The United States men’s national team kicks off its 2015 schedule with a trip to South America and a friendly against Chile at Estadio El Teniente in Rancagua on Wednesday night.
After a previous 12 months that saw the U.S. team grab attention at the World Cup, before ending the year without a win in four matches, Jurgen Klinsmann has made it clear he wants to test his players as much as possible in ultimate preparation for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. That means away trips to European powers the Netherlands and Germany this summer, as well as a meeting with old foes Mexico in April. But first the almost-entirely domestic-based group of players selected for his January training camp has a tricky trip to take on a country that proved its growing strength in Brazil last summer.
“These guys have put in a lot of work these past two weeks of training for what is essentially their preseason, and now it’s time to focus on getting a result against a difficult opponent in Chile,” Klinsmann said, reports the U.S. Soccer website. “We know it’s going to be a challenging situation, but these are the types of opportunities we need to keep growing.”
With the match falling outside of the international window and European clubs in no mood to release their players at a crucial point in their season, Klinsmann will rely mainly on players drawn from Major League Soccer at the Estadio El Teniente. The German coach has made it clear that it has been a group named with a dual focus on the big goal for this year, the summer’s Concacaf Gold Cup, as well as next year’s Olympics qualifying for the Under-23s.Included with an eye to the latter objective is uncapped quartet, goalkeeper Jon Kempin, defender Shane O’Neil, and midfielders Dillon Serna and Wil Trapp.
“This was a really important experience for these U-23 players,” Klinsmann said. “They got a great introduction into the senior National Team program, and had the opportunity to work with [assistant coach and U-23 coach] Andi Herzog and our staff as we build toward Olympic qualifying in the fall. They put in a tremendous amount of work and we learned a lot about them. We appreciate the effort and will continue to monitor them in their club situations.”
With an increasing number of top U.S. internationals heading back to MLS, it is a squad that also contains plenty of experience. Indeed, nine members of the party were at the 2014 World Cup, including DeAndre Yedlin, who was given permission to join the squad despite having joined Premier League side Tottenham earlier this month.
Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli has been faced with the same limitations as Klinsmann in selecting his squad, but can’t rely on the same level as strength in his country’s domestic league. Only two members of Sampaoli’s selection were among those who upset holders Spain at the World Cup before agonizingly crashing out to hosts Brazil on penalties in the Round of 16.
Missing for the match at the home of Primera División side O’Higgins are the likes of Arsenal star Alexis Sanchez and Juventus midfield lynchpin Arturo Vidal. There is a place, though, for former Liverpool winger Mark González, now back in his home country with Universidad Católica. And Sampaoli will doubtless be intent on ensuring that, while the personnel is different, their high-pressing, high-tempo philosophy remains in place.
Goalkeepers: Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Jon Kempin (Sporting Kansas City), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
Defenders: Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Jermaine Jones (New England Revolution), Perry Kitchen (D.C. United), Shane O’Neill (Colorado Rapids), DeAndre Yedlin (Tottenham Hotspur)
Midfielders: Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Mix Diskerud (New York City FC), Luis Gil (Real Salt Lake), Miguel Ibarra (Minnesota United FC), Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution), Dillon Serna (Colorado Rapids), Brek Shea (Orlando City), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC)
Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Bobby Wood (1860 Munich), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)
Goalkeepers: Paulo Garcés (Colo-Colo), Johnny Herrera (Universidad de Chile)
Defenders: Juan Cornejo (Audax Italiano), Paulo Díaz (Palestino), Gonzalo Fierro (Colo-Colo), Osvaldo González (Universidad de Chile), Erick Pulgar (Universidad Católica), José Rojas (Universidad de Chile), Ángelo Sagal (Huachipato), Cristián Suárez (Universidad de Chile)
Midfielders: Bryan Carrasco (Audax Italiano), Gonzalo Espinoza (Universidad de Chile), Marco Medel (Santiago Wanderers), Diego Valdés (Audax Italiano), Jaime Valdés (Colo-Colo), César Valenzuela (Palestino)
Forwards: Juan Delgado (Colo-Colo), Mark González (Universidad Católica), Roberto Gutiérrez (Universidad Católica), Andrés Vilches (Huachipato)
Kickoff time: 6 p.m. EST
TV channel: Fox Sports 1, UniMas, Univision Deportes