Five Important Things to Watch in United States vs Azerbaijan

[Photo: USA Today]

[Photo: USA Today]

The US kicks off the first of three World Cup warm-up matches tonight against Azerbaijan. While every detail is critically important this close to the World Cup, here are five of the most important items to watch that will impact whether the US can make a successful run in Brazil.

The CB Pairing

The keys to central defense seem likely to be turned over to Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler. If this combination does not work, the US may be in big trouble as Omar Gonzalez and John Anthony Brooks have made less than compelling cases at the international level of late. This might also be the second, third, fourth, and fifth most important thing to watch tonight. It’s important the US not only finalizes their CB pairing, but that pairing and its outside backs, defensive midfielder, and ‘keeper begin to solidify a bit of a working relationship together in advance of Brazil.

Jozy Altidore

Is Jozy Altidore the forward who scored regularly for the US National Team from a year ago or is Jozy Altidore the forward who worked hard, but could not sniff a goal for Sunderland this year in England? Any hope of getting out of the group stage may be dependent on Jozy Altidore regaining his form and playing like the former.

Jermaine Jones & Michael Bradley

Will Jones finally defer to Bradley as the more attacking option of the two and sit back and defend? If Jones continues to fail to defer to Bradley, will Klinsmann do anything about it?

US Possession Game

Can this US team take the first few steps needed to transition from being a counter-attacking team to being a possession team? Can the US outside backs push forward into attack (their strength) or will they be forced on their heels to defend?

US Injuries

It’s a short time between now and Brazil and coming through each of these matches injury free is of critical importance. You don’t want to have to call back in a player who just got cut like Clarence Goodson or a Landon Donovan at this point.

Dwain Capodice is a freelance writer covering the Houston Dynamo and the US National Team for Keeper Notes and also serves as the Fan Blogger covering soccer at Chron.com.  He can be reached on twitter @dcapodice or via email at dwaincapodice@gmail.com.

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