CHESTER, Pa. — After an inconsistent performance against Poland, the United States men's national team turns its sights to a Tuesday night match against Colombia at the Philadelphia Union's PPL Park.
Bob Bradley's side will look to improve on its 2-2 draw against the European squad, a match that saw Jermaine Jones shine in a central midfield role while a back line featuring Maurice Edu and Oguchi Onyewu struggled to clear and contain the Polish attack.
The affair in Chester could be more of the same. Carlos Bocanegra and Steve Cherundolo returned to their club squads from Chicago, meaning Jonathan Spector and Heath Pearce will most likely occupy the fullback positions.
Eric Lichaj will get a run as well, but the out of form West Ham defender and his FC Dallas counterpart across the field will be tasked with stopping Colombia’s speedy flankers.
Clarence Goodson will get in the action, starting alongside Onyewu, assuming the latter recovers from his 90 minutes against Poland. The pair will mark the talented Falcao García, who tallied the winner against Ecuador on Oct. 8 just 10 minutes after coming on late in the match. Brad Guzan, who deserves a start, will need to be on his game.
Bradley deployed a 4-2-3-1 in the Windy City, but he'll opt for a more conservative 4-4-2 formation in an attempt to contain the South American side.
Jones' play – flubbed clearance aside – earned him another start as he gets further acquainted with his new teammates. Edu will push up into his preferred midfield slot, leaving workhorse Michael Bradley on the bench for once.
[inline_node:307079]Stuart Holden, who's rapidly replacing Landon Donovan as the Stars and Stripes' go-to man in deadball situation, and Clint Dempsey will flank the defensive-minded duo, and Jozy Altidore and Eddie Johnson will get a run out up top.
Trying to guess Bradley's actions is frequently an exercise in futility and frustration, but he should make more than the single substitution he used at Soldier Field. In addition to Lichaj and Brek Shea – whom Bradley said “there’s a good chance that both will get an opportunity” – either Benny Feilhaber or Alejandro Bedoya will get into the match.
The draw with Poland wasn't a setback, but a win against a solid and improving Colombia side would give the Americans some nice momentum heading into their November trip to South Africa and the January camp, when the real preparations for next year's Gold Cup will begin.
To emerge victorious, the US will have to eliminate the "casualness" that allowed Poland to equalize twice. But who's going to step into the leadership role with captain Bocanegra and his replacement Cherundolo out?
As for the opponent, Darío Gómez returned in May to manage a Colombia team that hasn't qualified for the World Cup since 1998, the last time the he was in charge.
Long gone are the heady days of Carlos “El Pibe” Valderrama, Andrés Escobar and Adolfo Valencia, but the young squad features players on world powers including Inter Milan, AC Milan, Porto and Atlético Madrid.
Colombia finished a disappointing seventh in CONMEBOL qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, but play a quick-passing style reminiscent of some of their more successful continent-mates. They will hope to break through during the next cycle and are gearing up for the Copa América.
Giovani Moreno and Juan Javier Restrepo will facilitate the attack and torment the US central midfield all night, while Mario Yepes and Luis Perea anchor the back line. Udinese's Juan Cuadrado should get a start as well.
Projected US Lineup
Projected Colombia Lineup
The United States prevail 3-2 in a high-scoring affair.
Noah Davis covers the United States men's national team for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter @noahedavis.