Guatemala: The tryouts begin
D–Albright, Conrad, Garcia, Hejduk, Marshall, Vanney
M–Armas, Convey, Dempsey, Mastroeni, Quaranta, Ralston
F–Cunningham, Donovan, Johnson, Twellman
Now comes the easy part: Using high-pressure, important games as a luxury to test unproven players. Away games in Guatemala and Costa Rica will not be easy, as we failed to win at either one in 2002 qualifying. I posted my thoughts on the World Cup roster two months ago. I'll do it again in a few days, now that we've qualified. But I don't believe much has changed. Quaranta is the only new guy that's come on strong, and I expect him to be given a start on Wednesday. Conrad has as well, and Convey has had a resurgance, putting both in the picture. But all of these guys need to impress to show Bruce that he can't afford to leave them behind (except for Hejduk, Donovan, Mastroeni and Johnson). Most of these guys will not make the World Cup roster. It's time to seperate the wheat from the chaff.
Let's predict a starting lineup logically. Hahnemann should get the start in goal. He's obviously ahead of Reis in the pecking order. Plus, Hahnemann and Convey are the only Euros on the roster still, so they both start.Garcia won't start since he wasn't there originally. Conrad and Marshall will be the center backs. Hejduk will start, it's just a matter of which side. I think Bruce knows more about what Vanney can do, plus he sent him back to Dallas for the weekend, so I think Albright starts on the right and Hejduk on the left.
In the midfield, Mastroeni takes over for Armas, and Convey for Beasley. Quaranta will get to show his stuff in place of Ralston. Donovan should remain in the lineup as the engine of the offense. I know he supposedly needs a rest, whatever. But he wouldn't be making the trip to sit on the bench. He could start up top, but I don't think so. Not with Reyna gone. Dempsey is deserving of another look, but I think he'll be on the bench for this one. Again, he was sent back to the Revs on Saturday.
Johnson, despite also going back to MLS, will probably start. He was a starter earlier in the year and needs to get back into the team. Twellman should get a rare start. He hasn't got many chances to start for the USA, and hopefully he can open up his account in Guatemala. I think Cunningham is the odd man out up top. I got 10/11 for Mexico; let's see how I do this time:
Hahnemann, Hejduk, Conrad, Marshall, Albright, Mastroeni, Convey, Quaranta, Donovan, Johnson, Twellman
They will face a big challenge against a Guatemala team that badly needs to win. They threw it away against Trinidad, and despite a lackluster hex campaign, it will be a hard game. Our relatively untested guys are up to the task, but we might be due for a letdown. We can't win them all. I think I've predicted a win in every USA game since I started blogging regularly in June, so this time I'm gonna have to go with the draw. Don't look now, but that would extend our undefeated streak, currently at 10 games. We could easily break the 16 game one we had earlier this year!
Prediction: USA 0-0 Guatemala