USMNT Scheduling – Doing it Right

The USMNT has scheduled its two World Cup friendlies prior to the June tournament and I don’t think it could have done much better. US Soccer scheduled games against Turkey and the Czech Republic in May and both teams should provide a stern test and help sharpen the US team prior to facing England, Algeria and Slovakia.

These teams contrast greatly with the minnows that were scheduled in the run up to the 2006 World Cup. The US played Poland in Germany, followed by May games against Jamaica, Venezuela, and Morocco. Disturbingly the latter three games were against poor opposition that also didn’t reflect at all the sort of opposition the US would be facing at the World Cup, since the US would face two top-notch European clubs and arguably the best sub-Saharan African team. Some speculated at the time whether these games were intended to raise the confidence of the US team prior to the tournament – or to put it differently Arena didn’t want to schedule a friendly against a good Euro team that could end up squashing the confidence that the USMNT possessed going into the tournament. This clearly backfired. Not only did the US look shell-shocked facing the Czech’s but playing three weak teams gave Bruce Arena false confidence in some of his squad choices, most notably Eddie Lewis, who was exposed at left back against the Czechs.

Turkey and the Czech Republic not only provide stiff competition, but they should give the US a bit of a preview for their competition. The Czech Republic, although not the same quality of four years ago, is still outstanding and is great preparation for Slovenia. Turkey, although this is a bit more arguable, provides a good warm-up game for Algeria, as Turkey plays a quick attacking style featuring clever and athletic players. They should offer a different style than the Czechs will.

While many US fans have been loathe to give Bob Bradley credit, one thing is clear is that the US has challenged itself extensively over the last four years against the world’s elite teams. I think this can only help the US going into June.

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