The United States heads into tonight's World Cup qualifier against Antigua and Barbuda with just one goal -- three points. At this point, style points do not matter and the focus is supposedly on just this contest instead of any upcoming matches, except that they kind of have to think ahead. That is because four players are carrying yellow cards into the match and will be suspended for Tuesday's vital qualifier against Guatemala if they are cautioned tonight.
Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu, Jermaine Jones and Graham Zusi are the four carrying yellow cards so all will have to be careful of picking up another tonight. Luckily for the U.S. all are midfielders, which happens to be the deepest position on the team so if anyone does get suspended against Guatemala, he will be replaced from a position of strength.
There is the negative, though, being the high quality of player that the U.S. could be without that cannot be replaced even with the Americans' midfield depth. Bradley is the best central midfielder in CONCACAF and the U.S. clearly missed him when he was out injured last month, Jurgen Klinsmann adores Jones and with the team short on players who can play wide, they cannot afford to lose Zusi. Fabian Johnson is also a yellow card away from suspension, but he will miss the match with the flu.
Obviously, the most likely of the quartet to pick up another card is Jones, who isn't exactly the most cool-headed of players. Bradley has also been known to pick up a card here or there as well. Then again, this is a road match in CONCACAF, where anyone can get a card any time for doing anything, or nothing.
Guatemala is the more important match of the two and the U.S. need a result out of that match no matter what. They are also the tougher opponent, even in the U.S. as opposed to tonight's road match. Is it possible that Klinsmann sits one of the four tonight solely to make sure he is available on Tuesday?
Whatever the approach, the U.S. need to get, and should get three points against Antigua and Barbuda, but all eyes are not just on this match. Tuesday is looming and the Americans are a yellow card to one of four players away from heading to Kansas City down yet another man or two in addition to their several wounded.