The US plays Holland this afternoon (2:30pm EST on ESPN2) in an important tune-up for the World Cup, which is now less than 100 days away. This is also coach Bob Bradley's last opportunity to get US players together before he has to select the 23-man roster.
While there are some important absences from the US squad due to injuries to key players (Clint Dempsey, Oguchi Onyewu, Charlie Davies, Benny Feilhaber, Ricardo Clarke, and Steve Cherundolo are all out), on the bright side this will allow Bradley to test some squad players. No one wants to face the Dutch -- who have been among the best teams in the world and are contenders to raise the cup -- without some of their best players, but this game is not about the scoreline, it is about the quality of the performance. Therefore here are some things to watch for:
Are we able to hold up on the flanks? Jonathan Bornstein, who looks to get the start today, is a favorite of Bob Bradley. But he is in my view the weak link in the backline, this is not so much for any defensive frailties, which he has a few, but his poor distribution. The Dutch wingers will pressure him every time he gets the ball - will he just send panicky clearances up the field or will he be able to withstand the pressure and distribute to American midfielders.
Will the Maurice Edu -- Michael Bradley central midfield be able to do distribute, as well as destroy? Going into the Confederations Cup last June, Maurice Edu, who had become a key player with Glasgow Rangers, looked prime to play a big role for the US. Unfortunately, he suffered a bad knee injury and has only returned to action in the last few months. Edu is an athlete that can cover a lot of ground and can put in a hard tackle after playing in Scotland. But can he distribute? The problem for the US central midfield, is that when playing two holding midfielders, such as Michael Bradley and Ricardo Clark, our ability to keep possession of the ball has suffered.
Will Stuart Holden play himself into the starting 11? After a slow start to his Premier League move, Holden has had two straight excellent games for Bolton. He is playing centrally and is demonstrating his quality on the ball. Expect him to start on the right and if he has a strong performance he may just push himself into the starting 11 against England.
Will Eddie Johnson or Robbie Findley impress? While US fans hope Charlie Davies returns in time for the World Cup, the US still really needs another option. It seems that Bradley is giving Findley, who plays for Real Salt Lake, a thorough look, as he was the only domestic-based player brought over to Europe for this game. Findley is kinda of like a less skillful Charlie Davies, still young, Findley needs to show that he has more than just speed. For EJ an impressive performance could certainly put him back in the picture. He has the athletic tools but the confidence, instincts, and touch have seemed to allude him.