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USA vs. Uruguay, 2022 Friendly: Scouting Uruguay

The USMNT enters the second friendly on a high.

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The United States Men’s National Team opened summer camp with a 3-0 against Morocco. In the second of two friendlies, Gregg Berhalter leads his squad against two-time World Cup champions Uruguay at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas. Both rosters are near full strength, promising a preview of potential World Cup lineups.

The two nations are historically deadlocked with a 2-2-3 all-time record. Uruguay qualified for a fourth-consecutive World Cup by finishing at third place in the CONMEBOL table, a steady businesslike run with only a few blemishes but zero wins over Brazil and Argentina. La Celeste recently played a friendly with Mexico and will close out the window with another match against Jamaica. Their group in Qatar includes Portugal, Ghana, and South Korea.

Uruguay is led by Diego Alonso, a former striker with managerial experience at Peñarol, Pachuca, Pachuca, and Inter Miami, twice winning the CONCACAF Champions League. Appointed in December of 2021, he replaced Óscar Tabárez, who held the role for an incredible 15 years and 224 matches. The 47-year-old achieved the job’s initial directives by winning the final four qualifying fixtures.

Alonso named a 26-player roster for the friendly, a strong and experienced group featuring many of the familiar names. The call-ups are overwhelmingly based in Europe, as only seven compete in the Western Hemisphere. Veterans Luis Suárez and Cristhian Stuani were left off the squad, with Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Rodrigo Betancur held out due to a back injury.

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GOALKEEPERS (3): Fernando Muslera (Galatasaray), Sergio Rochet (Nacional), Sebastián Sosa (Independiente)

DEFENDERS (9): Diego Godín (Atlético Mineiro), Martín Cáceres (Levante), José Giménez (Atlético Madrid), Sebastián Coates (Sporting CP), Matías Viña (Roma), Ronald Araújo (Barcelona), Guillermo Varela (Dynamo Moscow), Damián Suárez (Getafe), Mathías Olivera (Getafe)

MIDFIELDERS (8): Matías Vecino (Internazionale), Federico Valverde (Real Madrid), Giorgian de Arrascaeta (Flamengo), Lucas Torreira (Fiorentina), Nicolás de la Cruz (River Plate), Mauro Arambarri (Getafe), Fernando Gorriarán (Santos Laguna), Manuel Ugarte (Sporting CP)

FORWARDS (6): Edinson Cavani (Manchester United), Maxi Gómez (Valencia), Darwin Núñez (Benfica), Facundo Pellistri (Alavés), Agustín Canobbio (Athletico Paranaense), Diego Rossi (Fenerbahçe)

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With a quick turnaround following Thursday’s friendly against Mexico, there may be some squad rotation unless the manager is attempting to simulate the compact scheduling of an international tournament. In recent qualifying matches, Alonso mainly used a 4-4-2 formation with two wingers and a double-pivot midfield that is always looking to push the tempo and shoot as much as possible from just about anywhere. Over the past four matches, field switches and long balls were constant, hoping to find an opening in the opposing back line. The center backs tend to be left on an island, which creates the potential for counter-attacks and capitalization on errors.

Projected Uruguay Starting XI (via BuildLineup.com)

There may be a controversy brewing at the goalkeeper position. Fernando Muslera has earned over 130 caps for Uruguay but missed multiple World Cup qualifiers due to a cruciate ligament injury. In his place and even after returning to fitness, the manager turned to the only domestically-based player on the roster: then-uncapped Sergio Rochet who competes with Montevideo’s Club Nacional. The 29-year-old reeled off four straight wins, providing a stay-at-home, shot-stopping presence with a bit of heady swagger.

At 36 years old, Diego Godín remains a stalwart for the national team, continuing to serve as captain and anchor the back line. He moved to reigning Brazilian champions Atlético Mineiro during the winter transfer window, working his way back to fitness following a difficult stretch at Cagliari. While no longer in the conversation for the world’s best defender, his physical presence and intelligent reading of the game have allowed him to age gracefully. His regular partner is José Giménez of Atlético Madrid. The 27-year-old is a fierce one-v-one defender and a true asset in possession, spraying the ball around the field. The towering 6’5” Sporting Lisbon center back, Sebastián Coates, could also start, providing an obvious threat on set pieces.

Defender Ronald Araújo has been on a rapid ascent over the past 18 months, becoming a starter for Barcelona and the national team. Normally a center back, the 23-year-old lined up at right back in the final four qualifiers. He “engages in a lot of defensive duels and wins most of them,” while displaying shrewdness in possession and not taking risks. On the other side of the formation is Getafe’s Mathías Olivera, who made his senior international debut in January. His long dribbling runs often carry the attack into the final third, with his first instinct to push forward with tempo. Matías Viña of AS Roma might feature in the lineup, providing accurate crossing and long balls.

Matías Vecino is set to be a free agent after five seasons with Inter Milan. The 30-year-old central midfielder is a ball mover who lets the back line do the dirty work, looking to break the opponents’ lines with long passes. His partner is likely to be Real Madrid’s Federico Valverde, who pursues advancement through dribbling and shorter balls, helping to “dominate possession” from a deeper-lying area as the entire game “goes through him.” Breaking the Lines notes his ability to start counter-attacks and constantly provide support to teammates, playing “as a trigger, creator, and finisher of moves.” If the manager opts for a safer option, Lucas Torreira of Fiorentina rarely follows the run of play forward and “discourages the opponent from progressing through the middle of the field through his positioning.”

Facundo Pellistri made his senior international debut in January, rapidly becoming a favorite of the manager due to his high work-rate and direct play, despite experiencing minor adjustment struggles in Europe. He is described as having a “mischievous nature to his game” and possessing “a devastating turn of pace” along with “excellent ball control, agility, and skillful footwork.” The left-side winger should be Giorgian de Arrascaeta, who played a key role during qualifying with five goals and an assist in seven appearances. The Flamengo attacker is “one of the most creative players currently plying their trade in South America,” displaying “goal-scoring prowess, selflessness, magical dribbling ability, and aggressive defending.”

With Suárez out, the scoring burden falls on the prolific Edinson Cavani, coming off an injury-filled season with Manchester United. Fans of the sport should be familiar with his playing style based on intelligent movement: drifting in from the wing when in possession and on the counter-attack or carving out the crucial yard of space when receiving crosses. At second-striker is Darwin Núñez, whose initial ascent last summer was derailed by a knee injury. He responded by scoring 34 goals in 41 appearances for Benfica, with some of the world’s most extravagant clubs attempting to sign the 6’2” attacker described as a “ruthless finisher.” His modus operandi is a similar move to the back post from the left side, additionally playing with his back to defenders as an “integral” part of the build-up. This may overlap with his partner’s machinations, requiring one to occupy a more central role. The pair has a limited history together: most notably, a 2-0 loss to Brazil in 2020.

This is a streaky Uruguay side that is prone to the occasional terrible run of form, which makes the friendly a bit of a toss-up. The attacking prowess could overwhelm a sometimes disconnected American back line still determining a first string, particularly if the long-distance shooting is on target. The USMNT has a stern test ahead, which is a welcome challenge on the road to the World Cup.

The match is scheduled for Sunday, June 5th at 5:00 p.m. Eastern, 2:00 p.m. Pacific. Viewing options include FOX, TUDN USA, Univision, and FUBO TV (free trial).