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USA vs. Wales, 2020 friendly: Scouting Wales

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Wales v Bulgaria - UEFA Nations League Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

The United States Men’s National Team are in camp for the first time since January, as they have begun to congregate at their camp in Swansea. Their first opponent is the opponent they were set to face in March before the coronavirus pandemic shut down sports: Wales. Wales, the 20th ranked team in the world according to the FIFA World Rankings, will host the USMNT at Liberty Stadium, the home of Swansea City, on Thursday. They also host Ireland and Finland in UEFA Nations League play after they play the USMNT.

To prepare for Nations League play, Wales brought a 27-man roster to camp, and while some notable players are missing, one big name looms:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Tom King (Newport County), Danny Ward (Leicester City), Owain Fôn Williams (Dunfermline Athletic)

DEFENDERS (10): Ethan Ampadu (Sheffield United), Ben Davies (Tottenham Hotspur), Chris Gunter (Charlton Athletic), James Lawrence (FC St. Pauli), Tom Lockyer (Luton Town), Chris Mepham (Bournemouth), Rhys Norrington-Davies (Luton Town),Connor Roberts (Swansea City), Joe Rodon (Tottenham Hotspur), Neco Williams (Liverpool)

MIDFIELDERS (9): David Brooks (Bournemouth), Daniel James (Manchester United), Brennan Johnson (Lincoln City), Dylan Levitt (Charlton Athletic), Joe Morrell (Luton Town), Josh Sheehan (Newport County), Matthew Smith (Doncaster Rovers), Jonny Williams (Charlton Athletic), Harry Wilson (Cardiff City)

FORWARDS (5): Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur), Tom Lawrence (Derby County), Rabbi Matondo (Schalke 04), Kieffer Moore (Cardiff City), Tyler Roberts (Leeds United)

Gareth Bale, the Wales captain and one of the most expensive players in the world, returns to the squad after missing the October window with a knee injury. He helps boost their chances in the Nations League as they wrap up League B play this month. Regulars missing from this lineup include starting midfielder Aaron Ramsey, #1 goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey, and forward Hal Robson-Kanu. Still, this is a young roster, with 10 players having 5 or fewer caps and an average age of 24.2 years old.

Wales is coached by Ryan Giggs, but Giggs will not be on the sidelines for the match against the USMNT on Thursday. He was temporarily removed from the team last week and will not coach during this window after he was arrested on suspicion of assaulting his girlfriend in a domestic dispute. Rob Page will lead the team in Giggs’ absence.

Wales traditionally employs a 4-2-3-1, particularly with Bale in the lineup. With Bale back on the roster and with the captain’s armband, look for Cymru to have a similar lineup:

Projected Wales Starting XI

It’s possible they employ a 3-4-1-2, as they did in their most recent match against Bulgaria. The 4-2-3-1 is the one we’ve seen more under Ryan Giggs, and with the personnel in their camp, we should expect that formation on Thursday. The idea for them will be to allow Gareth Bale and Harry Wilson to create the attack from the middle and the right side, with Daniel James coming in from the left and providing options on the flank. Kieffer Moore can finish in the box, so they’re going to take some shots and test any defense. Still, they don’t score a lot, only scoring 3 goals in Nations League play. They are traditionally very sound defensively and will seek to snuff out any attack. They have not allowed a goal in 2020. The vulnerability seems to be in the middle, where they have a lot of bodies but not a lot of experience. Controlling the middle will be the #1 key to the game.

The match between the USMNT and Wales kicks off Thursday at 2:45pm ET, and can be seen on FS1, UniMas, or TUDN (Fubo TV free trial).