The United States Men’s National Team has returned to Nashville for the third time and will face Guatemala, at 5:30 p.m., Friday night at Nissan Stadium, in a final tune-up match before the CONCACAF Gold Cup which starts July 7. A second consecutive win in the Gold Cup would catapult the U.S. MNT into the 2017 FIFA Confederation’s Cup, which is the final qualification stage for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The U.S. MNT comes into Friday night’s friendly match off of two huge road wins against No. 6-ranked Netherlands and reigning World Cup champion Germany, and is riding a four-match unbeaten streak against opponents ranked in the top 20 in the world (3-0-1). So far the USA is 4-2-1 on the year.
A win in the 2013 Gold Cup has assured the U.S. MNT at least a playoff spot into the Confederation’s Cup, but head coach Jurgen Klinsmann hopes to avoid needing a playoff and has assembled one of the most experienced teams that will have ever visited Nashville. His “win now” approach has filled the roster with some of the most marquee and experienced names in the sport.
Together, the 23 players on Klinsmann’s roster average 30.5 international appearances with 14 having played in a minimum of 20 matches for the U.S. MNT. Seventeen players were also part of the U.S. team at last summer’s FIFA World Cup, marking the highest return rate of players between the two rosters in years where the Gold Cup has followed the FIFA World Cup.
Leading the way for the U.S. is Clint Dempsey. This will be his fourth Gold Cup appearance, leading the U.S. to the finals in each of the previous three and winning it twice. He’s the only two-time winner on the 2015 roster and is tied for fifth on the USA’s all-time Gold Cup scoring list with five goals. Also with five career Gold Cup goals and helping lead the American’s offensive attack Friday will be Chris Wondowlowski (Wando for short).
Nashville soccer fans may remember six years ago with the U.S. MNT played Trinidad & Tobago in the Music City and a then 18-year-old Jozy Altidore’s coming out party. That night he netted three goals and became the youngest U.S. MNT player to record a hat trick. He returns this year, along with other marquee names like Michael Bradley who will be making his 99th cap, Kyle Beckerman, Gyasi Zardes, Graham Zusi and more.
In goal Friday and throughout the Gold Cup will be Brad Guzan, who does not have prior Gold Cup experience, but is no stranger to big matches. He is 5-1-1 in World Cup qualifying matches, including five shutouts, and was in goal for the U.S. MNT’s recent wins over the Netherlands and Germany.
The team has been in Nashville all week, training at Lipscomb University’s Soccer Complex and will have its first walk through on the newly laid turf at Nissan Stadium Thursday. Over 33,000 tickets to the match have already been sold, ensuring this will be the largest soccer match ever held in the state of Tennessee, but more than 40,000 are expected to attend.