Billy’s Beat on USA Soccer
After a disappointing loss to Denmark last week, the USMNT will look to make some improvements against a tough Switzerland squad that was one of the seeded teams in last summer’s World Cup.
Here are the top three storylines to watch as the United States completes their second friendly of this international break.
The Rise of Ventura Alvarado
Anyone who has watched the national team play over the past few months knows that good defenders are hard to find. The American pool of talent for backs is extremely thin, but luckily for USMNT fans, it seems that help is on the way. Ventura Alvarado, a Mexican-American wingback from Club America in Liga MX has accepted his call up from Klinsmann to participate in the Denmark and Switzerland friendlies, and will look to make an impact and earn a spot on the Gold Cup roster.
Alvarado can play for both the United States and Mexico, with slightly stronger ties to Mexico, so its likely that Klinsmann is attempting to woo Alvarado into accepting a national team position. Wingbacks are not easy to come by for Klinsmann, so adding Alvarado as some depth to the squad would certainly help the national team in the coming months. I fully expect Alvarado to play much more against Switzerland than he did against Denmark, and hopefully he can play well enough to earn a senior call up that will cap him as a United States international.
The Consistency of Gyasi Zardes
After nearly a year of MLS fans clamoring for Los Angeles Galaxy forward Gyasi Zardes to get a national team call up, Zardes has found a place on Klinsmann’s team. The results have been nothing short of spectacular, as Zardes has been the best player on the team both in January camp and in the friendly against Denmark. In the game against Denmark, Zardes dominated the ball, facilitating the run of play from the wing and providing great service to both Aron Johansson and Jozy Altidore.
If Zardes can keep up this consistency, not only will he earn a spot on the Gold Cup roster, but will likely earn a starting role on the team. Zardes has had a great opening few weeks to the season with the Galaxy, and a great run of play with the national team, leading me to the only logical conclusion: Gyasi Zardes is a great player. A solid performance against Switzerland will solidify Zardes’ place in the Gold Cup and allow his meteoric rise from MLS academy player to national team stalwart to take the next step.
The Confidence of Jozy Altidore
Since his move to Toronto FC, Jozy Altidore has been on an absolute tear. He’s scoring in MLS. He’s scoring with the national team. He’s scoring nearly every time he steps on the field. With the Jozy we all saw at AZ Alkmaar seemingly returning, national team fans can be excited that the number one striker on the United States’ depth chart is back in form. While Klinsmann never lost faith in Jozy, despite his struggles with Sunderland, it’s really nice to see Altidore playing his vintage style that made him so successful across his two World Cup campaigns. Another strong performance against Switzerland and continued scoring in MLS will likely catapult Altidore into the elite level of national teamers with Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey. Jozy has been a staple in the national team for some time now, but inconsistency has held him back from being considered amongst the elite. If Jozy can somehow keep the goals coming, that elite level is more than within reach for the young striker.