Unites States coach Jurgen Klinsmann will be forced to make changes to his lineup as he prepares to take on a strong Belgian side in Wednesday’s international friendly in Cleveland. The U.S. will be without influential midfielder Michael Bradley, after the Roma man contested the Coppa Italia final this past weekend. Klinsmann will also be without a host of full-backs in Fabian Johnson, Edgar Castillo, Timmy Chandler and Steve Cherundolo.
Those absences should ensure another appearance at left-back and a 100th cap for DeMarcus Beasley. Also garnering attention if he gets on the pitch will be Stuart Holden. The Bolton Wanderers midfielder is back in the international fold after a two-year injury nightmare. “I think he definitely deserves to come back into our group” Klinsmann said, according to the US Soccer website. “There’s no pressure on Stuart at all. He can only win coming back in.”
There is still no place for Landon Donovan, however, despite the forward’s return to LA Galaxy following a sabbatical. One man that should be given a chance to impress is Anderlecht’s Sacha Kljestan. And the midfielder, who has just won the Belgium title for the second straight season will be all too aware that the U.S. will have their work cut out if they are to get a positive result at FirstEnergy stadium.
It has become almost cliché to call Belgium one of the dark horses for next year’s World Cup given the abundance of established quality players at their disposal. Many of their squad plies their trade in England’s Premier League, meaning that Tottenham’s Clint Dempsey is familiar with several of the opponents he will come up against.
“It’s a team that has a lot of great player,” he said. “Not only Moussa Dembele and Jan Vertonghen who play [with me] for Tottenham but they have a lot of up and coming players. [Christian] Benteke was really great this season for Aston Villa and they have [Eden] Hazard who plays for Chelsea. They just have a lot of quality and a lot of depth. They’re a young team that’s first in their group for World Cup qualifying so it’s going to be a tough game.”
D: Parkhurst, Gonzalez, Besler, Beasley
M: Kljestan, Jones
Zusi, Dempsey, Johnson
D: Gillet, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Vermaelen
M: Defour, Fellaini, Dembele
F: De Bruyne, Benteke, Mertens
Prediction: Even without Chelsea star Eden Hazard, Belgium have an excellent squad at their disposal. On paper, they should be far too strong for a weakened U.S. side, but Klinsmann’s men showed how comfortable they are at playing the underdog role in a 0-0 draw against Mexico at the Azteca last time out. Belgium can still get frustrated by stubborn defenses and the U.S. could garner a morale-boosting result ahead of a friendly against Germany and important World Cup qualifiers next month.
USA 1-1 Belgium
Where to watch: The international friendly will kick-off at 8 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by ESPN, with a live stream available on ESPN3.