USA vs Paraguay, 7:00PM ET, June 11, 2016, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA

The USMNT Copa America Centenario journey to the #DangerZone continues on Saturday night with a crucial match against the tenacious Paraguay national team. USMNT can qualify for the quarterfinals with a win, and if they draw it’s almost a lock for them to make it as well. If they tie Paraguay they will move on to the quarterfinals as long as Colombia doesn’t lose to Costa Rica by six goals, which is about as likely as Michael Bradley showing up to the next game with dreadlocks. So again, here’s what USMNT needs to do: NOT LOSE. Hopefully that should set the tone for what kind of strategy Klinsmann will deploy in this match.

What Paraguay is going to try to do

Paraguayan midfielder Oscar Romero is out after getting a red card late in their last game against Colombia, so they’ll be down an attacking threat on an already weak attacking offense. Seattle Sounder Nelson Valdez may find himself back into the lineup because of this, but he’s pretty small and the USMNT backs are towering meat statues so I have a feeling he won’t be of much use to Paraguay. Paraguay is a scrappy, hard working, team though, so I’d expect a lot of pressure from them on the USMNT backs and deep lying midfielders while we try to work the ball out of the back.

What USMNT is going to try to do

You’d think that they’d be conservative, play for a draw or a one goal win, and smother the weak attack of a Paraguay team that was shutout four times in their last 9 games, but…

“This is already a knockout game on Saturday. This is it…We are not playing for one point. We cannot do that. It is not our character to go for one point. We go for the win.” – Jurgen “Danger Boy” Klinsmann (source: Sporting News)

Ummmm. Ok? A little more tact might be appropriate here, Jurgey. First off, not a knockout game. When a draw is almost certain qualification to the knockout rounds of a major tournament, you probably want to not say anything remotely close to what he said. He’s basically covering his German rear in case we actually do lose and then he can say I warned you.

In terms of lineup, Jurgen surprised many by keeping it unchanged from the Colombia game to the Costa Rica game. I could see that continuing, but you never know with Klinsmann.  What I do hope is we play a fairly controlled game at the back and not press the outside defenders too high up the pitch. I’m thinking longer balls up top to Dempsey and Wood to help stretch the Paraguay team back and not have Bradley trying to dribble through four rascals nibbling at his head every offensive possession.

What I think we’ll see on Saturday night is:

  • Jermaine Jones gets the start, and he should. The veteran midfielder is playing some of the best ball of his tumultuous career but he’s a wildcard out there. He definitely puts in the effort, and his role is to basically wander the pitch making things happen no matter where the ball is, but it could backfire pretty easily if his older legs get weary. He played 90 minutes on Tuesday and he’s not young anymore. I think we’ll see a mid-second-half sub for him, bringing in Nagbe for fresh legs and a very direct style of play which I think just about everyone south of Buffalo, NY is fond of.
  • Zardes should be bumped to the bench, but probably won’t be. Zusi should be out there instead, opposite of Wood, centered by Clint Dempsey up top. Zardes has had his chances but hasn’t really played well save for the first half of the Colombia game. Zusi continues to make an impact when he plays and deserves the shot. Wood, who had a very rough first half against Costa Rica, redeemed himself with that nice goal but I’m hoping he gets subbed out in the second half when he inevitably wears out. If we’re needing a goal Pulisic could get the nod but if we’re up a goal I’m hoping Beckerman gets put in and we move to a 4-4-2 or even 4-5-1 defensive positioning.
  • The back four will remain unchanged, PLEASE. Despite Fabian Johnson not loving playing defense, he’s our best option at left back and a good player overall. The central back pairing of Geoff Cameron and John Brooks is the power couple we’ve all dreamed of. Yedlin, who has the sneaky-annoying habit of giving away the ball in dangerous positions, is just too athletic and determined not to have out there and is definitely our best right back option.
  • Brad Guzan’s head continues to look like a soccer ball, and that’s really his only redeeming factor. Yes, he helps control the positioning of the back four which has been good lately. But have you seen the sheer terror in Guzan’s eyes anytime a cross is played anywhere remotely close to him? It’s something you can’t unsee. It blows my mind that Guzan is the best keeper in the United States of America. Doesn’t seem possible.

Score predictions

Hoff: USA 2 – 1 Paraguay – The USA plays a fairly controlled game, gets a goal from Jermaine Jones and Bobby Wood, then gives one up late to give everyone in America hives with 4 minutes to play. The goal comes off of a Guzan own goal.

Dice: USA 2 – 2 Paraguay – Pulisic gets a goal

Danny: USA 3 – 1 Paraguay – Nagbe on in the 65th minute and gets the final goal.  (Hoff edit: The previous three goals are all own goals)

 

The USMNT asking the fans where the bathroom is at Soldier Field