USA vs Paraguay – Tuesday, March 27, 16:45PST/19:45EST – WakeMed Soccer Park, Cary, NC, United States
Paraguay return to action in their first game since failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Gustavo Morinigo’s first taste managing the senior side is a low-key friendly against the United States also in transition at a 10,000 capacity stadium in North Carolina.
The heartbreak of missing out on the trip to Russia was greater than four years ago, not just because of the circumstances (Paraguay lost their final game 1-0 at home to a Venezuela side with nothing to play for and without a win) but the fact that the young team was seemingly coming of age having won key games in Chile, Argentina and Colombia.
Now a new chapter begins, with eyes on next year’s Copa América as a stepping stone before the 2022 qualifiers. Morinigo, who has coached both the U20s and U17s, is tasked at least temporarily with nurturing this youthful squad (just 3 of the 21 are over 30 years of age). He is likely to try and keep the attacking style favoured by predecessor Chiqui Arce with four fluid forwards playing on the counter-attack.
Those four could feasibly be the Romero twins with Miguel Almirón and Cecilio Domínguez, the quartet all products of Cerro Porteño’s youth system now plying their trade in China, Brazil, USA and Mexico. Although the final training sessions suggest that he’ll call on the European-experienced Federico Santander to act as a target-man and who will be expected to do the running and closing down off the ball. Néstor Camacho could be preferred to Domínguez, like Santander his greater experience means he is more tactically adept.
The USA are in a similar position, unexpectedly without competitive football to look forward to until next year and with an interim coach. They’ve called up a very inexperienced squad, seven players without a cap and just three that have played more than 20 games for the senior side. The most notable newbie is Tim Weah, son of former World Player of the Year and current Liberia President, George Weah.
At this early stage in both sides rebuilding process, it will be difficult to draw any conclusions from Tuesday’s encounter. Yet the game will be intriguing to see how the young exciting talent on both sides match up at senior international level.
USA vs Paraguay – Players to look out for:
Miguel Almirón #23 – Paraguay
The playmaker will be a familiar smiling face to MLS fans, one of the revelations of last year at Atlanta United he has continued his good form at the start of the 2018 season with a goal and assist after three games. The 24-year-old has blistering pace which is matched by his speed of thought that helps him find space, evade opponents and create goal scoring opportunities for teammates in the blink of an eye.
Bobby Wood – United States
The Hawaii-born Hamburger SV striker is the most experienced player in this USMNT squad, he has 10 goals in 36 games. The forward provides power and athleticism in and around the box, his hold up play will be important to bring in more technical teammates.
USA vs Paraguay – Match Stats
- Paraguay have played 22 games on US soil, winning 7, drawing 7 and losing 8. Their last US-based game was a 2-1 defeat to Mexico in Seattle (July 1st, 2017).
- USA have only lost once at home to Paraguay (March 29th, 2013 in Nashville). They’ve won two and drawn two of the other four encounters.
- Paraguay have lost their last five friendlies and have won just one of their last 14 non-competitive games (November 14th, 2014 vs Peru in Luque).
- The Albirroja’s last away win in a friendly was April 25th, 2012 in Guatemala a 1-0 victory.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: USA vs Paraguay – 1-1
USA vs Paraguay – Lineups
Steffen – Carters-Vickers, Miazga, Palmer-Brown – Robinson, Saief, Mckennie, Adams, Yedlin – Weah, Wood
Head Coach: Dave Sarachan
Aguilar – Valdez, Gómez, Balbuena, Alonso – Rojas, Riveros – O.Romero, Almirón, Camacho – Santander
Head Coach: Gustavo Morinigo
Ralph Hannah is Londoner, who has lived in Luque and is now located in Miami, with a keen interest in Paraguayan football history and statistics. A frequent traveler throughout Latin America he attends games throughout the region and has written for a variety of publications and set up the first English-language blog on Paraguayan Football. When not in the Defensores del Chaco he’s looking after his 2 daughters. Follow Ralph on Twitter @paraguayralph.