Northern Ireland will be playing to win when they face United States of America in Belfast today, according to senior men’s team manager Ian Baraclough.
The game at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park (5.05pm kick-off) is listed as a friendly but Baraclough insists there is no such thing as a friendly in international football any more.
And the Northern Ireland manager is keen to bounce back quickly from the 2-0 defeat to Italy in a World Cup qualifier in Parma on Thursday.
He told a press conference yesterday that he will not be taking the game lightly and nor will his players.
He said he wants a win against the Stars and Stripes - it’s the first time that the two countries will face each other at senior international level - to build momentum towards the World Cup qualifier against Bulgaria in Belfast on Wednesday.
Kilmarnock striker Kyle Lafferty, who came on as a sub against the Italians, will definitely be in the starting eleven as he has been named captain of the Northern Ireland team. He will earn his 81st cap today.
Celtic goalkeeper Conor Hazard will also start, replacing Bailey Peacock-Farrell in nets, while Baraclough is expected to make several other changes from the starting line-up in Parma.
He said he wants so-called fringe players to be given the opportunity to show what they can do – and he is confident they can deliver.
Regular captain Steven Davis will not start, however he is expected to come off the bench to beat the British caps record. He equalled former England goalkeeper Peter Shilton’s 125 total against the Italians.
Baraclough is expecting to come up against a fluid, attacking American outfit who are comfortable in possession and full of running.
The United States typically line up in an attacking 4-3-3 formation which appears more like a 2-5-3 when in possession. Head coach Gregg Berhalter is keen for his team to play out from the back and has defended this approach in the past, even on the occasions it has backfired.
There is much excitement in the States about the quality of player available to Berhalter these days. With numerous representatives from Europe’s ‘big five’ leagues, there are many who will consider the Stars and Stripes as contenders for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.
The current crop of players are well suited to the dynamic system put in place by the head coach.
Full-backs such as 20-year-old Barcelona starlet Sergiño Dest and Fulham’s Antonee Robinson are adept at joining in their side’s attacks or getting back to defend as required.
The USMNT (US Men's National Soccer Team), as they are known back home, enjoyed a 4-1 victory over Jamaica on Thursday night and will undoubtedly want another win under their belts today.
Their goals in the friendly against the Jamaicans – it was played in Austria – were scored by Sebastian Lletget (two), Dest and Brenden Aaronson, who are all in the squad for the game against the boys in green and white.
Star striker Christian Pulisic, who became the most expensive player in American soccer history when he moved from Borussia Dortmund to Chelsea in 2019 for a fee of $73m, is also in the panel.
The starting front three against Jamaica was Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen) and Pulisic, however Berhalter may mix things up by including Barnsley striker Daryl Dike or Young Boys forward Jordan Siebatcheu from the start today.