US striker Landon Donova (C) and other members of the US national team jog during a training session at the University of Maryland in College Park, outside Washington, on May 28, 2012 two days before an international friendly against Brazil. AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/GettyImages)

AFP/Getty Images

Kickoff against the five-time World Cup champions is set for 8 p.m. ET at FedEx Field. Ian Darke and Taylor Twellman will be on the call for ESPN, with Alexi Lalas perched somewhere at the big stadium, too.

The game preview from U.S. Soccer is here – stacks of facts in that one. Meanwhile, a few things on my mind in the run-up to this one:

Lineup changes afoot? Honestly, I don’t expect many. That’s the feeling I get coming out of Maryland, and that meshes with manager Jurgen Klinsmann words all along. Remember, he’s treating this five-game dash as a tournament. That says to me that he’ll turn to the first choices as much as possible. Isn’t that what a manager does in a tournament, sticking with a core, with just a switch-out here or a wee tweak there?

For ease of recall, the starters from Saturday’s romp-and-stomp over Scotland:

Tim Howard; Steve Cherundolo, Geoff Cameron, Carlos Bocanegra, Fabian Johnson; Maurice Edu, Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones; Landon Donovan, Terrence Boyd, Jose Torres.

A different opponent, a tweaked approach: If Saturday’s Scotland scorching (5-1 final) was a slow, breezy Sunday drive, Wednesday’s contest will be a mad dash up a short entrance ramp onto the busy freeway.

I don’t expect the United States to duplicate its far-more-conservative tactics from the impressive 1-0 February win over Italy. I do expect slightly less forward lean in the arrangement, however. Klinsmann wants the pinch of pressure applied all over the field, with and without the ball – even against mighty Brazil.

So, if I’m guessing, we’ll see the same essential shape, with Landon Donovan patrolling wide on the right, Jose Torres starting further inside on the left, all ahead of a central midfield triangle. But Donovan may just scoot back a few yards, and we might see Jermaine Jones or Michael Bradley in slightly less of a hurry to bomb forward.

Really, it’s just prudence. On the one hand, it’s a friendly, which means there’s little need to nervously put the thing into a careful idle. On the other hand, nobody wants to planted into their home soil. So, I’d guess we’ll see an attacking spirit, albeit with one foot always covering the brake.

Still, changes might loom: We could, I suppose, still see a different arrangement, perhaps the 4-4-2 deployed successfully against Italy (the one that had everybody giggling about how this looked, smelled and tasted like a Bob Bradley-led effort).

Klinsmann keeps telling us that general style and operating preferences aren’t tied to one formation. So it would not be wholly shocking to see a tactical rearrangement to provide slightly more midfield cover, but without a major philosophical overhaul.

Individually, what might come of Geoff Cameron, perhaps the one man who didn’t look 100 percent comfortable along the back line? The New York Times’ John Godfrey reckons a change might happen, and the obvious replacement choice would be Oguchi Onyewu, who came on late Saturday.

Dealing with Neymar: One thing to consider about that possible change, however: Cameron may be a little quicker, and dealing with the shifty Neymar isn’t about brawn, which is Onyewu’s specialty. It’s about brains, about anticipation and positioning … but it’s also about agility and recovery speed, because that slippery little sucker is going to get past the back line eventually.

Any chance of a Clint Dempsey sighting? Or a Jozy Altidore sighting? Dempsey has worked out the last couple of days, although cautiously so. He told SI’s Grant Wahl that he would be on the bench, perhaps available for 15 or 20 minutes.

As for Altidore, his tardy arrival was about AZ Alkmaar’s desire to get its forward some rest following the long Dutch season. He joined U.S. practices on Monday, but surely didn’t lose much fitness during his limited time away from organized workouts.

These are interesting choices, because Saturday’s lineup performed so well. Then again, Altidore could easily slip in for striker Terrence Boyd with little impact on the surrounding arrangement. Nor would a Dempsey swap for Torres look too disruptive to the bigger picture, since Dempsey’s preferred role looks a lot like Torres’ from the other night.

When a draw is a win. The United States wants to win. Remember, Klinsmann’s side has won five in a row, and wouldn’t a triumph over mighty Brazil put the cherry on the sundae? And how. Then again, it’s Brazil. I cannot imagine anyone in the newly striped U.S. shirt would feel too glum about a 1-1 or even a 2-2 draw.