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USMNT v. Paraguay, 2018 friendly: Scouting Paraguay

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A talented Paraguay side featuring MLS star Miguel Almiron looks to defeat a young U.S. squad.

The United States Men’s National Team and Paraguay will look to get over the shared disappointment of failing to qualify for the World Cup, as the two sides meet in a friendly on March 27th. Paraguay was disappointing in World Cup Qualifying, finishing 7th out of the 10 teams in CONMEBOL. Despite this failure, the team possess several talented players and should provide a tough test for an inexperienced U.S. side.

Paraguay comes into the game with a 2-3 record in its last five fixtures, but all of those losses were by one goal. La Albirroja is 2-3-2 all-time against the USMNT, with the most recent meeting ending in a 1-0 U.S. victory during the 2016 Copa America Centenario.

Paraguay Roster:

Goalkeepers (2): Roberto Fernandez (Botafogo/BRA; 0/0), Alfredo Aguilar (Olimpia; 0/0)

Defenders (6): Junior Alonso (Lille/FRA; 16/1), Fabian Balbuena (Corinthians/BRA; 5/0), Luis de la Cruz (Guarani; 0/0), Gustavo Gomez (AC Milan/ITA; 27/2), Juan Patiño (Olimpia; 3/0), Bruno Valdez (Club America/MEX; 20/1)

Midfielders (10): Miguel Almiron (Atlanta United FC/USA; 12/0), Nestor Camacho (Olimpia; 8/1), Cecilio Dominguez (Club America/MEX; 9/0), Derlis Gonzalez (Dinamo Kiev/UKR; 28/4), Richard Ortiz (Olimpia; 29/5), Hernan Perez (Deportivo Alaves/ESP; 29/1), Cristian Riveros (Libertad; 101/16), Juan Rojas (Cerro Porteño; 15/0), Oscar Romero (Shanghai Shenhua/CHN; 34/2), Richard Sanchez (Olimpia; 0/0)

Forwards (3): Roberto Ovelar (Millonarios/COL; 0/0), Angel Romero (Corinthians/BRA; 12/2), Federico Santander (FC Copenhagen/DEN; 14/1)

The team is mostly composed of first choice players, although several from Paraguay’s last match (a 2-1 qualifying loss to Venezuela) were not selected. Interim coach Gustavo Morinigo is likely to deploy a 4-5-1. Depending on how aggressive he wants the team to play, the formation may appear to be a 4-3-3 when Paraguay is attacking. It’s unclear how Morinigo will approach this game, but I’m operating under the assumption that he will put out his strongest starting XI.

Roberto Junior Fernandez is the best goalkeeper on the roster and has been a regular starter for Brazilian side Botafogo. Fernandez is a solid shot stopper, who isn’t afraid to use his whole body to make saves. He also excels at stopping penalities.

Gustavo Gomez is arguably the best central defender on the roster, but I would be slightly surprised if he starts. He has only played 10 minutes this season for A.C. Milan. Lille defender Junior Alonso should get the nod at left-back. Alonso is a regular starter in Ligue 1, but he and the whole team have struggled mightily this season. Alonso is a good passer who prefers to play his way out of the back and avoid long clearances. His primary weakness is his 1 v. 1 defending and his lack of pace could make him a liability in this game.

Look for Bruno Valdez to partner with Fabian Balbuena in central defense. Valdez is an excellent tackler and 1 v. 1 defender. Like many of the defenders on this roster, Valdez is quite slow. Balbuena has been in excellent form for Corinthians this season and has a great soccer IQ. He makes up for his lack of pace with good positioning and is strong in the air. Juan Patino should get the nod at right-back. It’s hard to find information about him, but he appears to be playing well for first place Paraguayan side Olimpia.

Projected Lineup:

Richard Ortiz and Cristian Riveros will likely start as defensive midfielders. Riveros is the most experienced player on the roster, with 100 caps. He is a hard-tackler with a powerful shot. Richard Ortiz has great pace and is also capable of playing left-back. Ortiz is a true two-way player and while he rarely scores, when he does it’s often spectacular.

Miguel Almiron should get the nod at center attacking midfield. The Atlanta United star is a typical #10 with an incredible passing range and great vision. He will likely be key to Paraguay’s chance creation. Expect Derlis Gonzalez to start on the right wing. Gonzalez is a tricky winger who crosses the ball well and frequently looks to cut inside and shoot. While he is undoubtedly talented, Gonzalez has struggled to hold down a starting spot this season with Dynamo Kiev. He needs to improve his finishing as he has scored just four goals in 26 appearances for his country. Gonzalez was linked with a move to the Seattle Sounders last summer, but that transfer is now dead.

Oscar Romero will likely feature on the left wing. Romero is arguably Paraguay’s most talented player, but he has struggled to find consistency since moving to Shanghai Shenhua in 2017. He is a technically gifted playmaker with a cultured left foot, but like Gonzalez he doesn’t score as often as he should. Romero has started the Chinese Super League season well with a goal and an assist in the first three matches.

Federico Santander should feature at striker. The 6’2’’ FC Copenhagen man is a classic target man who is lethal in the air. He rarely scores from outside the eighteen, but has 6 goals and 4 assists in 14 league appearances this season.

Expect a tightly contested match between these two sides. Paraguay has the edge in experience, but many of its top players have been in poor form in recent weeks. The key battles between the two teams will take place in the midfield. The team with the better midfield will likely win the game.