Finally, after intense physical training at Stanford and locker-room shaking roster reductions, the USMNT will play an actual game.
No, it's not against a formidable squad, but Azerbaijan is a team the US expects to beat, building confidence as it progresses towards Brazil. Tonight's game is at 10 p.m. ET from Candlestick Park in San Francisco and can be seen on ESPN2.
“It's a team that's not in the top category of opponents,” coach Jurgen Klinsmann said on Monday. “We wanted to kind of not hit a top-10 opponent right away in the first match after a very strong preparation where we did a lot of physical work so the legs might be here and there a bit heavier. It's important to start the send-off series with a win and build confidence and see where the guys are right now after that intense two weeks.”
After Tuesday's match, the US will have two more friendlies against Turkey and Nigeria before traveling to Brazil.
Tonight, expect Klinsmann to pay close attention to his newly-formed backline, possibly built around Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler in the middle, flanked by Fabian Johnson and veteran DaMarcus Beasley. For what it's worth, Klinsmann said that Tuesday's starting lineup would be very similar to what the US trots out against Ghana on June 16th.
Even though it's a friendly against a weaker opponent, it's still a glimpse into what the USA could produce this summer.
Team USA gets shoutout from Snoop:
Na na na na na.
Who will wear No. 10?: Perhaps you've heard, but last week's roster cuts brought an abrupt vacancy to one of the sport's hallowed numbers. Landon Donovan wore No. 10 in South Africa and before him it was veteran Claudio Reyna. The US doesn't exactly have a "next-in-line" type to rock the same digits as Messi and Rooney. Plus, both Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey are pretty well set on Nos. 4 and 8, respectively.
Which leads us to quirky but tireless midfielder Mix Diskerud, whose personality just might suit the cherished number.
Hearing this morning that Mix Diskerud will wear the No. 10 US jersey.— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) May 27, 2014
Injury bug bites Croatia, again: Veteran Croatian midfielder Niko Kranjcar will miss the tournament after rupturing his hamstring playing for his club Queens Park Rangers on Saturday. Defender Ivan Strinic and midfielder Ivo Ilicevic were also ruled out for the Croatian squad, which has its work cut out for it against Group A's Brazil, Mexico and Cameroon.
This plane will be used by the Brazilian national team this summer. pic.twitter.com/aZokD2B1YJ— World Cup 2014 (@Brazil14WC) May 27, 2014
Public pessimism in Brazil: Just two weeks away from the world's biggest sporting spectacle and Brazilians aren't exactly thrilled with the impending circus. Strikes and protests have marred the run-up to the matches, and some fans are even hoping the Brazilian national team bows out early, exposing the government's decision to spend billions on temporarily useful stadiums. According to a public opinion poll cited in USAToday, 79 percent of Brazilians who responded supported the World Cup in 2008. That number, as of April, is currently at 48 percent.