Portugal vs. USA
Estádio Dr. Magalhães Pessoa - Leiria, Portugal
Tuesday, Nov. 14 - 3:45 pm ET
WATCH: FS1, UniMas, UDN
This just might be the most meaningful meaningless match the US national team has played in a long time – and not just because it's serving as a benefit for wildfire victims in Portugal.
With the pain of missing out on the 2018 World Cup (USA's first absence from the field since 1986) still setting in, caretaker coach Dave Sarachan has started the process of finding a team that can qualify for Qatar 2022.
Out – at least for Tuesday's friendly in Leiria – are the old guard: Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, Tim Howard and more. Sarachan has kept a few veterans around (Alejandro Bedoya, DeAndre Yedlin, John Brooks, Tim Ream, Jorge Villafaña) and brought in some little-used players from years past (CJ Sapong, Eric Lichaj) – but for the most part, Tuesday's friendly will largely be an audition for new blood, with younger regulars like Christian Pulisic and Bobby Wood staying with their European clubs this time around.
There are plenty of storylines in play, though: Who will emerge as the top 'keeper, the top center back tandem? Is Yedlin, with 48 caps under his belt, the captain-in waiting?
The questions won't all be answered on Tuesday. Some of them might not be answered for quite some time. But it's a start – a chance at a promising start, really – and for now, that has to be enough.
The hosts, who won't be sitting at home next summer, are also using Tuesday's friendly to give lesser-used players a shot at filling out the World Cup roster – but coach Fernando Santos has salted his 24-man roster with some players who should present stiff challenges for the young Americans.
Cristiano Ronaldo won't be there, but 21-year-old striker Andre Silva will, after scoring nine times in 10 World Cup qualifying matches. Portugal's stable of attackers also includes Eder, who scored the winning goal in the 2016 Euro title match.
And at the other end, the inclusion of Pepe in the defensive corps guarantees that the US forwards will be in for a night – or at least part of one – of being banged around by one of the world's more physical backline players.
With Pulisic left off the roster, the US will be looking for someone who can pull strings on the attack – both to push the young star and to provide depth in that playmaking spot.
That's not the only area which will be under scrutiny. To be fair, though, pretty much all of them will -- especially with other possible young contributors staying back in North America for the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs.
There will be eyes be on who he pairs in central defense, with veterans like Brooks and Ream available as well as young players such as Cameron Carter-Vickers and Matt Miazga.
And in goal – well, let's leave that for another section below, shall we?
The US and Portugal are dead even after six meetings: Two wins each, two losses each, two draws each. It's worth noting that the US are unbeaten against Portugal on the world's biggest stage, winning 3-2 to open group play in 2002 and drawing 2-2 – also in group play – in Brazil in 2014.
Players to Watch
Portugal – Silva. CR7 isn't going to be around forever, and Portugal's hopes of staying relevant in Europe and on a worldwide level hinge on finding an heir apparent. Silva's performance in qualifying shows promise, but can he dominate on his own without Ronaldo around to draw so much attention from opposing defenses?
USA – Whoever's in goal at the time. That's not a cop-out. The No. 1 position is wide-open, and so are the backup spots. Three young hopefuls (Bill Hamid, Ethan Horvath and Jesse Gonzalez) have been called up this time around, and Zack Steffen – who has been a key part of Columbus Crew SC's charge into the Eastern Conference finals this season – is also firmly in the mix. Whoever's out there will find himself in a serious audition to prove he can command the area, organize a defense and come up with key stops.
United States Roster
|GK||Jesse Gonzalez||FC Dallas|
|GK||Bill Hamid||FC Midtjylland|
|GK||Ethan Horvath||Club Brugge|
|D||Cameron Carter-Vickers||Sheffield United|
|D||Eric Lichaj||Nottingham Forest|
|D||Jorge Villafaña||Santos Laguna|
|D||DeAndre Yedlin||Newcastle United|
|M||Kellyn Acosta||FC Dallas|
|M||Tyler Adams||New York Red Bulls|
|M||Alejandro Bedoya||Philadelphia Union|
|M||Weston McKennie||Schalke 04|
|M||Kelyn Rowe||New England Revolution|
|M||Danny Williams||Huddersfield Town|
|F||Juan Agudelo||New England Revolution|
|F||Dom Dwyer||Orlando City SC|
|F||CJ Sapong||Philadelphia Union|
|F||Josh Sargent||St. Louis Scott Gallagher|
|GK||José Sá||FC Porto|
|D||Kevin Rodrigues||Real Sociedad|
|D||Ricardo Pereira||FC Porto|
|M||Bernardo Silva||Manchester City|
|M||Danilo Pereira||FC Porto|
|M||Manuel Fernandes||Lokomotiv Moscow|