Three years ago, the United States welcomed Argentina to New Jersey for a high-profile friendly in front of a sell out crowd of more than 78,000 at Giants Stadium. The match finished as a 0-0 draw, but nobody who watched the match would call it boring or dour as both teams looked to get forward and had chance in front of an electric crowd that only grew livelier during a second half downpour.
Giants Stadium has since been demolished, but a new stadium has gone up right next door and on Saturday the U.S. and Argentina will play another high profile friendly in Meadowlands, N.J. The match is of great importance to both teams as they have limited time remaining to prepare fo confederation championship tournaments this summer. Saturday and next Tuesday represent the final FIFA international dates before the end of the club season in May and the United States has the Gold Cup in June, while Argentina has Copa America in July.
Because both teams are in their final stages of preparation for confederation championships, they are both bringing close to their top teams to New Jersey for the match. The U.S. will be without Stuart Holden after the midfielder had knee surgery on Monday and Clarence Goodson is out with a broken toe, but they are the only clear first team players that the U.S. will be without on Saturday. Meanwhile, Argentina is without three tremendous strikers, Carlos Tevez, Gonzalo Higuain and Diego Milito, but are otherwise bringing their top team in for the friendly.
Of course, Argentina is headlined by Lionel Messi, who is the headliner anywhere he goes. Against a U.S. defense that is lacking continuity and has not been consistently solid for more than two years now, Messi could have a field day in New Jersey. A highlight reel play or three wouldn't shock any observers.
When the two teams met three years ago, the match was only scoreless because of a Man of the Match performance by Tim Howard. The U.S. goalkeeper had not been the team's number one keeper for long, but if anyone doubted his ability between the sticks for the U.S., they didn't after he walked off of the field a hero on a soaking wet field in New Jersey.
As is usually the case when a big name international team visits the New York area for a match against the U.S., a big crowd is expected. As of Wednesday over 60,000 tickets had been sold and officials are expecting a sell out crowd that will have the same buzz and energy that there was the last time that the U.S. and Argentina played. The only hope is that the match is equally exciting, as it was three years ago.