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USMNT set to battle feisty Peru in Hartford

CHESTER, PA - MAY 28: Tim Weah #11 and Josh Sargent #13 of the United States celebrate after a goal by Sargent in the second half of the friendly soccer match against Bolivia at Talen Energy Stadium on May 28, 2018 in Chester, Pennsylvania. The United States defeated Bolivia 3-0. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

The Peru national team bowed out of this summer’s World Cup with just one win in three group games, but there’s a sense that La Blanquirroja are much better than their early exit suggests.

So the United States men’s national team is likely in for a tricky challenge when it hosts the Peruvians for a friendly in East Hartford, Conn., at 7:30 p.m. ET Wednesday night.

Peru is creative and free-wheeling in the attack, though often overlooked as a legitimate challenger thanks to the company it keeps in South America. It’s tough to qualify for the World Cup out of CONMEBOL, so when Peru did in the last cycle with less trouble than Lionel Messi and Argentina, it raised a few eyebrows.

The USMNT will find that Peru has plenty of speed and flair to match. Look no further than Orlando City SC’s Yoshimar Yotun, a quick winger who played in the MLS All-Star Game and is among the Western Hemisphere’s most underrated players in counterattacking situations, plus Rayo Vallocano’s Luis Advincula and Andre Carrillo, the team’s architect in midfield.

The Americans have struggled with fast opponents lately, particularly when it comes to defending counterattacks and chances that start on the wing. That much was clear in a 4-2 loss against Colombia on Thursday, and in a 2-0 loss to Brazil in New Jersey Sept. 9.

But interim U.S. coach David Sarachan wants the U.S. to play with conviction and work to control the game, regardless of the opponent. There was an obvious gap in talent and skill between the USMNT and Brazil, but not one so wide that the Americans should have had just 35 percent of possession.

Similarly, the U.S. went into halftime of the Colombia game down 1-0. Sarachan used the intermission to tell his players to put their stamp on the game. To their credit, they did, by scoring a pair of goals within three minutes and briefly taking a second-half lead.

Tuesday night’s contest in Hartford is an interesting test because the Peruvians aren’t likely to roll over. They’re talented and particularly creative, which takes any skills they have, technically, and magnifies them. More broadly, Peru also can’t afford to back down in South America due to the hyper-competitive nature of World Cup qualification; almost every country on the continent has the skills to qualify, but there are only up to five spots for grabs every four years.

Having such a blue collar opponent with a fighting spirit is of tremendous use to the U.S., which is currently in transition thanks, in no small part, to maybe getting a little complacent in CONCACAF.

Regardless, the transition is still ongoing. Sarachan is on his way out. A new, permanent head coach is expected to be named in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, the player pool contains some veterans, such as Michael Bradley, who are fighting to show why they deserve a place in the new regime alongside up-and-coming talent like Christian Pulisic, Josh Sargent and Tim Weah, among others.

Tuesday is the seventh meeting all-time between the U.S. and Peru. The U.S. is 3-2-1 against La Blanquirroja, having won the last match-up 2-1 in Sept. 2015.

On another bright note, the US is also 4-1-1 in Hartford. Its last game there was Landon Donovan’s international goodbye, a 2-1 victory against Ghana on July 1, 2017.

The Yanks were transitioning then, too, though few would have predicted that the national team program’s rocky period would have culminated in failing to reach the World Cup.

The only way out is through, and Peru is a worthy challenger.

Projected Lineups

USMNT: GK Brad Guzan; D John Brooks, Matt Miazga, Antonee Robinson, DeAndre Yedlin; M Michael Bradley, Kellyn Acosta, Julian Green, Tim Weah, Wil Trapp; F Bobby Wood

Peru: GK Pedro Gallese; D Luis Advincula, Alexander Callens, Christian Ramos; M Anderson Santamaria, Miguel Trauco, Andre Carrillo, Christian Cueva, Yoshi Yotun; F Yordy Reyna, Raul Ruidaz

Players to Watch

USMNT: Matt Miazga. Should he be afforded a start, can he work with John Brooks to limit Peru’s spicy and speedy attack? The US defense has been getting torched as of late – particularly at the hands of South American teams. Peru may not have the household names of its continental rivals, but it’s still got creativity and speed at a premium.

Peru: Andre Carrillo. Carrillo was Peru’s beating heart through the midfield in the World Cup and enters the game with six goals in 52 international appearances.

Match Details

Expected kick-off time: 7:30 p.m. EST

Weather: 57°, partly cloudy

TV: ESPN2/Unimas

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