Preview: USMNT vs. Venezuela

SAN DIEGO, CA - MARCH 29: USMNT vs. Venezuela: Chivas USA teammates facing off tonight? (Photo by Kent Horner/Getty Images)

As Ryan Rosenblatt explains over at SB Nation, tonight's match between the United States Men's National Team and Venezuela is very much a 'B' friendly in Phoenix (6 pm PT, Galavision/ESPN3.com). If more than three or four of these Americans feature in a large proportion of 2014 World Cup Qualifying, it will mean many first-choice players are hurt or unavailable. Still, this is a rare opportunity for players who may not get much of a chance the rest of the year to show USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann that they belong in the mix in 2012.

For Venezuela, the situation is similar, as European-based players will not be participating, but the golden age of the vinotinto looks to have just begun, and finding success in 2011 after a dire history on the international front means the drop in talent in this match may not be as concerning as it is for the Americans. Last year they played like a team with nothing to lose and it served them very well. There's no reason to believe they will change their tune for tonight's match.

Of course of interest to Chivas USA fans will be if Heath Pearce features for the home team and if Alejandro Moreno plays for Venezuela. I fully expect to see both players out there tonight. For Pearce if he gets any game action, it will be his first since Klinsmann became boss (he was called up for the Mexico friendly but did not play, and was injured on the second round of friendlies after being called up again). He's been playing as a left back in the senior team's scrimmages against the U23 squad, and given the problem finding a suitable left back for the national team, he has a small chance of rising up the ranks if he impresses. I wouldn't be surprised if he plays well this year and gets called up, but becoming a regular starter in competitive matches seems unlikely to me at this point. Still, he's getting a shot, and that's all one could ask for.

For Moreno, he's been a fixture for Venezuela and will most likely play today because he plays in MLS and I'm guessing coach Cesar Farias gives him good minutes, despite using a policy of rotating his forwards in almost every match. The squad is in the middle of perhaps the most brutal World Cup Qualifying campaign in the world in CONMEBOL, and this match will probably give some new guys minutes and help the players tune up before competitive fixtures begin again.

I'm of two minds on a predicted result. I assume most American fans are going to believe the Venezuelans will be complete pushovers, but that's a risky bet. On the other hand, the match is in the U.S. and the pressure will be on the Americans to get a result against a relatively easy opponent, even if it's a B friendly. I think the USMNT pull out a win, but it will be a 3-2 nervy affair.

What is your prediction? Expectations for the players? Leave a comment below!

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