The U.S. national team's upcoming friendly vs. the Netherlands is less than three days away now and we will soon learn just how far certain players have come in their progression as players with just three months to go before the World Cup.
Don't be fooled. Wednesday's match is about the performances of American players who haven't been regular starters, not about some statement the team itself needs to make against the Dutch. A good team performance is still one of the goals for the Americans, but the notion that this friendly's result will have grand meaning and earn some respect for the United States is a stale premise, particularly when the team is missing several key players.
That's where the value in this match lies, in seeing how players who haven't been starters respond to the opportunities Bob Bradley will give them. We all know who the U.S. team's top players are, who the proven veterans are, but the next generation of talent needs to be battle tested and we needed to see how they'll react when facing top international talent like the Dutch possesses.
Players such as Maurice Edu and Stuart Holden will have their chance to show that they're more than just stop-gap options for injured players, but capable starters who can deliver when given the opportunity. Jonathan Bornstein will have the chance to silence the remaining critics who still aren't sold on him as the top left back option. DaMarcus Beasley will have the chance to show that he's worthy of being brought back into the fold.
That is what will ultimately be the true measure of Wednesday's match, how the aforementioned players perform in what will essentially be their best chance to show they are ready for an important role at the World Cup.
There are signs that suggest some players are ready for the opportunity. Edu has re-established himself with Glasgow Rangers while Holden has impressed in recent starts for Bolton. Both should be given the chance to start vs. the Netherlands and how they do will go a long way toward determining whether or not Wednesday's match is a success for the United States.
If players such as Holden, Edu and Beasley step up and make the most of this chance, the United States should deliver a worthy performance against a difficult foe. More importantly, it will show U.S. coach Bob Bradley and U.S. fans that the team is deeper than we realized and better equipped to deal with potential injuries to key players.
And if they crumble against the Dutch? If none of the aforementioned players steps up it will serve as a harsh reminder that the United States still doesn't have the depth to offset injuries to players such as Clint Dempsey and Oguchi Onyewu. A bad loss won't necessarily mean the United States is doomed for the 2010 World Cup, but it will certainly mean that American fans need to start praying that injured regulars Dempsey, Onyewu and Charlie Davies can recover in time to not just play in the World Cup, but carry a heavy load.