Preview: Young US side faces Chile at HDC

While defenders vie for spots, McCarty also one to watch

Omar Gonzalez vs. Brazil

Photo Credit: 
Getty Images

The Basics

United States vs. Chile in an international friendly on Saturday at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.

TV

TeleFutura and ESPN3.com (10 pm ET)

Overview

The
United States national team begins the 2011 campaign with a match
against Chile, but both the Stars and Stripes and their South American
counterparts will feature squads lacking in first-team talent. Only
forward Esteban Paredes joined coach Marcelo Bielsa at the World Cup,
while Bob Bradley one-upped his fellow coach by not calling a single
member of the 23-man roster that traveled to South Africa. This is a
match about both countries' youth movements.

As a result, the
result doesn't really matter. Both managers would enjoy a victory, but
the focus is on individual performances. Bradley wants to see how his
inexperienced squad rises to the occasion after a 17-day training camp.

"This
whole camp starts with trying to build things on a foundation of
certain ideas," Bradley said Thursday. "That foundation is still getting
[the players] to understand a little bit more what happens technically,
tactically when the games get faster. So a lot of the general stuff
that happens during training helps that and then as we get closer we try
to create some situations in training where it's tighter, it's faster
and they start to understand what the game might be like."

Many
of the Chilean players will looking to earn their first caps and
battling nerves far from home, although their supporters likely
purchased a significant number of the 11,000-plus tickets sold by noon
on Thursday. They'll be hoping to impress Bielsa and earn a spot on the
team that participates in this summer's Copa América in Argentina.

They'll play hard, but ultimately the Americans will prevail in a wide-open affair.

US

Bradley
believes the opponent will present an important test to his side,
especially considering his charges' lack of experience.

"I think
they'll test us because Chile comes out and presses and is a team that
can fly," he said. "Fly forward. Fly back. And so our ability to handle
that kind of tempo and that kind of pressure will be very important."

That
starts in the back, where Omar Gonzalez and Tim Ream will likely team
in central defense. Both men earned their first caps in 2010 – the
former against Brazil while the latter traveled to South Africa in
November – and will compete for a starting spot in the near future. The
Gold Cup isn't out of reach for either, although they could be fighting
for one spot.

In the midfield, Bradley should
give Mikkel Diskerud some time to demonstrate how his creativity
translates against a quick, pressing side. Alejandro Bedoya will likely
anchor one flank, while Brek Shea will look to improve upon a poor debut
that came in the October match against Colombia.

Juan Agudelo,
Teal Bunbury and Chris Wondolowski – the only true strikers on the
roster – will split time, with all three likely getting a shot. (US
Soccer lists Eugene Starikov as a midfielder, but the new face could
find himself up top as well.) The former two are the future, although
the San Jose Earthquakes revelation of last season isn't ready to
concede the position to the youth movement just yet.

Chile

Bielsa
led his squad to the knockout stage of the 2010 World Cup, but this
team barely resembles the one that fell to Brazil in the Round of 16.
Colo-Colo's Paredes might have needed nametags at first. (For that
matter, the coach probably could have used them as well.) Midfielders
Fernando Meneses (Universidad Católica) and Felipe Seymour (Universidad
de Chile) should start, but beyond that, it's a guessing game.

One
thing is certain: Bielsa's teams attack, attack, attack and do so
unpredictably. They'll play an aggressive formation – either a 4-3-3 or a
3-3-1-3 – and, as Bradley noted, fly around the field. They'll press.
They'll shoot. They'll infuse creativity into their play. Or, at least
they'll try. They could be doomed by inexperience.

And then
there's the issue of the manager himself. He resigned from his position
in late 2010, citing an ongoing feud with Harold Mayne-Nicholls and
Jorge Segovia. Bielsa returned after the Chilean federation elected
Sergio Jadue as president, but the media is focusing on whether this is
the coach's final game at the helm. It's hard to tell if his players are
distracted by the controversy whipping around them, but you have to
think they'll be glad to get on the field and just play.

Key Players

United States: Dax McCarty

The
new D.C. United offseason acquisition is battling to move higher in the
crowded American midfield, and his strong showing during the January
camp is getting noticed. He can further ingratiate himself with Bradley
by facilitating the American attack on Saturday and tracking back as
well. It's unlikely McCarty will ever be a first-choice midfielder, but
he could lead the second squad and prove a viable alternate.

Chile: Esteban Paredes

Really,
it can't be anyone else. The 30-year-old forward will captain the team
in his 20th appearance and boasts six goals to his name, the last coming
in a May friendly with Northern Ireland. Paredes made two substitute
appearances in South Africa, coming on at halftime in a 2-1 loss to
Spain and earning a vital assist against Switzerland. He's dangerous on
free kicks, but Chile will need his leadership the most at the HDC.

US Projected Starting XI

Nick
Rimando, Ryan Miller, Omar Gonzalez, Anthony Wallace, Jeff Larentowicz,
Dax McCarty, Alejandro Bedoya, Mikkel Diskerud, Brek Shea, Juan Agudelo

Chile Projected Starting XI

Paulo
Garcés, Eugenio Mena, Sebastián Toro, Juan Abarca, Paulo Magalhaes,
Edson Puch, Francisco Silva, Felipe Seymour, Esteban Paredes, Fernando
Meneses, Daud Gazale

Final Analysis

Pretty much
anything could happen in this match. Expect a back-and-forth match with
plenty of chances for both sides and a plethora of substitutions. When
the final whistle blows, the Americans – helped by their 17 days
together – will prevail by a 2-1 score.

Noah Davis covers the United States national team for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter at @noahedavis.