Who: The United States vs. Trinidad and Tobago
What: World Cup 2010 qualifying, CONCACAF final round
When: 7:30 p.m. ET, Wednesday, April 1 2009
Where: LP Field; Nashville, Tennessee
TV: ESPN 2 and Galavision
By Noah Davis
Just four days after an inspired comeback against El Salvador salvaged a point for the United States Men's National Team, Bob Bradley leads his troops to Nashville, Tennessee for a match against Trinidad and Tobago. After two games in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, the Americans sit on four points, alone atop the six-team tournament, while their opponents have two after ties with the Cuscatlecos and Honduras. For the U.S., the tilt offers an opportunity to right the ship after what can only be considered a slip-up over the weekend. For T and T, it represents an opportunity to pull off the upset El Salvador couldn't.
Déjà Vu All Over Again
While most teams in the region are familiar with each other, the U.S. and T and T are even more so, having played twice in the third round of CONCACAF qualifying as the duo both earned the right to represent Group 1 in the Hexagonal. The Americans won the first match, a 3-0 victory in Chicago, while the Soca Warriors handed an already qualified U.S. team its only defeat in the round on the return leg. Since it's early in qualifying and Bradley needs a win badly, Wednesday's affair should mimic the first game more than the second. That said, the El Salvador debacle proved there are no easy games -- a mantra the U.S. coach repeated ad nauseam yet one that still seemed to be lost on his players.
"We Gotta Start Makin' Changes"
The failings over the weekend came from many different spots -- the entire U.S. team looked apathetic for the first hour -- but no one struggled more than Sacha Kljestan. It was his second poor performance in a row and it's becoming clear that he needs a bit more seasoning before being handed the keys to the American offense. On the other hand, Jose Francisco Torres changed the tenor of the El Salvador match when he entered, playing fearlessly and brilliantly. With the Pachua midfielder and old hat Pablo Mastroeni available, the likelihood of Kljestan seeing the pitch seems slim. On a similar note, one wonders whether Bradley will give Jonathan Bornstein -- who replaced goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann in Nashville -- a start at left back in place of Heath Pearce, who also struggled in Central America. Or, will the U.S. manager give up on both of his underachieving fullbacks and slot DaMarcus Beasley at the position?
"Hit Me With Your Best Shot"
At this point in the tournament, the Soca Warriors have to feel good about their position. Had the team managed to hold a two-goal second half lead on the road in El Salvador, T and T would be tied with the U.S. for first place, but it remains a mere two points behind the Hex leaders. With Honduras stumbling out of the gate, while Mexico, Costa Rica, and Americans struggle as well, the World Cup spots are up for grabs in a way that not many would have predicted before the tournament began. The Caribbean nation has plenty of work to do, but a trip to South Africa isn't out of the question.
Projected U.S. Lineup
----------------------- Howard --------------------
Hedjuk -- Bocanegra -- Onyewu -- Bornstein
Dempsey ---- Bradley ---- Torres ---- Beasley
--------- Donovan -------------- Ching ----------
Projected Trinidad and Tobago Lineup
---------------------- Williams --------------------
Leon ------ Edwards ----- Thomas ------Wolfe
Daniel --- Edwards ---- Theobald --- Scotland
-------------- John ----------- Jones --------------
United States 3-0 Trinidad and Tobago
Noah Davis covers the United States Men's National Team for Goal.com.