Philly Sports Live

Get to the Chopper: Pregaming USA / Canada

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18 Americans will vie for a chance to join up with the Hex camp, in a matchup with an experimental side from the Great White North.  Its not quite the war of 1812, but the Yanks will take on the Tophats tonight, deep in the heart of Texas, with a couple of seats for the helicopter ride to San Pedro Sula on the line.

United States vs Canada

Tuesday, January 29

9:00 PM EST

BBVA compass Stadium, Houston TX

ESPN2, ESPN3.com

This will be the third time in the last three years the Yanks’ and Canucks’ senior teams will clash.  They met in the opening match of the 2011 Gold Cup at Ford Field in Detroit, with the US winning 2-1, and met again this past spring in Toronto, where Canada, celebrating their centennial, held the US to a nil-nil draw. The most notable recent match between the not-quite-rivals came in last year’s best-forgotten Olympic Qualifying tournament in Nashville, when the Junior Tophats used a packed midfield and opportunistic counters to defeat Caleb Porter’s out-coached gilded generation.  Many of the key parts of that failed campaign are on hand for the Yanks, and looking for revenge.

For Canada, a failure to make the hexagonal round of World Cup qualifying, and an automatic bid for this summer’s Gold Cup gives interim head coach Colin Miller of FC Edmonton a chance to experiment with a new look for the squad.  This Canadian side is very young and inexperienced on the senior level, with two players representing 60% of the caps on the team.  They were recently crushed 4-0 by a Danish B side.  As under departed coach Steven Hart, the Canadians were successful clogging the midfield, forcing attackers to the outside, dispossessing them and counter-attacking.  Their backline on this roster could be their Achilles heel, with DC United “stalwart” Dejean Jakovic their most experienced defender.  They will have arguably the best player on the pitch tonight however in captain Dwayne DeRosario.

For a full breakdown of the US roster, check out our previous post.  Whittling down the 30 man camp to a 23 man traveling company was made easier by an unfortunate injury to Steven Beitashour, and an adjective-less one to Edson Buddle.

GOALKEEPERS (3) : Tally Hall (Houston Dynamo), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire)
DEFENDERS (8) : Tony Beltran (Real Salt Lake), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), A.J. DeLaGarza (LA Galaxy), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Connor Lade (New York Red Bulls), Alfredo Morales (Hertha Berlin), Justin Morrow (San Jose Earthquakes), Jeff Parke (Philadelphia Union)
MIDFIELDERS (8) : Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (out of contract), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City), Joshua Gatt (Molde), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
FORWARDS (4) : Juan Agudelo (Chivas USA), Will Bruin (Houston Dynamo), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

Look for the Americans to deploy in a modified 4-3-3, with Kyle Beckerman the sole CDM, sweeping up behind a possession-minded midfield.  The forward line offers solid size in Johnson and Bruin, with Molde speedster Josh Gatt providing the width this selection’s outside backs can’t offer.

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3 Key Questions

News broke earlier this week that USMNT Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann has a helicopter.  He uses it to commute the twenty miles from his home in Orange County to the American camp at the Home Depot Center in Carson.  This raises several questions; whether this is the most Klinsmann thing imaginable, if the landing pad has a K on it instead of an H, and if he copter-pools with Landon Donovan.  If not, has this led to the seeming estrangement between the face of US Soccer and the team?  These questions will have to wait for another day, however.  Tonight there’s a border war to take care of.

Who’s getting the golden tickets?  Klinsmann has said that between four and eight players from this camp will be sticking around for the start of the Hex next week.  Recent injuries have opened up a few spots on the back line, so Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler are good guesses to go, but can a veteran like Jeff Parke sneak in?

Who will make a splash?  Last January Graham Zusi and Geoff Cameron were among the MLS players hoping to get a shot at Camp Strudel.  Next week they’ll be starting for the United States in a World Cup Qualifer.  Who among this year’s invitees could make that jump?  Omar Gonzalez seems the consensus pick, but don’t sleep on Will Bruin.  The Houston striker has the size and skill to dominate against CONCACAF competition and should show well playing in front of his home fans.

Who’s driving? Four midfielders capable of running the offense are making the trip to Houston. Who’s going to see the pitch, and where?  Zusi has a slot locked down with the first team, and so should see time early, but seems to do better directing things from the wing, as does Brad Davis, who marshals Houston’s attack from the touchline.  Benny Feilhaber sits deep and central in the attack, but is primarily a horizontal player.  Mix Diskerud, plays the midfield like a point guard, but may be a year away.  There’s a spot open behind Zusi on the plane to Honduras, and someone may walk out tonight with a ticket.

PREDICTIONS

This is gonna be a clinic.  5-1 Yanks over Tophats, with two each for Will Bruin and Eddie Johnson, and one for Brad Davis.  Bruin picks up Man of the Match honors.

PREGAME COVERAGE STARTS at 8:30 on NASN.TV/LIVE

FOLLOW JOSH DEAVER @USFOOTBALLGUY FOR LIVE REPORTS FROM HOUSTON