The first few months of the Klinsmann era weren’t as successful as many might have hoped in terms of wins and losses, but after ending the 2011 calendar with a respectable 1-0 defeat in France and a solid 3-2 win in Slovenia, there’s definite positive momentum heading into 2012.
The slate for next year is far from finalized, but it will give fans an opportunity to gauge just how much progression is being made and who will play significant roles going forward, as along with multiple friendly matches, the U.S. will begin their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign in the summer.
Friendlies: v. Venezuela and Panmana, 21 and 25 January
While other soccer tickets might be far more appealing, due to Dempsey, Donovan, and others not taking part, these matches definitely bear watching, as some of the U.S.‘ most talented prospects will get a valuable chance to make their case to be under consideration for more important matches later on in the year.
Two January friendlies kick off the 2012 calendar, as the U.S. will face Venezuela at University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona on 21 January and then face Panama at the Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama City four days later.
The two matches wrap up the U.S.’ January training camp and aren’t on scheduled international fixture dates, so Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Tim Howard, and the other regulars that are based in top European leagues won’t be a part of the squad.
Instead, the squad will be made up of mostly U.S.-based players, so the likes of Juan Agudelo, Teal Bunbury, Omar Gonzalez, and the in-demand Brek Shea, who all participated in the friendly against Chile this past January are all likely to be involved. So could - and should - Sporting Kansas City forward C.J. Sapong, the 2011 MLS Rookie of the Year, along with FC Dallas duo George John and Zach Loyd. Also, Norway-based midfielders Mikkel Diskerud and Josh Gatt could be included, since the Norwegian season doesn’t begin until late March.
As nice as winning both matches would be, it’s secondary to giving prospects an opportunity to show what they’re made of in an international setting, to receive experience that will prove vital, and for Klinsmann to further put his imprint on the present and future of U.S. soccer. That being said, many of Venezuela’s best players are based in Europe, and Panama could also be missing a number of key players, so the opportunity will be there to pick up a pair of victories with quality performances.
U.S. Men’s National Team In 2014 World Cup Qualifying
The road to Brazil 2014 begins in June, when the third round of CONCACAF’s World Cup qualifying tournament gets underway. As has been the case recently, the 12 remaining teams have been split into three four-team groups, with the top two from each group advancing to the final round of qualifying.
Qualification for the six-team final round should be a relative breeze, with Antigua and Barbuda, Guatemala, and Jamaica the other three sides in the U.S. group. The U.S. will face each side home and away, starting with a home tie against Antigua and Barbuda on June 8 and ending with a home tie against Guatemala on October 16.
The U.S. will no doubt be favored to win all six matches, and with all of the top players being available (barring injury, of course), a perfect run is definitely a doable task. The two ties against Jamaica will likely be the toughest, as that’s the side most likely to take the other spot in the final round, but that certainly doesn’t mean that the other two sides will be taken lightly.
However, with Klinsmann needing to consider the future as much as the present, don’t be surprised if a few key players are rested for a couple of the matches in favor of giving some of the potential stars of tomorrow a chance to shine in a meaningful match, because it's never too early to start looking at the future of the men's national team post-Brazil.
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