BRENT LATHAM - Wednesday, June 17, 2009
The United States national team plays for Confederation Cup survival Thrusday afternoon in Pretoria, South Africa, and the opponent is none other than perennial favorites Brazil.
The US is coming off a tough loss to Italy on Monday night when the Americans dropped a 3-1 decision to the Azzurri after seeing midfielder Ricardo Clark sent off in just the 33rd minute.
The loss was a bitter pill for the Americans to swallow, and players still seemed dismayed the next day, as half the squad took the field to run through a light training session at Pilditch Stadium in Pretoria.
Players and coaches alike said the US has no option but to overcome their disgust with referee Pablo Pozo, and turn their attention towards the challenge represented by facing Brazil.
Brazil is coming off an electric 4-3 win against African champions Egypt on Monday, in which the Brazilians scored early and often, but let the Egyptians back in the match with some indifferent defensive play. The Selecao took all three points on a late penalty kick by $90 million man Kaka.
Brazil coach Dunga has been complaining of fatigue in his side, and is threatening to rotate most of the squad after a long trip from Bloemfontein in the south left Brazil with only one day to prepare for the United States. In a Wednesday press conference, he suggested Kaka may not start the match.
American head coach Bob Bradley will be forced to reshuffle his lineup with the absence of Clark. The coach may opt to revert to a more traditional 4-4-2, moving Michael Bradley back into a more defensive role, and inserting Sacha Kljestan as a central midfielder.
If Bradley opts to pair the reinvigorated Landon Donovan with Jozy Altidore up front, he may go with the experience of DaMarcus Beasley on the left side of midfield.
Captain Carlos Bocanegra still slowed by a hamstring injury suffered against Honduras, will be a game time decision.
The Brazilians have recently refound their scoring touch, putting in ten goals in their last three victories, including the Egypt match, and qualifying victories over Uruguay and Paraguay.
The game kicks off at 4:00 PM local time. Win, lose, or tie, the US will round out group play Sunday against Egypt in Rustenburg.