Thursday, October 18, 2007

USMNT Schedule for 2008?

In the wake of yesterday’s 1-0 road victory over Switzerland, I figured I would begin to try and come up with what I thought would be the perfect way for the USMNT to prepare for 2010 World Cup qualifying, which starts June 2008. More of the USMNTs schedule will be apparent once the preliminary draw is conducted in Durban, South Africa on November 23rd. However, considering that FIFA only has the preset dates to use for their official matches, their previously released calendar can give us a pretty good idea of their next year.

FIFA has set aside the following dates for match in 2008:

- February 6 (Friendly date)
- March 26 (Friendly date)
- August 20 (Friendly date)
- September 6 through 10 (2 official dates)
- October 11 through 15 (2 official dates)
- November 19 (Friendly date)

That gives us 8 specific FIFA dates to work with. FIFA has the bulk of June set aside for the European Championships, so you have to figure that the beginning of CONCACAF qualifying will take place in that time frame as well. If we assume that CONCACAF will schedule more qualifying matches for the four official dates in September and October, that will leave us with the four friendly dates for potential match ups.

It has been reported that the USMNT will be adding a match to this schedule, outside of the FIFA schedule. The USMNT will host Sweden at the Home Depot Center January 19th, similar to the Denmark match this last January. Considering that both teams will most likely be made up of domestic league players, this won’t exactly be a very good indicator of either squad, but it will give our MLS players a chance to break out of their winter hibernation and get their fitness levels back up to speed.

It is rumored that the February 6 friendly date is pretty much scheduled, as the USMNT will host our “friends” south of the border, Mexico. Considering that the match is set for 3 days after the NFL Super Bowl, I doubt we will see a rematch in Glendale, Arizona. Houston’s Reliant Stadium has been mentioned, although I wouldn’t be shocked if Raymond James Stadium in Tampa is used for this match either. As it is a FIFA date, European based US players should be called in and a shorter travel time to Tampa would be ideal. Playing Mexico isn’t the worst idea as they are the best competition in the region and we most likely won’t be facing them in the first round of World Cup qualifying anyway.

The March 26 date might be a very good opportunity to get some away match experience right before the USMNT has to open up World Cup qualifying in June. The question is, where should we try and get a match? Do we try and head over to Europe, where most of our players will be? Do we try and travel to a place like Columbia or Venezuela, where we will encounter a similar style of football to the ones we will face in World Cup qualifying? Assuming we can get the best of both worlds, I suggest that the USSF try and get a match schedule with Portugal in Lisbon or Porto. Portugal plays a more Latin flair type of game and playing in Europe gives us a chance to not jet lag our Euro based players and a match in a hostile stadium.

With the World Cup qualifying starting sometime in January, I assume that we will see the USMNT have two matches at least scheduled in June, most likely a home match and an away match. Who they will face we find out in just over a month.

The next FIFA friendly date is August 20, which will be the only time that Bob Bradley will be able to get a full squad in for review before what should be four straight matches of World Cup qualifying. As this date also falls during the Beijing Olympics, we can expect that a good number of the younger guys who made impacts yesterday against Switzerland will be either away with the Olympic team, or just returning from China. So well will probably see a squad made up of guys off the radar and guys who are over the age 23 restriction. Given that Bob will only have 48 hours before the match to gather his troops; a match in Europe again would be a good idea. Getting a match scheduled in Kaiserslautern, Germany (similar to the 2006 Poland match) against either a European side or an African side would be best. Playing Germany wouldn’t be that bad either, but the chances of getting that match in Kaiserslautern are remote. In any case, who we play isn’t as important as where this match is. The scheduling puts this match right at the beginning of the European domestic league seasons and during the Olympics. Having our Euro based players traveling shorter distances for this match will help them and help the USSF when they call up their players from the clubs for future matches.

The September & October match dates should be World Cup qualifying dates, so who the USMNT will be playing will be determined this November. That leaves us with the final FIFA friendly date in November.

Considering it is the final match date of the year, the opponent or location isn’t that important. Bradley can use this match to give some younger guys a run out or to give some of the MLS players one last match before they all head off for their winter vacations. The most important thing about this date is that the USSF schedule a match. The USSF has already wasted one official FIFA date this year (the failed Catalonia match) and it looks like they are going to miss out on the November 21st match date this year as well. Even though they lost, Mexico proved that you can schedule an international match a week in advance, as they did for their match last night against Guatemala in LA. Having the USMNT return from South Africa and face Jamaica in LA or Washington, D.C. would be better than having the team miss out on an official FIFA date. This is why next year, I hope that the USSF scheduled matches for everyone of the FIFA dates. Getting the squad together as many times in the year as possible will help build the type of chemistry that this team has at times shown it doesn’t have.

All in all, next year’s USMNT schedule will revolve around World Cup qualifying. The friendly match dates before and around the qualifiers will help Bob Bradley and his coaching staff not only get ready for the qualifiers, but will help the players get back into the rhythm of the national team. As CONCACAF qualifying doesn’t really look like it will be that much of a problem, scheduling matches outside of CONCACAF that challenges the players is the next logical step to ensure that they are prepared for their away matches and ultimately, the World Cup.

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Anonymous Saturday Hero said...

Why should the US play Portugal? We've played enough of those teams with latin "flair". It's time to take on a more phyiscal opponent and teach our players how to play mob football! How about Norway?

11:21 PM  

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