The United States Men's National Team looks to secure its place in the quarterfinals of the Copa America Centenario, as it faces Paraguay on Saturday, June 11th.
The U.S. is guaranteed to advance with at least a draw, whereas Paraguay will need a victory and can't afford to have Costa Rica blowout Colombia.
Paraguay was considered the worst team in the group and is ranked 44th in the world, but the Paraguayans have been unfortunate to not earn better results.
Paraguay tied Costa Rica 0-0 in its opening match and lost 2-1 to Colombia, despite having 56.5% possession.
La Albirroja has a solid roster containing a mix of veteran and young players. However it lacks a true international star.
Head coach Ramón Díaz will likely deploy a 4-5-1. While his team typically plays defensively, the players may take more risks knowing that they need a victory.
The Paraguayan backline will be anchored by 36-year-old veteran Paulo Da Silva. The six-foot Toluca centerback is dominant in the air and an excellent tackler. Like most 36-year-old defenders, Da Silva is quite slow and if Zardes or Bobby Wood can get into one v. one situations against Da Silva than Paraguay will have problems.
Offensively, the team will be led by striker Dario Lezcano. He has a surprisingly impressive vertical jump and is therefore dangerous on all set pieces.
Lezcano also has decent pace, but is not nearly as fast as Costa Rican attacker Joel Campbell. Lezcano's major weakness is his temper, which has resulted in several suspensions at the club level.
Goalkeepers: Diego Barreto (Olimpia), Antony Silva (Cerro Porteño), Justo Villar (Colo Colo)
Defenders: Fabian Balbuena (Corinthians), Gustavo Gomez (Lanus), Blas Riveros (Olimpia), Miguel Samudio (America), Paulo Da Silva (Toluca), Bruno Valdez (Cerro Porteño), Ivan Piris (Udinese)
Midfielders: Miguel Almiron (Lanus), Celso Ortiz (AZ Alkmaar), Robert Piris Da Motta (Olimpia), Rodrigo Rojas (Cerro Porteño), Oscar Romero (Racing Club), Victor Ayala (Lanus)
Forwards: Edgar Benitez (Queretaro), Jorge Benitez (Cruz Azul), Derlis Gonzalez (Dynamo Kiev), Juan Manuel Iturbe (Bournemouth), Dario Lezcano (Ingolstadt), Roque Santa Cruz (Malaga), Nelson Valdez (Seattle Sounders)
Defenders: Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin / Germany), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City / England), Edgar Castillo (Monterrey / Mexico), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Moenchengladbach / Germany), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana / Mexico), DeAndre Yedlin (Sunderland / England)
Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (FC Nantes / France), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jermaine Jones (Colorado Rapids), Perry Kitchen (Heart of Midlothian / Scotland), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
While the U.S. merely needs a tie, don't expect the team's intensity to be less than normal. Jurgen Klinsmann will want the USMNT to continue to build momentum ahead of a potential quarterfinal.
Klinsmann will once again deploy a 4-3-3 and is likely to stick with the starting XI he has used the past two matches.
There is a possibility Klinsmann may make a few changes to keep players fresh for the knockout stages, but with a place in the quarterfinals not yet guaranteed changes seem unlikely.
If Klinsmann does make alterations, Darlington Nagbe may replace Jermaine Jones. Jones has been excellent, but is 34 years old and has a history of injuries.
If the U.S. is in a good position, look for Klinsmann to start using subs in the 65th minute to limit the fatigue of players like Jermaine Jones and Clint Dempsey. Look for Christian Pulisic, or Graham Zusi to enter the match as late substitutes.
While the team had a stellar performance against Costa Rica, there were a few shortcomings. Gyasi Zardes needs to have a better first touch, as his poor touches frequently ruin attacking opportunities. Additionally, even if the USMNT has another 3-0 lead, the team can't afford to try to kill the game off early in the second half.
Despite an excellent result against Costa Rica, Klinsmann will still be under pressure as failing to advance out of the group could cost him his job.
The U.S. needs to have another good performance, but may have trouble against a Paraguayan side that has been hard to break down.
I expect the USMNT to defeat Paraguay 3-1 in front of a raucous home crowd in Philadelphia. The match will likely be close until the end, but I believe the U.S. will get at least one goal as Paraguay pushes forward late in the game in search of a victory.