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USA vs. New Zealand, 2016 Friendly: What to watch for

After a fairly useless victory in Cuba, the men travel back to the States to take on the Kiwis, with plenty of new faces in tow.

MLS: Sporting KC at New England Revolution Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

While a win is always nice, the only real positive that came out of Cuba is that no one got injured. On a field with conditions that bad, with a fairly unmotivated side still out-classing Cuba, I’m not going to rush to any conclusions. Chris Wondolowski had a goal and an assist. And yes, it was nice to see Ethan Horvath and Julian Green get playing time and do well at their respective jobs, but every time I think of a positive or a negative from this game, I just remember “Chris Wondolowski was our most productive offensive player” and remind myself not to take it too seriously.

Not that New Zealand will be a full-proof measuring stick either, but the competition level itself should certainly be a step up (they lost to Mexico 2-1 just a couple days ago), and the field at RFK Stadium will, presumably, not resemble the surface of the moon.

So, while we’re happy we won and that there were players who put out positive showings, Tuesday’s friendly looks like it should be the meatier showing of the two. Many European-based players whose spots in the Hex are more or less assured have gone back to their clubs, and an interesting mix of fringe players have been called in to fill out the roster. With a chance to impress Jurgen Klinsmann a month away from big games against Mexico and Costa Rica, there are some intriguing moving parts floating around this game to watch.

Recent Form:

United States

W (2-0) - Cuba - Friendly

W (4-0) - Trinidad & Tobago - WCQ

W (6-0) - St. Vincent and the Grenadines - WCQ

L (0-1) - Colombia - Copa America

L (0-4) - Argentina - Copa America

New Zealand

L (1-2) - Mexico - Friendly

W (0-0, 4-2 PKs) - Papua New Guinea - OFC Nations Cup

W (1-0) - New Caledonia - OFC Nations Cup

W (1-0) - Solomon Islands - WCQ

W (5-0) - Vanuatu - WCQ

What to Watch for:

Roster Rumble - Nine U.S. players left for their club after Cuba, while seven more came in. Almost all the players who left are shoe-ins to make the roster against Mexico and Costa Rica. Probable locks for those games remaining on the roster are Michael Bradley, DeAndre Yedlin, Sacha Kljestan, and Jozy Altidore. There are a few more that will most likely be there, like Steve Birnbaum, Omar Gonzalez, and Matt Besler. That leaves 13 players who have everything to fight for in this game. Juan Agudelo is back after a long absence. Terrence Boyd is still waiting for his shot. Kitchen and Williams are still here, while the fringe trio of William Yarbrough, David Bingham, and Bill Hamid (it pains me deeply to write that Hamid is a fringe player at this point) are all chasing Tim Howard and Middlesbrough backup Brad Guzan. Kellyn Acosta, Tim Parker...I digress. Just know that there’s a lot to play for here.

Kiwi Clash - The All Whites are objectively a better team than Cuba in just about every measurement. They’ve been to World Cups. Their players play in places like England and elsewhere in Europe. They’re ranked around forty places higher than Cuba by FIFA. But at the same time, they spend most of their games playing people like Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. Oceania is the one world soccer federation that is decisively worse than CONCACAF, and being the big fish in a small pond (even if that small pond is the Pacific Ocean) makes it a little tough to gauge how good a team is. It’ll be interesting to see the levels of play both teams can turn out.

Jurgen Tailor Soldier Spy - This is the most opportune time Klinsmann has had to tinker with his lineup in quite a while. He’s seen just about every player that seems to be in the conversation for the senior side at the moment (with the possible exception of Darlington Nagbe, who didn’t attend this camp for personal and family reasons, per Brian Sciaretta). If Klinsmann wants to test a couple funky things out to see what he can get out of some players, now certainly seems like the time to do it.

Lineup Prediction:

I’ll go with a mix of old and new.

I don’t see Klinsmann starting anyone over Bradley, Altidore, Klestjan, or Yedlin at the moment, so those will be the litmus test guys. I think Julian Green goes from the start again after grabbing a goal against Cuba. Juan Agudelo has been an absolute beast as a forward in a 4-4-2 diamond with New England over the last month and a half or so, and I’m very interested to see what an in-form Altidore and in-form Agudelo look like together. Lynden Gooch grabs his first senior minutes after not being used in Cuba.

Meanwhile, the defense will get the biggest shakeups, with Johnson, Brooks, Cameron. Chandler, and Horvath all going back to Europe. Kellyn Acosta will play left back because that seems to be the only place Klinsmann will play him at the moment. The old Besler and Gonzalez pairing gets back together in defense, and Bill Hamid gets his first USMNT minutes in a long time in his home stadium.