Scotland vs. USA: Getting to know our opponent

Mark Runnacles

Expanding your knowledge base with jokes.

Scotland are a wonderful team from a wonderful land and hahahaha just kidding.

You might have some questions about Scotland and the United States' upcoming game against them. I imagined I was you and then asked myself the questions that you totally have.

Wait, why did we schedule these bums we beat 5-1 last year?

While the United States were preparing for World Cup qualifying last summer, Scotland were basically just on vacation in America. They're not exactly a good team and the United States should like their chances to win in Glasgow, even with a slightly weakened team, but they're no joke. They picked up 11 points in World Cup qualifying and own a couple of wins over Croatia.

Who are these guys?

Scotland are filled with players who are excellent buys for high Championship or low Premier League teams in Football Manager that never actually get that good in real life. The king of those players is uncapped 23-year-old attacking midfielder Gary Mackay-Steven, who probably should have left Dundee United a long time ago. He's joined by Lee Wallace, who still plays for Rangers, and Derby's Craig Bryson.

Central defender Grant Hanley is actually a very nice prospect. Charlie Mulgrew likes to tweet pictures of his penis and is very good at free kicks. David Marshall is having an excellent season for Cardiff. Steven Fletcher is better than his one goal in 12 caps. Barry Bannan represents the lollipop guild. Charlie Adam is still a thug. Alan Hutton is the most capped player in this squad. It is amazing that a national team has capped Alan Hutton.

Noticeably absent from this team are lower-league goal machine Jordan Rhodes, James "Replacement Level" Morrison, Matty Phillps' Unrealized Potential and Shaun Maloney's Forever Unrealized Potential Because He's 30 And Don't Know How That's Possible And Now I Feel Old.

How do they play?

Under Gordon Strachan, Scotland have usually lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Maloney, Morrison or Robert Snodgrass underneath a striker. With Maloney and Morrison out, expect Snodgrass to occupy that spot. Fletcher has gotten fewer chances up top than Everton's Steven Naismith, but Naismith plays as a winger for his club. They tend to keep things narrow with creative central midfielder Barry Bannan on one wing, though natural winger Ikechi Anya should start on the left.

Scotland have some midfielders who are pretty good at winning the ball back and a decent enough defense, but they lack both technical quality and a big target man, so they're limited in the ways they can relieve pressure. Even when Scott Brown and/or James MacArthur wins the ball back, they don't exactly have anywhere to go with it that looks terribly promising, especially if they're being pressed.

What do we need to do, then?

Avoid dumb giveaways in the center and get back into position when we give the ball away. Whichever two central midfielders start are going to need to break up counters, or at least force the ball to stop so Scotland has to try attacking when their opponent isn't backpedaling and out of position. They're not very good at that.

As for scoring goals? The U.S. just has to play their regular game, which mixes keeping the ball with trying some ambitious stuff over the top once in a while. Scotland can keep a clean sheet, but they can give up three goals while not playing all that terribly. They don't have any glaring weaknesses, but they don't have any major strengths either. Everyone they have is average or slightly above-average in athleticism, size and awareness of what's going on around them. They're probably not going to gift the U.S. goals, but it's not going to take Xavi or Franck Ribery to figure out how to break them down.

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