Here we go. The U.S. men's national team kicks off a grueling 2015 campaign against a stalwart opponent in Chile. Jurgen Klinsmann's men will face off against La Roja at the Estadio El Teniente, deep in central Chile. El Teniente is home to O'Higgins, one of Chile's distinguished teams, but which only won its first league title two years ago. The stadium is named after one of the largest copper mines in the world.
Both the U.S. and Chile are fielding domestic lineups; the only foreign-based players for the U.S. are Bobby Wood, who's on his way out of 2. Bundesliga side 1860 München and DeAndre Yedlin, who's yet to play a game for Tottenham Hotspur. While none of Chile's European stars (particularly Alexis Sánchez) will be playing tonight, Jorge Sampaoli's squad will still be formidable opponents for a U.S. squad that has been winless in its last four games, and won just one game out of their last eight. That streak hit its lowest point yet with a 4-1 loss to an Ireland team missing its key players.
Historically, Chile holds a 4-3-2 record against the U.S.; however, the U.S. hasn't lost in its last four games against Chile. They last met four years ago in Los Angeles, at this same time. Teal Bunbury, now playing for Sporting Kansas City, came off the bench to score the equalizer in a 1-1 draw. The U.S.'s last visit to Chile - in fact, their last friendly anywhere in South America - was fifteen years ago tomorrow. In that game, played in Coquimbo, the U.S. came away with a 2-1 win.
Klinsmann raised eyebrows with reports that the U.S. was training in a 3-5-2 formation during the January training camp. While it's been some time since the national team has used that formation in a game, it's a set up that lends itself to absorbing lots of pressure. This could be key, given Chile's fearsome speed and intensity, factors that will only be ramped up playing in front of a raucous home crowd. The U.S. has looked bereft of creativity and ideas on offense, brittle in defense, and have even shown marked assailability on set pieces, long a strenght of the American team. A 3-5-2 formation does two things very well, if executed properly: it absorbs pressure, and it makes it very difficult to build attacks through the midfield. Instead, teams are forced to build on the flanks.
We'll see if it makes a difference for the U.S. You never want to read too much into friendlies, but three years into his tenure as head coach of the USMNT, it's time for Klinsmann to start transitioning from tinkering with the squad into crafting a solid, consistent lineup and plan.
HOW TO WATCH
Game time: 6:00 p.m. ET, 3:00 p.m. PT
Match Venue: Estadio El Teniente, Rancagua, Chile
TV: Fox Sports 1, UniMas, Univision Deportes
Live Stream: There are two, if you find yourself away from the TV.
Chile (3-4-3, R to L): Herrera; Pulgar, O. Gonzalez, Rojas; Valdes, Espinoza, Medel, Cornejo; Carrasco, Gutierrez. M. Gonzalez— FOX Soccer Trax (@FOXSoccerTrax) January 28, 2015
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