PREVIEW: US Need to Tune-Up vs. Trinidad & Tobago

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The latest installment of the United States Men’s National Team vs. Trinidad and Tobago is set to kick off at 7:50 PM ET from Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Colorado on Thursday evening. While this match may not seem like a big deal, this game does carry some weight.

The USMNT is still trying to work their way back into the top of their World Cup Qualifying table after losing two matches back in November of 2016. Currently sitting in fourth with a 1-1-2 record, a win against last place Trinidad and Tobago on Thursday would bump the USMNT up into a tie for second with Costa Rica with a big match against first place Mexico on the horizon for Sunday.

The U.S. only managed an underwhelming draw in their last match-up.

In the past, the US has always been able to take care of business against Trinidad and Tobago when it matters. Overall, the USMNT boasts a 17-2-4 record against the Caribbean team with a 12-1-3 record in World Cup qualifiers. Of the four World Cup qualifying games that the US didn’t win, two of those games, including the outright loss, came when the USMNT had already secured a berth for the next round. Furthermore, the US has been undefeated when the two play in the US with a 12-0-1 record. That combined with their big 4-0 result against Trinidad and Tobago back on September 6th makes this matchup look like more of a formality than a challenge on paper. However, there are still some things to look for in this match.

Manager Bruce Arena must continue to work to develop the USMNT’s attacking strategy.

With an exceedingly important matchup against Mexico quickly approaching, it remains to be seen how the USMNT will tackle this match. Anything short of an outright win would surely be a disappointment, but Bruce Arena and the rest of the US team may attempt to save their legs in preparation for the big dance on Sunday.

The budgeting of time for older vets like Clint Dempsey and Geoff Cameron will be an important storyline to pay attention to, especially if the team gets off to another slow, sluggish start like they did against Venezuela last Saturday. Additionally, health at the end of this match is a major concern. John Brooks suffered a minor injury in Saturday’s friendly, but seems like he will be able to play on Thursday. Making sure he is able to go on Sunday and getting out of this match with a healthy lineup is of the utmost importance.

It will be important that veterans like Clint Dempsey leave the field healthy.

Another thing to watch for is the USMNT’s attack. After only putting two shots on goal against Venezuela, most would assume the USMNT will come out with an aggressive, pressing offense. Led by a combination of Bobby Wood, Clint Dempsey, Christian Pulisic, and Jozy Altidore, who will return for this game after being left out of Saturday’s match due to him missing the early part of training for his brother’s wedding, the US needs to figure out how to wake up their offense ahead of Sunday and capitalize on scoring opportunities.

With Altidore back in the lineup, the USMNT should be able to turn their possessions into goal scoring opportunities.

All in all, this match should be viewed as a tune-up for the match against Mexico. While the result is important, the US should come out with a healthy margin of victory. Since 1996, the Trinidad and Tobago team hasn’t even scored a goal against the USMNT in the United States, meaning that as long as the US gets their offense together, this game shouldn’t be too much of a nail biter. However, if the USMNT completely overlooks this rising CONCACAF power, they could find themselves in more of a game than they asked for, which could not only put this result in jeopardy, it could affect their performance on Sunday against Mexico.

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This post was written by our blog contributor: Jalen Russell, University of Virginia class of 2017 graduate and all-around sports guru, his focus typically lies with all things basketball, but he’s finding excitement in the current pulse of the soccer world.

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