The USA-England World Cup opener got all the hype, but Friday's match between the United States and Slovenia is as actually more important for the Americans. A win puts them in comfortable shape heading into the last group match against Algeria. A loss would all but eliminate the Americans.
Slovenia comes in off a 1-0 win against Algeria, while the Americans have one point from their 1-1 draw against England. A Slovenia victory secures passage into the second round, while a draw keeps both teams in the hunt (though it will mean the Americans face a must-win against Algeria).
For a primer on Friday's match, here is one of my previews for Fox Soccer, a look at how the sides facing off tomorrow night are very similar.
The big question heading into Friday's match is what, if any, changes will Bob Bradley make to the side that held England last Saturday. Will he go with the same lineup (shown above) or will he make some tweaks?
Here is the lineup we see Bradley fielding on Friday night against Slovenia:
USA Projected Lineup vs. Slovenia
So why this lineup? Jose Torres over Ricardo Clark is the only change from the England match. Why? It doesn't make much sense to have Clark and Bradley in the middle against Slovenia. My money is on Michael Bradley being assigned to stifle Robert Koren, with Jose Torres taking advantage of the space given by a Slovenia midfield that should give him room to operate and circulate passes to the flanks.
Robbie Findley might come as a surprise, and I could see Edson Buddle getting the call, but Slovenia showed some vulnerability to pace against Algeria and Findley could unsettle the defense and make things easier for Altidore, Donovan and Dempsey.
Another option Bradley has is to move Dempsey up top, though this doesn't quite look like the match to do that in. If Dempsey is moved up top, you could see DaMarcus Beasley make his tournament debut.
Either way, I think the Americans will look to get forward more, and while they won't be attacking in waves, they'll show more of their attacking arsenal against the Slovenians than they did against England.
What lineup would you like to see against Slovenia? Hoping for the same lineup that tied England? Hoping the Americans go on the attack? Confident in a victory?
Share your thoughts below.