The United States men’s national team will round out its 2014 schedule by taking on the Republic of Ireland in Dublin on Tuesday. For coach Jurgen Klinsmann and his team, a strong performance and a win will be keenly desired to prevent a year that encompassed encouragement and ultimate heartache at the World Cup from disappointingly petering out.
Since getting a credible victory at the Czech Republic in September, the U.S. team has failed to win its last three matches, during which Klinsmann has made team selections with one eye on Russia in 2018. There was frustration at letting leads slip late on against both Ecuador and Honduras on home soil last month, before an early lead against No. 3 ranked Colombia last Friday was turned into a defeat, thanks to another late goal. After the loss, Klinsmann suggested that solutions to the late lapses would be tough to find before taking on Ireland.
“I don’t know if you can resolve that in 90 minutes training sessions, wait for the last five maybe,” Klinsmann said. “Don’t tell Ireland that we have conceded too many goals in the last couple of minutes.
“It comes down to many reasons. We have many players struggling after the World Cup to get back into shape, especially European players who lost starting spots. Coming out of a World Cup you have to realize that 90 minutes is not always coming out of their legs. Some players you see them go downhill after 70 minutes and that is why we conceded a goal against Ecuador two minutes from the end and now again today. What we really want to see is how the players progress, overall.”
Despite Jozy Altidore’s early strike at Fulham’s Craven Cottage stadium on the banks of London’s River Thames, Klinsmann’s men could have few complaints about coming out on the losing side to a highly talented Colombian outfit that reached the quarterfinals at this summer’s World Cup. Sunderland striker Altidore will again captain his team on Tuesday in the absence of Clint Dempsey, who has been allowed to rest ahead of the climax to the MLS Cup playoffs. Dempsey’s Seattle Sounders teammate DeAndre Yedlin has now joined him in being given time to prepare for this weekend’s Conference Championship first legs, with New England Revolution pair Jermaine Jones and Lee Nguyen also released.
It means changes will be required to the lineup that takes on an Ireland team coming into the match on the back of a far more significant loss than their opponents. Having beaten Georgia and Gibraltar before claiming a hugely impressive draw away at world champions Germany, the Republic began their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign in strong fashion. But a 1-0 reversal to rivals Scotland in Glasgow last Friday leaves them in fourth place in Group D, with the first two set to make it to France automatically and the third going onto a playoff. Failing to take advantage of the European Championship’s expanded format would be a crushing blow for a country that has made it to just one major tournament since the 2002 World Cup.
Ireland’s all-time leading goal-scorer Robbie Keane, who surprisingly started on the bench against Scotland, will not be involved against the country where he plies his trade domestically, after returning to Los Angeles to prepare for the Galaxy’s meeting with the Sounders. But Ireland’s preparations over the past week have instead been dominated by off-field matters involving another Keane, assistant coach Roy. The former Manchester United captain was allegedly involved in an altercation at the Ireland team’s hotel last week, for which the police were called.
The U.S. and the Republic of Ireland played out the most recent of its eight meetings in 2002 at Landsdowne Road -- since knocked down and replaced by the venue for Tuesday night’s match, the Aviva Stadium -- when the hosts triumphed 2-1.
Prediction: The Ireland team is unlikely to be in a particularly buoyant mood after the loss in Scotland, presenting an opportunity for Klinsmann to secure another positive result on the road against decent European opposition. Still, missing the likes of Dempsey, Jones and Michael Bradley, a draw may be the limit of their achievements against a well-drilled Irish side under manager Martin O’Neil.
Republic of Ireland 1-1 USA
Kickoff time: 2.45 p.m. EST
TV channel: ESPN2
Live stream: Watch ESPN