After a hard-fought 2-0 win away over Cuba last week, US Soccer returns to the familiar surroundings of RFK Stadium to take on New Zealand Tuesday night. The Kiwis are coming off a 2-1 defeat to Mexico in Nashville, and currently sit 88th in the FIFA World Rankings. This friendly against New Zealand will be Jurgen Klinsmann’s final opportunity to experiment with his squad before hosting Mexico in World Cup Qualifying next month.
Starting off with the team from down under, the biggest name on their roster has to be Winston Reid. The West Ham United center back represents the only player in the squad playing in a top flight European League. Against Mexico, New Zealand’s defensive unit looked shaky at times against Mexico’s quick attackers. Those weaknesses were exposed on both goals with poor tackling giving away a penalty, and simple 1-2 passing gifting El Tri a wide-open net. Against the U.S., Reid will once again have to act as the rock of the defense, but there’s only so much he can do.
While New Zealand’s defense was unconvincing, their attack showed promise. Despite the limited chances that they were given with such a defensive game plan, the likes of Marcos Rojas, Kosta Barbarouses and Deklan Wynne caused the Mexican backline some major problems when the ball was at their feet. Rojas was unlucky not to find of the net in the 16th minute after slicing and dicing two defenders, but he did manage to grab the Kiwis’ only goal of the match with a tidy close range finish in the 46th minute courtesy of a nice cross from Wynne on the wing. My guess is that New Zealand will employ a similar style of counter attacking play against the U.S., and the American center backs will need to be on their toes for all 90 minutes.
Switching gears over to the U.S., there will be a handful of new faces joining the squad for Tuesday’s fixture. After the Cuba match, European players John Brooks, Geoff Cameron, Fabian Johnson, Christian Pulisic, Timothy Chandler, Ethan Horvath and Bobby Wood returned to their respective clubs. Joining the list of departures were also Jordan Morris and Chris Wondolowski. Seven players were called up as replacements including Bill Hamid, Kellyn Acosta, Matt Besler, Michael Orozco, Tim Parker, Juan Agudelo and Terrence Boyd. While it’s unclear how, or even if, Klinsmann is going to incorporate these new players into his tactics for Tuesday, I think that it’s still going to cause some problems in terms of team chemistry. Of the nine players who left after Cuba, six were in the starting 11, and eight featured altogether. How will the new look squad stand up against New Zealand?
One player that I want to focus out of those new additions is Terrence Boyd. The 25-year-old has been playing in Europe his entire career, but injuries have hampered his development. Shortly after joining RB Leipzig back in 2014, Boyd suffered a torn ACL. He has yet to make an appearance for the first team since that injury, but now, for the first time in years, he has started to show signs of promise again. This season, he has been working his way back up to match fitness with the reserves and has scored twice in four matches. Talking to reporters after receiving the call-up, the striker called his recovery a “miracle.” It’s incredibly unlikely that Boyd will start Tuesday, but I think that Klinsmann may give him a short cameo in the second half to show the fans what they’ve been missing.
Even with all of the changes and turnover in the U.S. roster, I still believe that they have more than enough talent to beat New Zealand. The only real threat I can see the Kiwis posing is jumping on American defenders who aren’t paying attention at the back. Final score: USA 3-1 New Zealand