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USA vs. Italy, 2018 friendly: What to watch for

Can the USMNT rebound and get a result against the Azzurri?

England v United States - International Friendly Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

The United States Men’s National Team will take on Italy tomorrow in their last match in 2018. In a year that had a lot of turnover, many youth players getting a shot on the international stage, and lots of questions about who will be the person to take control of the program, the USMNT has pushed along. They have a 3-4-3 record this year, and will look to end the year at .500 against the Azzurri, who have not had a successful year either. Each team may be looking to the future, but it’s time to see which team’s present is brighter.

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What To Watch For

Control the midfield. Possession has been a problem for the USMNT this fall, and to create scoring chances, they’re going to need to have the ability to string together some passes. Wil Trapp is going to have to perform much better to get the offense generated and place the ball in positions where some of the faster players can get downfield and make some plays. Tyler Adams will be useful in hopefully increasing the production of the midfield, but the rest of the midfield has to work to get open to receive some of these passes. The key to this game is winning the midfield, and if these guys can work hard and make better passes, they will create more opportunities that could be the difference.

Bend, don’t break. The defense wasn’t great against England, to say the least. They’re going to have to recognize that they may not be able to hold some of the better attacking players in the world, but they can still use effort to track back and close down passing and shooting lanes inside the final third. Defense will be something that all 11 guys on the field will have to do tomorrow, so bend if they need to. Just don’t break. Too many times, we’ve been broken and that doesn’t help our momentum. It sounds like an easy thing to do, but it’s been something that the USMNT has struggled with all year.

Do something offensively. Christian Pulisic cannot generate all of the offense. Someone else will have to step up. Can Josh Sargent be that guy tomorrow? Maybe Romain Gall, who has been hot in Sweden, can show that he’s ready for the international stage? Either way, the team can’t score if they aren’t forward thinking offensively. Running into open space, finding open men, getting shots on frame. Disrupt the Italian defense and give them every reason to have to work. We have 90 minutes left in 2018...let’s generate some offense.

Lineup Prediction

Dave Sarachan will likely make some changes from the lineup that he put out against England, but the shape will still be similar. Expect some of the normal faces, but it’s also likely that some new faces get some playing time.

USMNT vs. Italy

In goal, it’s likely that Brad Guzan gets a do-over and starts, but expect Ethan Horvath to also get some playing time against the Italians. On defense, the right side will likely remain the same with Matt Miazga in the middle and DeAndre Yedlin at right back. On the left, while we could see Jorge Villafaña at left back, it’s possible that Sarachan opts to try out Shaq Moore at left back to see if he can handle both sides of the defense. In the middle, John Brooks gets a break and Cameron Carter-Vickers gets the start.

Christian Pulisic was really the lone person who was dangerous against England, and he did most of his damage down the middle. Moving him to attack mid is what Sarachan can do to create more opportunities. Wil Trapp will still be Sarachan’s guy with the armband in the defensive middle, and with Weston McKennie departing the team due to injury, Tyler Adams will get the start alongside him. On the wings, look for Tim Weah to be on the left, primarily because of his ability to help out Shaq Moore on the left with tracking back on defense, and Romain Gall will get his debut start on the right. Maybe that will be what the team needs to disrupt Italy’s possession and create some scoring opportunities.

Up top, Josh Sargent will get the nod to see if he can create some opportunities, but look for Sarachan to go to his bench early and often. He will not want to tire out some of the MLS players who still have playoff matches to worry about.

Match Prediction

This is a chance for the Americans to end the year on a high note and show that there’s some promise as we look forward to 2019. Unfortunately, the high note will also have to wait for next year. There won’t be a lot of offense generated by the USMNT, and Italy will capitalize on one of their many chances. It’s a 1-0 defeat to the USMNT, but one where they will look much better than they did against England.