The team goes into their next set of World Cup qualifier as clear favorites to win over Antigua & Barbuda. The U.S. is tied at the top of the group with Guatemala and Jamaica with Antigua and Barbuda trailing behind. Back in June, the Yanks beat the Benna Boys 3-1, in a match were most believed the score should have been more like 6-0. The Benna Boys will be focusing their efforts in the back and strategizing on their defense against the Americans.
After the team’s 2-1 loss to Guatemala in June, Jurgen Klinsmann is trying to change the mentality of the players going into these next two qualifiers, as is shown with his decision to omit Jozy Altidore from the American’s roster stating, “I was not happy about his latest performances with us, maybe even over the last 14 months”. Klinsmann also added “I think Jozy can do much, much better, and the reason why he’s not coming in is mainly about the performances in Jamaica and at home, also in training. Also certain things that went on through the May-June camp.” Altidore is having his best club season so far and is tied in the Eredivisie leading in goals for AZ Alkmaar. With Altidore’s absence, most of the pressure upfront will be put on Clint Dempsey and Herculez Gomez.
Another person left off the roster is Timmy Chandler who has turned down his previous call-ups with the U.S. to remain with his club team. Chandler has recently stated he is very much open to returning to play with the U.S. The next opportunity for Chandler to be cap-tied will not come until next summer during other qualifier matches. Klinsmann instead made the surprise decision to call-up Eddie Johnson who is making a return to the national teams after two years without a call-up. Johnson has recently been having a breakout year after joining the Seattle Sounders, and as Klinsmann stated, Johnson provides much needed versatility in the air up-front.
The Americans will be aiming for a win these next two matches without some of their starting players. Landon Donovan and Brek Shea were both dropped from the roster last week because of injuries and returned to their clubs for recovery. Later in the week, U.S. Soccer announced that both left backs Fabian Johnson and Edgar Castillo would also be dropped from the roster because of an injury and illness. Johnson is sick with the flu and will hopefully recover in time to meet up the team in Kansas City next week for the match against Guatemala. The changes to the roster will likely force Klinsmann to start Carlos Bocanegra in the left back position for the upcoming match.
Despite, the home field advantage for Antigua the final score should reflect this new mentality Klinsmann is trying to enforce after the team’s loss in Guatemala City. “The mentality we are bringing into these two games is to get six points. We must have urgency within the group and a clear understanding that we need to deliver, which means each player has to bring a 100 percent effort”, Klinsmann said.
Following their match against Antigua & Barbuda, the Yanks will once again take on Guatemala in the semifinal round of qualifying next Tuesday. Guatemala is heavily favored to finish in the top two of the group behind the U.S, and will be a tougher opponent than the Benna Boys.