After a summer of incredible disappointment for the United States men's national team -- losing early in the Copa America and failing to beat Mexico to get a Confederations Cup spot -- it's time for the USMNT to reset and start their World Cup qualifying run. Up first? St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
It's OK if you don't know much about them. The country's entire population -- a little over 100,000 -- is a third of the population of St. Louis, where the match is being played, and a tiny fraction of the nearly three million people in the metro area. Their best players play in Finland or the USL -- the third tier of the United States soccer pyramid -- and their competitive record on the international scene is underwhelming, only ever making one Gold Cup and rarely even making it this far in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.
That's a long way of saying that the USMNT should win this match quite handily. Of course, with how the team has struggled in recent months, there are no guarantees, but anything less than a resounding win will be pretty surprising for this match. It's a good chance to play a little with tactics and new players with lower risk associated, but this should still be a very easy win for the USMNT.
Key player -- Michael Bradley (United States)
As the captain of the team, Bradley and his performance on the pitch are always vital, but in this match he's going to be more important than ever. With a host of new and returning faces in the side, his leadership will be important to help keep the USMNT's play effective and organized -- and what better way than to lead by example? He needs to take charge and set the pace from the very first whistle, something we've seen him do for the US in the past, but not for some time. It's time for Bradley to get back on that horse.
Key factor -- The young USMNT attackers
Jurgen Klinsmann called in one brand-new attacker for the United States' squad in Darlington Nagbe, and also brought in two others with limited experience in Miguel Ibarra and Jordan Morris. The likes of Gyasi Zardes and Bobby Wood don't have significantly more experience than that trio, but all five players figure to play some role in this match. How they perform shouldn't be taken too demonstratively -- it's "just" St. Vincent after all -- but this game does serve as an excellent chance to get them better embedded into the side and comfortable in their roles in the national team. Good performances by them here could help drive future good performances against better opposition, so keep a close eye on the fresh faces.
Match Date/Time: Friday, 6:30 p.m. ET, 5:30 p.m. local
Venue: Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri, United States
TV: ESPN 2 (U.S. - English), Unimas, Univision Deportes (U.S. - Spanish)
Online: Watch ESPN, Fubo TV, Sling (U.S.)