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USMNT vs. Portugal: Scouting Portugal

A veteran-laden Portuguese team could make things difficult for the USMNT.

Portugal v Mexico: Play-Off for Third Place - FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017 Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images

A talented Portugal B team will look to defeat an inexperienced United States side as the two teams meet next Tuesday. This Portuguese side isn’t particularly young, but features many veteran players who are inexperienced on the international level. Portugal is missing many regulars, including Cristiano Ronaldo, Joao Moutinho, Nani, Fabio Coentrao, and Rui Patricio. Despite the absence of these star players, this Portuguese side still packs a lot of skill.

Roster

Goalkeepers (3): Anthony Lopes (Olympique Lyonnais), Beto (Goztepe), José Sá (FC Porto)

Defenders (9): Antunes (Getafe), Edgar Ié (Lille), Kevin Rodrigues (Real Sociedad), João Cancelo (Inter Milan), Luís Neto (Fenerbahçe), Nélson Semedo (Barcelona), Pepe (Besiktas), Ricardo Ferreira (Braga), Ricardo Pereira (FC Porto)

Midfielders (6): Bernardo Silva (Manchester City), Bruno Fernandes (Sporting Clube de Portugal), Danilo Pereira (FC Porto), João Mário Joao Mario (Inter Milan), Manuel Fernandes (Lokomotiv Moscow), Rúben Neves (Wolverhampton)

Forwards (6): André Silva (AC Milan), Bruma (RB Leipzig), Éder (Lokomotiv Moscow), Gelson Martins (Sporting CP), Gonçalo Guedes (Valencia), Rony Lopes (AS Monaco)

Projected Lineup

Look for head coach Fernando Santos to use either a 4-4-2 or 4-3-3. It’s difficult to predict what Santos’ Starting XI will be with this experimental roster:

It wouldn’t be surprising to see any of the three goalkeepers start, but I’m predicting Anthony Lopes gets the nod. Lopes is having a rather average season in Ligue 1, but he has been a top keeper in France for several years. He isn’t the tallest goalkeeper (6’0’’), but his athleticism allows him to make impressive saves. Lopes’ main weakness is that he struggles distributing the ball.

Pepe is one of the few players who is all but assured a place in the starting lineup. The former Real Madrid man is a physical centerback who will provide important leadership for this inexperienced team. His biggest flaw is that he struggles passing out of the back. Luis Neto has a good chance to partner with Pepe in central defense. Neto is an excellent tackler and much better distributor than Pepe. He has trouble remaining calm and commits many fouls.

Vitorino Antunes should get the nod at left back. Antunes is a constant offensive threat due to his excellent crossing and impressive pace. He often holds onto the ball too long and almost never wins aerial battles. Barcelona man Nelson Semedo will feature at right back. Although he has struggled to break into the Barca lineup, he is still a talented player. Semedo is an incredible athlete and will undoubtedly be the fastest player on the pitch. Despite his raw talent, he needs to work on his positioning, as he struggles with timing when to join the attack. Additionally, Semedo’s man marking is quite poor for a player at the international level.

Look for Danilo Pereira to start as a defensive midfielder. Pereira is a prototypical defensive midfielder who tackles hard and has an incredible work rate, but offers little in attack. João Mário will likely start as an attacking midfielder. Mario creates many chances for his teammates with his lethal passing and is a highly skilled dribbler. His finishing and tackling are quite poor.

Manchester City midfielder Bernardo Silva should get the nod on the left wing. Silva, like Mario, is an talented creator and can embarrass defenders with his dribbling. While his attacking qualities are enviable, he does not track back enough and offers little help to his defenders. Bruno Fernandes may be given an opportunity to start at right midfield. He is having a great year for Sporting CP with 6 goals and 2 assists in 11 Portuguese League games. He is quite capable of scoring from distance and is a very accurate crosser. Like Bernardo Silva, Fernandes does not work hard enough defensively.

Gelson Martins is likely to feature at forward. Martins has electric pace and very good hold up play, though he rarely wins crosses in the air and lacks positional awareness. AC Milan striker Andre Silva has become a regular for Portugal, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Fernando Santos give an opportunity to one of the less experienced forwards on the roster. Look for Gonçalo Guedes to partner Martins up top. Guedes is having a great season for Valencia (3 goals and 5 assists in 9 appearances) and is equally dangerous as a playmaker and finisher. He likes to start out on the wing and cut inside to shoot. Guedes isn’t a particularly skilled dribbler and needs to work on his hold up play.

While this Portuguese side is full of players with little international experience, it will be far older than the USMNT roster that will appear in Leiria. For several of these players, it may be their last chance to break into the national team. I’m predicting a 3-1 Portugal victory.