The United States begin their slate of pre-World Cup friendlies by hosting Bolivia at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pennsylvania. For the USMNT, it’s a chance to evaluate the youth as a roster averaging 22 years of age is available tomorrow. Bolivia, a team that also did not make the World Cup, will also be preparing for the future as they have an inexperienced roster. The United States last played Bolivia in 2016 as a warm up for Copa America Centenario, a 4-0 victory that was memorable for it being where Christian Pulisic scored his first international goal. Bolivia is still a tough team and has the work ethic and skill to defeat a team that has had zero continuity the past 7 months. Still, even with the constant upheaval of the USMNT roster since that fateful night in Trinidad, the team has still been getting results. They will seek to continue that in Chester on Memorial Day.
W (1-0) - Paraguay - Friendly
D (0-0) - Bosnia and Herzegovina- Friendly
D (1-1) - Portugal - Friendly
L (1-2) - Trinidad and Tobago - WCQ
W (4-0) - Panama - WCQ
L (0-1) - Curaçao - Friendly
D (1-1) - Curaçao - Friendly
L (2-4) - Uruguay - WCQ
D (0-0) - Brazil - WCQ
W (1-0) - Chile - WCQ
What To Watch For
Shoot your shot: This is meant in two ways. First, the United States must take their chances to score when they receive them. Bolivia has not been terrific defensively lately and hopefully some of the speed that players like Tim Weah, Christian Pulisic, Andrija Novakovich and Josh Sargent provide, they should be able to get around the Bolivian defense and create chances inside the final third. Take their shots on goal. But, this is also about opportunity. These players have an opportunity to make an impression for everyone who will be watching. Can they leave their mark on the field and in the minds of fans and coaches alike? Who will be able to separate themselves from the rest of the player pool? This is a unique opportunity, and these players should not waste it.
Control the middle: Our strength should be in the middle against Bolivia, where some of our creativity exists. We have been looking forward to the pairing of Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie for a long time, and the two friends should have an opportunity to turn Bolivia’s defense into Swiss cheese. Whoever is paired on the other side with them can also get in on the action. This game will be won from box to box, and if the United States can control possession, they are going to have the space to create some scoring chances and show some of the flair that some of these players have.
Make the most of counter attacks: One thing that the USMNT doesn’t do well traditionally is punch opposition in the gut via the counter attack. Our passing has not been accurate enough or quick enough for a consistent counter attack to materialize. But, I think what our personnel provides is a chance to actually do some damage on the counter. Quick, crisp, accurate passes can put Bolivia on its toes, allowing some of our speed to take advantage. Can the center mids lead the attack? Many of them come from leagues that traditionally have more open attacks, and hopefully they can bring that mentality to this match. They can spread the field and create some open lanes, and if they do, watch out.
I think interim manager Dave Sarachan would like to utilize more of his midfield, and the fact that he only brought two forwards to Pennsylvania (with a couple more that can slide into that role) means that we could be looking at a 4-5-1 formation:
At the back, I think in the quest to find a #1 keeper, Alex Bono will get his first start to see if he can keep the ball out of the net. I will not be surprised to see Bill Hamid get the nod in the 2nd half, as he is the most experienced goalkeeper on this roster and will probably be one of the shotstoppers that continues with the team to Europe.
On the back line, I think Jorge Villafana will be there to provide some experience. Matt Miazga and Cameron Carter-Vickers will be a pairing people will look to as a potential pairing of the future in the middle. On the right, we have Matthew Olosunde getting the start to see what he can do.
In the middle, we have two defensive mids in Weston McKennie and Keaton Parks. With Tim Weah and Julian Green on the wings, it leaves room in the middle for Christian Pulisic to be the creator and also take his chances on the attack. The partnership between McKennie and Pulisic has been highly anticipated and with Pulisic free to move in the middle and the right, there could be a lot of production.
Finally, up top Andrija Novakovich gets the start over Josh Sargent, as I think he showed quite well in his debut against Paraguay back in March and gives us a taller look without sacrificing quickness. I do expect Sargent to also get minutes later in the match, and we will get to see another duo try to make their mark together when he pairs with Tim Weah.
On Memorial Day, the USMNT is going to start out sluggish, but will quickly get into rhythm. I think we will find that some of these kids have the tools to stay on the international scene for a long time, and one of them not named Christian Pulisic will have a breakout performance. With that, the United States defeat Bolivia 3-0.