Costa Rica vs USA preview
D-Albright, Barrett, Bocanegra, Califf, Lewis, Onyewu, Pope, Spector
M-Beasley, Clark, Convey, Martino, Mastroeni
F-Ching, Quaranta, Twellman
Not a lot of excitement over this one, as this game is meaningless for us. Costa Rica is almost certainly qualified regardless of what happens, as Guatemala needs to win in Mexico. There's still plenty to care about though, especially the roster dance for Germany 2006.
Howard is an obvious starter, as is the forward pairing of Ching and Twellman. And as always, if they aren't going to be used (especially now), then it was pointless to call the European guys in. Onyewu should start in the center with Bocanegra. I think Boca will start, since he didn't play in the last qualifiers, and he's been starting in the center for Fulham, so he should get a shot there against the Ticos. Pope will probably start the Panama game, with Califf or somebody (I'm guessing that most of the Euros will depart after this game like last time). Albright will almost certainly start on the right, and Lewis should get another chance to win the left back spot. Spector should get some playing time, but he may not start this game. Not sure where Bruce will play him either.
I really think Bruce will play the veterans in this game, and the youngsters against Panama. We already know a number of MLS players will be on that roster, who aren't on this one. This game, in a tough environment on the road, is a bigger challenge and also exemplifies the pressure the World Cup will put on the team. So that's why the guys who will make the roster should start this one. Mastroeni will start over Clark. Beasley and Convey will start in the midfield, and Convey will likely run the show in LD's role with Quaranta on the right. Martino has not done much in MLS and doesn't seem likely to get the call to start.
It's also possible that Lewis could start in midfield, freeing up a spot for Spector at LB and probably pushing Beasley to the right side. That would be interesting, but I'm not going to predict that:
Howard, Lewis, Bocanegra, Onyewu, Albright, Mastroeni, Beasley, Quaranta, Convey, Ching, Twellman
Out of those players, the forwards have the most to prove. Once again, Twellman needs to step up and score a goal or two. He won't get chances forever. He's having an MVP-calibre season, so he should be an international star. Ching was an unlikely guy to call up originally, but he's played well for the US. He's not guaranteed a World Cup place, so he needs to play well, but Twellman has more pressure. Albright and Quaranta need to step up and show they can preform in the big games. Last month, Albright played well against Guatemala and Quaranta did not.
The other guys are pretty much set, but they need the experience. You don't get many chances to play big international games. Costa Rica has more to play for, but we have played much better in qualifying. This has all the makings of another draw. Oh, and it will be played on the (in?)famous fieldturf at Saprissa. We haven't allowed a goal in a while in qualifying, but Costa Rica usually plays us tough.
Prediction: Costa Rica 1-1 USA