United States - Iceland Preview: A Rare Showdown
Jozy Altidore (Left) and captain Michael Bradley will have to lead the USMNT to victory against Iceland on Sunday at the StubHub Center. Photo provided by John Todd-ISI Photos.

On Sunday at the StubHub Center, the United States Men’s National Team will face Iceland for the first time since 1994.

These two countries have faced each other only six times. Their record is an even (W-L-D) 2-2-2 with the Americans finishing with a slight advantage in the goal differential department, positive two.

The Last Meeting and the Last US Wins

The last time the USMNT and Iceland met was 22 years ago in a warmup match for the 1994 FIFA World Cup. The Europeans did not qualify to the tournament that year, but they still managed to beat the United States 2-1 at Chula Vista, California.

So the last time the Yanks beat Iceland was in 1993 at the Laugardalsvöllur in Reykjavik, Iceland.  The USMNT recorded a rare victory on European soil with a slim 1-0 final score. However, the last time the Stars and Stripes beat Iceland at home was in 1990 at St. Louis. In a tune up game for the 1990 World Cup in Italy, the U.S. defeated Iceland 4-1.   

Regardless that this match is a friendly, both sides will be searching for the victory to build momentum for the rest of the year.

Important 2016 For Both Countries

Both nations have a busy 2016 ahead of them. Iceland qualified to their first European Championships by finishing in second place in their group with a (W-L-D) 6-2-2 record. The Strákarnir okkar (are also known as: Our Boys) only conceded six goals in 10 matches. They finished the group stage with six shutouts; two of them came against the Netherlands.

Iceland was rewarded by getting drawn into Group F with three other nations for the Euro’s. They were placed with Portugal, Austria and Hungary. However a couple months after the Euro’s end, the qualifications for the World Cup begin in Sept. Our Boys were placed in Group I with four other countries.  

Iceland Makes History

Iceland made history last year by qualifying to the Euro’s in France. Now they will be looking to secure their first trip to a World Cup. For a change there is a lot of hope and pressure riding on this nation when it comes to soccer. However, Iceland has not started the year as good as they desired.

When they face the USMNT on Sunday they will be playing in their third match of 2016. Iceland won the first match against Finland 1-0 on Jan. 13th at the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium located at Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

However, three days later they lost to the United Arab Emirates 2-1 on Jan. 16th at the same stadium. So instead of entering the match against the Yanks with a 2-0 record they have a 1-1 and will be looking to improve.

For the Americans, a victory to start the year is the exactly what they need to forget about a frustrating and long 2015. Last year, the USMNT started with the agenda of defending their Gold Cup title and also qualifying to the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia.

The Yanks had a solid build up to the tournament. The national team competed in eight matches, and they went 5-2-1 and finished with a positive eight goal differentials. On the way, the United States tied Switzerland in Zurich, shutout Mexico 2-0 and then completed two comeback victories to defeat Germany and the Netherlands on the road.

By the time the Gold Cup rolled along. there was a lot of buzz for the national team. However, their performance was flat from the first game against Honduras and eventually they were eventually knocked out of the tournament by Jamaica in the semifinals.

The US Stumble Near The End of 2015

After that, the USMNT began to crumble at an alarming rate. They finished the Gold Cup in fourth place and they went on to win only two of their next six games. That included losing to Mexico in the CONCACAF Cup 3-2 at the Rose Bowl on Oct. 10th.

That defeat marked 2015 as a failure for the national team. Since the two main goals were not achieved, they failed to win the Gold Cup and to secure a place in the upcoming Confederations Cup.

However, this year has a lot in store for the Americans. First off, is to advance to the fifth round of World Cup Qualifications.

The Yanks currently sit in first place with four points and a positive five goal differential in their group of four. Trinidad and Tobago are in second place with the same amount of points, but they only have a positive one goal differential.

If the United States takes care of business in their final four matches, then they will breeze into the final round of CONCACAF qualification.

However, the United States also has the Copa América Centenario coming up in June.  The U.S. will host the tournament and it is predicated to be the biggest soccer tournament in America since the 1994 World Cup.

Before any of that happens, USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann needs to first get a positive result against Iceland on Sunday. Another defeat on home soil for the Yanks might send the Americans down the rabbit hole.

To prevent that from happening, veterans like Jozy Altidore, captain Michael Bradley, Matt Besler and Jermaine Jones need to step up. Compared to Iceland the Yanks have more experience.

The Europeans have a combined total of 258 caps from 18 players. Now 12 of those players have 10 or fewer appearances for the national team, and five of them have yet to participate in a single game.

The USMNT have a combined 409 caps out of 26 players. Eighteen of them have played in fewer than 10 matches for the senior team. Out of the 18, Klinsmann brought 10 players who have never represented the national team before.

In nearly every position, the United States has the advantage with experience and in age. For example, Iceland has three forwards on their roster. The three strikers share a combined 87 caps, but 37-year-old Eiður Guðjohnsen carries 83 of them. The Yanks have six on the roster, for Ethan Finlay, Jerome Kiesewetter and Khiry Shelton this is their first time on the national team. Jordan Morris, Gyasi Zardes and Altidore have a combined 115 caps between them. Plus none of them are in their 30’s. However, the midfield is the biggest separation between the two countries.

There are eight midfielders on the U.S. roster and seven on Iceland’s. Only Tony Tchani has yet to receive a cap for the USMNT in this midfield. However, Iceland has three players who have yet to play for the senior team. The United States has a combined 213 caps, compared to the European nation's 28.

With that advantage, the Americans with captain Bradley leading the way, can easily take over the match. In result, the USMNT will control the possession and give their forwards multiple chances of scoring.

The strategy for Klinsmann to achieve a victory is simple; never lose the battle of the midfield. With all that experience in the middle that task should not be a hard one to complete, which will result in an easy victory.

Prediction: USA 4-1 Iceland   

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