Preview: High-flying USA meet their match vs. Brazil in DC
The US national team is on a serious roll.
After what has been labeled as the first defining victory in Jurgen Klinsmann's reign as manager — a stylish and overpowering 5-1 win over Scotland last Saturday night — the momentum and positive feelings surrounding the team could come to a screeching halt on Wednesday night when the Americans host five-time World Cup champions Brazil at FedEx Field in Landover, Md. (8 pm ET, ESPN2, TeleFutura, LIVE CHAT on MLSsoccer.com).
That's because the history is not on the USA's side, losers of 15 of 16 all-time meetings against Brazil. The lone win came in that famous CONCACAF Gold Cup victory in 1998 when US goalkeeper Kasey Keller stood on his head to maintain the narrow 1-0 margin on Preki's lone goal.
Here's the deceiving aspect of that record, however: 11 of those 16 all-time matches have been decided by a single goal. So matches have been close and the one that still stings US supporters came in a 3-2 loss in the 2009 Confederations Cup final, when the US held a 2-0 lead and looked to be in the driver's seat for its first men's FIFA title.
WATCH: US preview match vs. Brazil
Both teams know each other well, seemingly meeting on an annual basis in recent years. Specifically, they faced off four times in the four years between 2007 and 2010, the year of their last meeting — a 2-0 win for Brazil — and the first match in the reign of current Brazil manager Mano Menezes.
USA TEAM NEWS
It was Menezes who wondered out loud to media in Tuesday's pregame press conference the same curiosity that every US fan has in the lead-up.
"We don’t know if they will play like they did against Italy or whether they are going to play as they did against Scotland," Menezes said. "But it’s going to be a stronger US that will maintain its organized tactical structure which has always been one of their strengths. Very disciplined in their tactics. What’s different is that they have more variations in their play [under Klinsmann]. He adapts during the game and we'll have to wait to see how it’s going to be."
The USA's approach, the formation and even the personnel are a question mark with few hints provided. USMNT players all reiterated how Brazil poses a very different challenge than Scotland, but we'll have to wait and see if it demands personnel changes from the group that pummeled Scotland 5-1 with a free-flowing, attacking game.
All of Klinsmann's 23 players are healthy and training, but two of his top goal scorers are not yet fit. Clint Dempsey only returned to training on Monday from a right groin strain and Jozy Altidore joined camp on the same day after a late release from Dutch club AZ Alkmaar. Expect both to be available off the bench.
The Brazil match represents the second in a five-game "tournament" as Klinsmann described it. Next up is a match against CONCACAF foe Canada on Sunday, June 3 (NBC Sports Network and Univision Deportes) followed by two World Cup qualifiers against Antigua and Barbuda on June 8 in Tampa, Fla., and in Guatemala on June 12.
BRAZIL TEAM NEWS
If the USA are on a roll lately, winners of five straight, so, too, are 2014 World Cup hosts Brazil, who won their seventh straight match by downing Euro 2012 participants Denmark by the score of 3-1 this weekend in a friendly held in Hamburg, Germany.
WATCH: Three keys to USA vs. Brazil
The star of the show was European summer transfer target Hulk, who is rumored to be in the crosshairs of Chelsea FC. His two goals paced a Brazilian side that impressed Klinsmann with a high-pressure, asphyxiating style that helped stake them out to an early 2-0 lead.
Menezes, who is fine-tuning a younger Brazilian side with an eye toward the 2012 London Olympics, has already indicated he'll make two changes to the side that beat Denmark with Rafael taking Jefferson's place in goal and Neymar expected to come in for Lucas on the wing in this projected lineup: Rafael — Danilo, Thiago Silva, Juan, Marcelo — Sandro, Rômulo, Oscar — Hulk, Leandro Damião, Neymar.
That squad would consist mainly of Olympic-age players (Under-23) with Thiago Silva (AC Milan), Marcelo (Real Madrid) and Hulk (Porto) hoping to stake a final claim for the three over-23 spots available for London.
Brazil, who last lost a match against Klinsmann's native Germany last year, continue their preparations against Mexico on June 3 at Cowboys Stadium and in a classic rivalry match against Argentina on June 9 at MetLife Stadium.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
USA – GK Tim Howard: If the Americans are to pull off the shock result in this match, the US netminder must play his part to keep the Brazilians off the board. He can expect to be tested often by Hulk's left foot.
Brazil – GK Rafael: Howard's counterpart on Wednesday night will be making his full national team debut. He'll be eager to impress his manager to win a spot at the London Olympics, but that pressure can also backfire on the baby-faced Santos 'keeper.
GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS (8): Carlos Bocanegra (Rangers), Geoff Cameron (Houston Dynamo), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Oguchi Onyewu (Sporting Lisbon), Michael Parkhurst (Nordsjaelland)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Chievo Verona), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04), Jose Francisco Torres (Pachuca)
FORWARDS (6): Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar), Terrence Boyd (Borussia Dortmund), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Herculez Gomez (Santos), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)
GOALKEEPERS (3): Jefferson (Botafogo), Rafael (Santos), Neto (Fiorentina)
DEFENDERS (7): Rafael da Silva (Manchester United), Danilo (FC Porto), Juan (Inter Milan), Marcelo (Real Madrid), Alex Sandro (FC Porto), Thiago Silva (AC Milan), Bruno Uvini (Tottenham Hotspur)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Casemiro (São Paulo), Giuliano (Dnipro), Wellington Nem (Fluminense), Oscar (Internacional), Rômulo (Vasco de Gama), Sandro (Tottenham Hotspur)
FORWARDS (5): Leandro Damião (Internacional), Hulk (FC Porto), Lucas (São Paulo), Neymar (Santos), Alexandre Pato (AC Milan)