The United States men’s national team will step up preparations for this summer’s Gold Cup when taking on Denmark on Wednesday in the first of two friendly internationals in Europe. After facing the Danes in Aarhus, Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad travel to Zurich to take on a Switzerland side that was one of the seeds in last year’s World Cup.
For the U.S. coach, it is the first time he has enjoyed the liberty of being able to pick a full-strength squad since last November, and he will be eager to see positive signs ahead of the team’s defense of their Concacaf crown in July.
Yet, it is a squad that once again also looks geared toward a much longer term plan, notably the next World Cup in Russia, still more than three years away. Having got his domestic-based players together for a January camp, and with the Major League Soccer season only just underway, Klinsmann suggested that the emphasis this time was on looking at players from Europe, and, indeed, Mexico. Yet, experienced MLS trio Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey were still selected, although the latter has since pulled out through injury. Meanwhile, Stoke City defender Geoff Cameron has been left out, with Klinsmann explaining that he wants to take a look at some new faces.
One of those is 22-year-old defender Ventura Alvarado from Liga MX side Club América. He is one of two first-time squad members, alongside another player who was eligible for both the U.S. and Mexico, León goalkeeper William Yarbrough. There are also places for teenagers Julian Green and Rubio Rubin, despite the duo also being eligible for both Under-23 and Under-20 duty in what is a big year for both teams.
Klinsmann has experimented continually with both personnel and tactics since the World Cup, but it came at a cost of five matches without a win late last year and increasing criticism for the former Germany coach. And Bradley has stressed that it is crucial to strike the right balance between planning for the future and still maintaining standards.
“For us this is a period where now some new guys have been brought in, some new guys have been given opportunities and shown confidence to play and play big roles, and we have to understand that we have to be patient with that,” he said in an interview with the U.S. Soccer website.
“Obviously it’s up to the older players, the leaders, the coaches, to make sure the right balance is found, to make sure that we are holding everybody to as high a standard as we normally do, and to make sure that the level doesn’t drop. We have to make sure that we’re still coming away with the results that we need, but there also has to be an understanding this is still a part of it and the biggest games are still to come.”
It has been an eventful time for the United States’ opponents. It was only a few days ago that a long-running labor dispute between Denmark’s football association (DBU) and the Danish player union was resolved and a full-strength squad able to be selected. On top of that, Morten Olsen, who has been in charge since 2000, announced that he will be stepping down as coach after Euro 2016. Denmark have, though, made a strong start to their qualifying campaign for the tournament, currently topping their group ahead of Portugal. The main man the U.S. team is likely to have to watch out for is Christian Eriksen. The Tottenham midfielder will have particular reason for wanting to put on a starring performance on Wednesday, with the match marking his 50th appearance for his country.
Kickoff time: 3 p.m. ET
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