-Jason Davis

In the buildup to tonight's friendly against Chile at the Home Depot Center, Jeffrey Carlisle described Bob Bradley's as being in "mad scientist" mode. Usually, when Chile is involved, it's their head coach, Marcelo Bielsa, who is more deserving of that label. Bob Bradley doing anything "mad" doesn't jibe with the coach we know.

Carlisle's point is that Bradley has assembled an experimental side for this match, a raw, green, yet tantalizingly talented group of young players that, depending on how they turn out individually and as an undefined group, could dictate the direction of the US National Team over the course of the next three and a half years. Should enough of players like Juan Agudelo, Teal Bunbury, Tim Ream, etc. come good in a US shirt, a widespread transition from old generation to new will happen sooner rather than later. That could also mean a distinct change in philosophy. This young talent brings a new set of strengths Bradley will look to use to the team's advantage.

While this camp and this match is mostly about the players, glimpses of the future, the potential that lies in the pool, breaking in an immediate contributor or two, and setting the stage for later full debuts of others, it's also about Bradley. The end of 2010, with the World Cup disappointment still fresh but the business of getting on with it starting him in the face, gave indication of a change in the stoic coach. Bob will always be a conservative, defensively-minded coach at his core, but perhaps a second cycle as USMNT coach gives him a chance to relax just a bit.  After having gone through the ups and downs of one cycle, with a World Cup at the end of it and a respectable if disappointing performance under his belt, maybe Bob Bradley feels like he's free rolling. He has to be more comfortable at the very least.

He knows he wasn't the first choice to lead the troops (again), but unlike his first go, he might not really feel like he has much to prove. Whether US Soccer wanted Klinsmann again or not, Bradley surely feels good about what he accomplished during the last cycle. Meaningful Gold Cup title. Confed Cup Final appearance. Top finisher in qualifying. Top of a World Cup group, an appearance in the second round, and the fantastic moments that run brought with it. The fans aren't sold and probably never will be and Bradley continues to take more than his fair share of abuse, but he has never appeared too concerned with his approval rating anyway.

That's a nice way of saying that maybe Bob isn't quite as concerned with keeping his job as he was before, though I doubt self-preservation was ever one of his internally enumerated concerns. I don't mean to say he'll treat the task lightly, or that he won't be as committed to doing the best job he can, just that on a subconscious level a few shackles might have fallen away with "been there, done that" now part of his makeup. Forgive the dime store psychology, but it's not unreasonable to think Bradley 2.0 might come with a slightly different set of motivations than the initial version. Maybe that will make him a better coach. If Bradley learned from the example of Bruce Arena, he'll want to keep the message and the approach fresh lest he repeat Bruce's second World Cup performance. It's never too early to think about it.

We got a glimpse of new things when the US went to South Africa in November. Juan Agudelo scored, Mix Diskerud enthralled, and a fresh feeling accompanied the team Bradley called in for the trip. The January camp can't help but have that same feeling. If Bradley does have a free roll, it's in a game like this, where experimentation is the foremost concern.

The real test of this theory won't come until Bradley has the chance to call in the full squad. Will he stick to his tried-and-true guns, putting the US in position to scrap for everything it gets through conscientious defending and calculated attack, or will he risk a bit more and inject a new attitude into how America plays?

Bradley probably won't be the "mad scientist" anymore when the final whistle blows on USA-Chile tonight at the Home Depot Center, but maybe he'll carry over a sliver of adventurous spirit into the rest of the cycle.

A few preview notes:

I'm not big on match previews, mostly because they're not my strong suit, but I obviously have a few things I'll be keeping an eye on tonight. For a more in-depth and informed guess about what might happen and how the US might line up, check that other Davis. For an important discussion on why this isn't a "meaningless" friendly, read this excellent thing.

Ream and Gonzalez

The expected centerback pairing of the future is the expected centerback pairing for tonight. Ream is literally my favorite young player in the US pool, because as exciting as some of the attacking talent is, having a player in the back with his ball skills is a priceless asset. Considering how Bielsa and Chile like to play, Ream and Gonzalez will have their hands full. I expect some dodgy moments, but hope to see solid play that will bode well for a future full-squad partnership. I wouldn't might one of the two playing well enough to push Gooch down the depth chart.

Agudelo and Bunbury

I won't lie - I'm excited by the promise Juan Agudelo shows, and I believe he can be a real talent in the coming years. But he's very young, has limited professional game experience, and will need more seasoning before anyone should imagine him starting up top for the full US team in a meaningful competition. Hence, I'll be watching how Agudelo and Bunbury play together and how they handle the nerves individually, without putting too much into results (unless one or both score multiple times, at which point I will stop what I'm doing and immediately demand that Bradley install them as starters or the A team).

aka Where is Mix?

Most speculation has the US playing a 4-4-2 to start, with Dax McCarty and Jeff Larentowicz starting in central midfield and Diskerud and Bedoya wide. That makes sense, of course, but I'm hoping for a bit of variation from Bradley, even if it means someone I'd like to see play is forced to sit initially. It's a friendly, so Bob can mix things up without worrying too much (which he obviously knows). Of course he wants to get something out of the game from an evaluation standpoint, but the result doesn't really matter. A boring (from the US end of things) draw or win is less intriguing to me than a shakeup and a loss. A four man backline is a guarantee. From there, I'm willing to accept almost anything that involves more implied attack than Larentowicz and McCarty would bring paired together.

Consider this your open thread to discuss the match before, during, or after. On the podcast front, Jared DuBois will be covering the game for the American Soccer Show, so expect some audio from the match on the next edition along with his observations from seeing it happen in person.

Remember, the game is on Telefutura and ESPN3.com - no English language TV. Kickoff at 10 PM ET.

*UPDATE* Thought about doing a live blgo, then decided that Twitter serves the purpose better for this type of game. So if you want to interact, hit me up on @MFUSA

Also should have noted earlier that I hope to see Eugene Starikov on the field; while I haven't had a chance to see him play much, there's some intrigue there because I've posted on his story/USMNT chances.

Four hours till kick, trying to figure out what to do with myself.

*UPDATE 7:50 ET* Here's the 18-man roster for tonight. Lineup expected around 9 ET. No Starikov, though that's not really a surprise.

*UPDATE 9:00 ET* Here's your US lineup (4-2-3-1): Rimando; Franklin, Ream, Gonzalez, Loyd; Larentowicz, McCarty (C); Bedoya, Diskerud, Shea; Wondolowski

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