Only Kasey Keller remains from the 1995 squad that reached the semifinals of the South American tournament in 1995. This time around, Bob Bradley, at the helm of the United States is bringing a much different team.
Less then one week removed from the Gold Cup Final, in which the US defeated Mexico 2-1, the US must ready themselves to face quite arguably the tournament favorite.
Argentina, led by Coach Alfio "El Coco" Basile will undoubtedly be a high obstacle to overcome. Already packed with talent, El Coco afforded himself the luxury of adding Juan Roman Riquelme and Juan Sebastian "La Bruja" Veron to his squad.
Riquelme made the leap from doubtful participant to first eleven after a stupendous performance in the Copa Libertadores, in which he led his club, Boca Juniors, to a convincing victory over Brazil's Gremio.
Riquelme is currently extremely fit and quite possibly the best central midfielder in the tournament. His responsibility will be to lead a squad of stars, including Veron. The sudden inclusion of Riquelme and Veron to Argentina's line-up has forced Basile to sit Carlos Tevez. Tevez will unlikely see action against the US, but in a tournament such as this one, Basile is confident in having such depth at his disposal.
As if having Riquelme and Veron on the field wasn't enough, the US defense will have to contend with Barcelona's Lionel Messi. Messi has quickly become an fan favorite and has garnered comparisons to Diego Armando Maradona.
If anything, El Coco will have to work harder on getting his team, a collection of superstars, to play well together. "We have to treat them all well", he said, especially the ones that are on the bench, they're used to being in the first eleven all year and don;t feel well when they have to sit one out."
The Argentinian press is under the impression that Bradley's team is a motley crew of inexperienced players with very little to offer against Argentina. The current battle cry is "this is not the team that won the Gold Cup." But, Basile isn't listening. The veteran coach "does not underestimate anyone" and is only concerned about the performance of his team. "I have seen the US in various games" said El Coco to the press earlier today, "They play a 4-4-2, 4-4-1-1, like the flanks, work well with set pieces – we've studied them, I don;t underestimate them. The most important thing is our team."
The US could come away with the big surprise in this opening match and undoubtedly would like to repeat their performance from 1995 in which they defeated Argentina 3-0 and later Mexico on their way to the semifinals and an overall 4th place finish.
Bradley sees this tournament as a great opportunity "for our younger players to gain invaluable experience at the highest international level. Playing two major tournaments back-to-back is both a privilege and a difficult challenge in terms of putting together rosters, and this is something we've known all along."
The US's roster is primarily composed of MLS based players with 15 of the 22 players coming from the domestic league.
The US roster is detailed below.
GOALKEEPERS (2) – Brad Guzan (Chivas USA), Kasey Keller (Borussia Moenchengladbach)
DEFENDERS (8) – Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Bobby Boswell (D.C. United), Dan Califf (Aalborg BK), Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City Wizards), Jay DeMerit (Watford FC), Drew Moor (FC Dallas), Heath Pearce (FC Nordsjælland), Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC)
MIDFIELDERS (8) – Kyle Beckerman (Colorado Rapids), Ricardo Clark (Houston Dynamo), Benny Feilhaber (Hamburger SV), Eddie Gaven (Columbus Crew), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Justin Mapp (Chicago Fire), Lee Nguyen (PSV Eindhoven), Ben Olsen (D.C.United)
FORWARDS (4) – Charlie Davies (Hammarby IF), Herculez Gomez (Colorado Rapids), Eddie Johnson (Kansas City Wizards), Taylor Twellman (New England Revolution)