Who: United States vs. Czech Republic
What: International Friendly
When: Tuesday, May 25, 2010; 8 p.m. ET
Where: Rentschler Field; East Hartford, CT
At long last, the United States Men's National Team sits less than a week away from departing for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. But first, the Americans play two Send-Off Series matches. The first takes place on Tuesday night against the Czech Republic at Rentschler Field. The European side failed to qualify for the month-long tournament but will still provide a test to a U.S. squad with plenty of questions to answer. The fixture in Connecticut offers the Americans an opportunity to extract some measure of revenge for a loss in the 2006 World Cup's opening game, but Bob Bradley will have two more important goals on the night: Determining his final 23-man roster and assessing the status of the walking wounded. Virtually every player has something to play for -- whether it's a place on the team or a starting spot -- so expect lots of effort, a full slate of substitutes, and a victory for the Stars and Stripes.
From 30 to 23
Seven Americans who participated in the Princeton, New Jersey training camp won't be on the plane to South Africa. Due to form or fitness, Robbie Rogers, Chad Marshall, and Eddie Johnson are likely already out of the running, but the match against the Czechs represents one of the final, and certainly the best, opportunity for some guys on the bubble to impress Bradley and his staff. Two names that emerge are Alejandro Bedoya and Heath Pearce. The former footballer's perceived competition, DaMarcus Beasley, sounds like a lock, but Bedoya can make the roster as well if he proves his mettle. He'll have a half to show what he can contribute. Pearce might not get an opportunity, but the FC Dallas defender could see the pitch and give the coach a reason to take him to South Africa.
Starting to Take Shape
Due a seemingly never-ending run of injuries, Bradley's central defense remains in tatters. Oguchi Onyewu should take the pitch in a live match for the first time since October, a vital step for the A.C. Milan defender's timing. Whether Carlos Bocanegra (sports hernia surgery) or Jay DeMerit (vision) start next to him remains to be seen. (If neither can go, Clarence Goodson will fill in.) The health of the duo will determine where Steve Cherundolo, Jonathan Spector, Jonathan Bornstein, and Pearce fit. One silver lining to the rash of injuries is the fact that Bradley used many combinations of defenders during 2009. Still, the manger wants to travel to South Africa with a healthy outfit.
Czeching Out America
On Saturday, the European side fell 2-1 to Turkey at Red Bull Arena in a match that wasn't as close as the scoreline would indicate. Michal Bilek's side, which didn't qualify for the World Cup after finishing third in Group 3, is missing some of its best players, including Tomas Rosicky. Second-half substitute Milan Cerny scored his team's only goal and should earn a start. The trip to the States represents an opportunity for some younger Czech players to earn time and Bilek will substitute liberally. (He used all six against Turkey.) Even so, there's not much to play for and after a long season, the players will be content to get a run in, show off for the crowd, and call it a night. Don't expect brilliance from the Czech effort.
Projected U.S. Line Up
Projected Czech Republic Line Up
United States 2-1 Czech Republic
Noah Davis (@noahedavis) covers the United States Men's National Team for Goal.com and will be reporting from South Africa.
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