- Photo: REUTERS/Henry Romero
Another round of World Cup qualifying begins Friday and the United States' match against Antigua and Barbuda could prove critical, as three teams are playing for two spots.
The U.S. is tied with El Salvador and Jamaica, with each team claiming seven points in Group A in the CONCACAF qualifiers- only two games remain. Full points from the remaining matches are critical if the U.S. is hoping to play in Brazil in 2014, but the squad will have to win without two top players.
Team captain Landon Donovan suffered a knee injury during a Major League Soccer match, and midfielder Brek Shea is out with an abdominal strain. Their absence has been noticeable during previous qualifying matches.
The team has not looked in top form during their qualifying campaign, and without these two for Friday's match, more questions are being raised.
The last four matches, the national team has looked absent on the field, with limited creativity and confusion in the defensive line.
In the team's first meeting with Antigua and Barbuda which they were able to win 3-1, the score did not represent the close nature of the game. The lack of offensive prowess led to a 1-1 draw in the team's net fixture against Guatemala, before finally failing the national team in a 2-1 loss to Jamaica.
With Donovan and Shea out, coach Jurgen Klinsmann has been forced to put in Kyle Beckerman, Maurice Edu, and Jermain Jones in the middle of play. While those players are respectable in their own right, they are defensive-minded players and do not have the consistent ability to create chances going forward.
Their efforts were rewarded in their last qualifying match against Jamaica, when they were able to split the pair's meeting with a 1-0 victory.
Klinsmann will be more at ease knowing the midfielder Michael Bradley will be available as well as Clint Dempsey, who is looking good after making the move to the Tottenham Hotspurs in the English Premier League.
Kickoff for the match is at 9:00 p.m. EDT and can be watched online here.