Puerto Rico vs. USA | International Friendly Match Preview
Puerto Rico vs. USA
May 22 | 12 noon ET | Estadio Juan Ramón Loubriel, Bayamón, Puerto Rico
TV: FS1, UniMás, UDN
The US national team begin preparations for next month’s Copa América Centenario on Sunday afternoon with their first friendly against Puerto Rico. The match comes at the end of a training camp in Miami -- one which head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has labeled a “transition camp,” as several players have been called in for the first time. It will be the first of three warm-up games for the USMNT, who will face Ecuador on May 25 in Frisco, Texas, and Bolivia on May 28 in Kansas City, Kansas.
What will the starting lineup look like?
Well, we know for sure that no MLS players will play, because Copa América call-ups from MLS will not join the group until after this weekend's action. But that opens a door for some intriguing players to find their way onto the field, including, among others, forward Julian Green (the World Cup goalscorer who’s returning to the senior team for the first time since April of 2015) and defender Matt Miazga (sold from the New York Red Bulls to Chelsea in January). Other more established players like DeAndre Yedlin and Fabian Johnson -- coming off of strong seasons with Sunderland and Borussia Monchengladbach, respectively -- figure to be sure bets to start, although where they’ll be deployed is still up for debate.
Will anyone make his USMNT debut?
Five players made their debut in USMNT camp this week: forwards Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Amando Moreno (Club Tijuana, former New York Red Bulls) and Fabrice Picault (St. Pauli), midfielder Caleb Stanko and goalkeeper Zack Steffen (Freiburg), a Philadelphia Union academy product. None of these players made Klinsmann’s Copa roster, but all could have an opportunity to prove something moving forward, particularly the crop of strikers now that Jozy Altidore is out with an injury. The two Tijuana teammates are both very young (Arriola is 21 and Moreno is 20), while Picault, a 25-year-old who holds passports from the US and Haiti, scored four goals in his last eight games for St. Pauli.
What about the goalkeeping situation?
Tim Howard joins the squad after his emotional finale for Everton and before he joins the Colorado Rapids following the Copa América Centenario. His place with the USMNT, though, remains uncertain, as the 2014 World Cup hero has been platooning with fellow veteran Brad Guzan over the past few months. Which one of them gets the start for this game could go a long way in deciding who mans the net for the Americans’ Copa opener against Colombia on June 3.
Players to Watch
Bobby Wood, USA
With Altidore out, no one has a better opportunity in front of him than Wood, who’s fresh off a monster 17-goal season with Union Berlin and a new four-year contract with German top-flight club Hamburg. Considering he’ll be the only striker in Puerto Rico that has a chance to make the Copa roster, he’ll likely be the focal point of the USMNT’s attack -- a possible precursor to next month’s tournament.
Manolo Sanchez, Puerto Rico
Sanchez is a player some American fans might know, as the Philadelphia native made three appearances as a rookie for the New York Red Bulls last year, including one against New York City FC. Having played at both Louisville and Clemson in college, Sanchez is now a key member of San Antonio FC, scoring his first goal for the USL side earlier this month. He was called up to Puerto Rico once before, but Sunday will likely mark his first international appearance for the country of his family's heritage.