Tonight, the USA host Chile for a friendly match at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California, that could prove both entertaining and meaningful. Both the USA and Chile will field predominantly untested players motivated by youthful ambition and turmoil currently surrounding the internal identities of both teams. Chile are currently ranked 15th by FIFA and the U.S. ranked 18th. The match will be broadcast in Spanish language Telefutura and streamed on ESPN3.com at 10 p.m. ET.
Bielsa drama intensifies
Much-loved and political Argentine Marcelo Bielsa resigned as Chilean coach due philosophical differences with the change in leadership at the Chilean Federation when Jorge Segovia was elected over Harold Maynes-Nicholls on November 4. When Segovia was subsequently disqualified due to commercial irregularities, Bielsa remained, but now with new Federation president and Segovia associate Sergio Jadue recently elected, it’s expected that Bielsa will leave when his contract expires after the USA game. The president of Chile, Sebastian Pinera, has asked Bielsa to stay on through 2011 Copa America and World Cup 2014. The national affection for Bielsa is that great that the departure could affect Pinera’s own status.
SInce 2007, Bielsa brought a fearless attacking style to Chile, built on creating as many chances as possible and his leadership gave Chile their first World Cup group win since 1962. His differences with the Federation leadership are philosophical and Bielsa has the backing of his young team, who were hoping play under him. The young Chileans will play for Bielsa tonight, looking to prove his philosophy on the field. For them, it’s a historically significant game in their careers and for their country. For more about Bielsa and Chile, read my interview with Chilean agent and former player Jose Burgos.
Bradley looks for new approach
The USA roster is also loaded with new call-ups and the pressure is on coach Bob Bradley to re-invent his team. The World Cup USA-Algeria victory riveted Americans to their televisions through the sheer character and resolution of the U.S. National Team players. The bar was raised on July 23rd. The subsequent disjointed, unfocused, and tactically blind U.S. loss to Ghana and later friendlies left Americans trying to remember the quality they saw, and they want it back.
After World Cup, the USMNT turned out mediocre results and uninspiring play from veterans and upstarts, with the exception of 17 year-old Juan Agudelo’s winning goal and a rather brilliant first minutes by midfielder Mikkel Diskerud in the Nelson Mandela Challenge. But after Bradley’s insertion of card-happy Ricardo Clark and goal-less Robbie Findley in the World Cup, all bets are off on the U.S line-up.
The volume of young U.S. players (12 uncapped Americans) creates a chemistry of it’s own and after recent dismal results, Bradley might be inclined to leave his agenda by the door and let that chemistry play out. What could occur is an ambitious U.S. side exploiting opportunities created by a passionate Chilean side looking to demonstrate the attacking mentality of their leader Bielsa. American forwards will be hard-pressed to maintain possession because the Chileans close down quickly in twos and threes. It could be a fairly high-scoring game on both sides. Although there is considerable U.S. potential on the roster, a player to watch is Norwegian-born Diskerud, currently playing with Stabaek in Norway’s first division.
Should Bielsa, recently silent but known for insightful press conferences, choose to speak on his situation and the U.S. match-up, it’s likely worth hearing. The game is definitely worth watching.
GK:Dominic Cervi (Celtic), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Matt Pickens (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEF: A.J. DeLaGarza (Los Angeles Galaxy), Sean Franklin (Los Angeles Galaxy), Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles Galaxy), Zach Loyd (FC Dallas), Ryan Miller (Halmstads BK), Tim Ream (New York Red Bulls), Anthony Wallace (Colorado Rapids), Marvell Wynne (Colorado Rapid)
MID: Eric Alexander (FC Dallas), Alejandro Bedoya (Örebro), Sam Cronin (San Jose Earthquakes), Mikkel Diskerud (Stabaek), Jeff Larentowicz (Colorado Rapids), Dax McCarty (D.C. United), Brek Shea (FC Dallas) , Eugene Starikov (FC Tom Tomsk)
FOR: Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls), Teal Bunbury (Sporting Kansas City), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)
GK:Paulo Garcés (Universidad Católica), Raúl Olivares (Colo Colo)
Def: Eugenio Mena (Universidad de Chile), Sebastián Toro (Colo Colo), Paulo Magalhaes (Colo Colo), José Pedro Fuenzalida (Colo Colo), Carlos Labrín (Huachipato), Fernando Meneses (Universidad Católica)
Mid:Felipe Seymour (Universidad de Chile), Francisco Silva (Universidad Católica), Luis Pedro Figueroa (Unión Española), Felipe Gutiérrez (Universidad Católica), Lucas Domínguez (Audax Italiano)
For:Edson Puch (Universidad de Chile), Esteban Paredes (Colo Colo), Daud Gazale (Colo Colo)
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