USMNT (FIFA Rank 31) v Paraguay (44)
What to Watch For:
- Winner Advances to the Quarterfinals. The winner of this match will go to the Quarterfinals, unless Paraguay and Costa Rica win but Costa Rica's win over Colombia is three goals better than Paraguay's win. Paraguay has one point from their tie with Costa Rica while the USMNT have three points from beating Costa Rica 4-0 and both teams lost to Colombia. A draw will see the USMNT finish in second unless Costa Rica beat Colombia by 6 goals. The USMNT can still win the group, and play their Quarterfinal in Seattle next Thursday, with a win and a Colombia loss.
- Does the USMNT open in a 4-4-2 or stay in their 4-3-3? The USMNT played the three warm up matches in a 4-3-3 and played the Colombia match in a 4-3-3 then opened the Costa Rica match in a 4-3-3. But after going up 2-0 on Costa Rica they shifted to a 4-4-2 midway through the first half and stayed in the more familiar formation for the rest of the match. Clint Dempsey is more comfortable in a 4-4-2 and if this match is going to be a referendum on Dempsey's future with the national team, then maybe Jurgen Klinsmann sticks with the formation that maximizes his former Captain's talents?
- Will we see the third consecutive game with the same Starting XI? Klinsmann loves to tinker, but curiously enough he seems to have settled on a Starting XI for the first time in his USMNT coaching tenure starting the same lineup for both group games. For the first time since Carlos Bocanegra and Steve Cherundolo roamed the backline, USMNT fans can fill out the team sheet with a predictable back four featuring DeAndre Yedlin, Geoff Cameron, John Brooks and Fabian Johnson.
- Will the kids play? Christian Pulisic grew up in Hershey, Pennsylvania before making the move to Germany so this is somewhat of a homecoming game for the 17 year old. While many USMNT fans are also clamoring for Darlington Nagbe to get more minutes. Will either be a surprise starter or an early sub? Klinsmann said the team is fully fit and everyone is available, even if it looked like Alejandro Bedoya took a knock late in the Costa Rica game before being subbed off two minutes later.
- Paraguay announced their lineup on Friday. Seattle Sounders' Nelson Valdez starts on the bench.
Colombia (3) v Costa Rica (23)
If the USMNT win, then Colombia just need a point to secure the group and the worst they can finish is second having already secured advancement from Group A. James Rodriguez dislocated his shoulder in the opener last Friday against the USMNT. All reports were that he was going to miss the Paraguay match, but he played and played extremely well going all 90 minutes in their 2-1 win over Paragua on Tuesday. With advancement secure and a quarterfinal coming up on Thursday or Friday look for manager José Pékerman to maybe give his star a rest.
Costa Rica needs a big result if they are to advance out of the group. By losing 4-0 to the USMNT they really dug themselves a hole in goal differential which is the first tiebreaker. A group stage exit will be a big disappointment for this group of players that is coming off a World Cup Quarterfinals berth where they topped their group in Brazil that included World Cup Champions Italy, England and Uruguay.
Note: This is the first of three matches to be played in Houston at NRG Stadium. While some venues, The Rose Bowl, have already seen their full allotment of games Houston is just joining the party on matchday 9.
How to Watch:
This is your Sounder at Heart Copa America Centenario Day 9 Gamethread. Watch with us.