USA - Barbados Preview
|6/15-United States vs. Barbados - Carson - 5 p.m.|
6/22-Barbados vs. United States - Bridgetown - 3 p.m.
(All times Eastern)
The states are huge favorites against the Barbadians, who struggled to get by Dominica (2-1 on aggregate) in the first round. With slightly less than 300,000 people, Barbados has a population around 1,000 times smaller than the US. While the gap in soccer talent may not be quite that wide, it's still pretty big. Crystal Palace midfielder Paul Ifill is the top player and only notable foreign based member for the Caribbean team. Alvin Rouse should start at goalkeeper; he's played in Ireland for a few years, though he was just released. But most of the Barbados team plays at home, including captain Norman Forde.
Meanwhile, the US features many players on top flight clubs all over Europe. The US will probably start the same lineup it featured against Argentina. The only question marks are in the center of midfield (Michael Bradley and Pablo Mastroeni?) and if there are any better options up top than Eddie Johnson (at least we know he can score against middling CONCACAF competition).
Neither team has faired well in friendlies leading up to the qualifiers. Of course, the USA's failure to win against England (0-2), Spain (0-1), and Argentina (0-0) is just a bit different than Barbados' losses at home to England C and twice at Bermuda, 1-2 and 0-3. England C, by the way, are a team made of the best non-league players (i.e. Conference and below) in the English game. So looking at that result, it's hard to take Barbados as any kind of a threat.
The first game in California should set the tone of the series. Anything less than a three goal victory will be seen a huge upset for the visitors, though with a little luck and better finishing the margin could easily be higher than that. Four years ago, it took a last minute Greg Vanney goal to seal a 3-0 win over Grenada. That match featured the US almost ending the first half without a goal despite dominating (in a half-full Crew Stadium). The series ended 6-2 in favor of the Americans after a 3-2 away win in horrible conditions; the field in Grenada featured standing water. It wasn't as close as the 6-2 aggregate sounds.
Barbados is probably a better team than Grenada, though they lack the star power. They've at least managed to get to the semifinal round in the past (2002), where they famously beat Costa Rica in the opening match before losing the remaining five. Barbados played the US in that group, and the US won 7-0 at home and 4-0 away in that memorable must-win match. While the margin of victory this time around may not reach 11 goals, it should certainly be at least 5. I'll go on record predicting a 5-0 home win and a 3-0 away win for a total of 8-0.