The United States men’s national team will begin its preparations for a crunch Confederations Cup playoff against Mexico with a friendly against Peru on Friday. Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, though, has admitted that neither he nor his players are yet over the team’s shock Gold Cup exit.
Favored by many to retain its Concacaf crown in July, the U.S. was upset by Jamaica in the semifinals. Klinsmann faced much criticism for what was arguably the worst defeat of his four-year reign, in a tournament where his side underwhelmed throughout. Yet speaking ahead of the match with Peru in Washington, D.C., Klinsmann stated that the U.S. had been a victim of poor officiating. Goalkeeper Brad Guzan was controversially penalized for handling the ball outside of his box to provide a free-kick from which Jamaica scored their second goal. Yet, while a call rarely given, it was shown to be correct,
“Obviously it happened what happened in the Gold Cup,” Klinsmann said, reports MLSSoccer.com. “We don’t want to get deeper into that topic; there’s still a little bit of anger in me.”
“I think it left something in our stomach, the way it happened there, the decisions of referees, a lot of controversial stuff that happened in that Gold Cup left something bitter, something sour with us. So we have to go kind of the extra mile -- we’ll go the extra mile -- but [the Gold Cup experience] can only help us. It will be a tremendous experience for all the players to go and step on the field in front of 90,000 fans and in a one-off [match].”
Perhaps the major talking point looking ahead to the encounter with Mexico at the Rose Bowl has also involved Guzan. With Tim Howard ending his one-year sabbatical from the national team, Klinsmann has been faced with a selection dilemma in goal. But rather than bring the Everton man straight back in, Klinsmann has instead stated that Guzan would keep hold of his position through to the Confederations Cup playoff.
Some other experienced players could be in the running to get back into the lineup, however. Jermaine Jones, who missed the Gold Cup through injury, Geoff Cameron, who was given the summer off, and Matt Besler, surprisingly omitted from the squad, have all returned to the fold. Missing from both the match with Peru and a friendly against Brazil next Tuesday, though, will be the United States’ captain at the Gold Cup, Michael Bradley, and the man he replaced in the role, Clint Dempsey. Both have been left out due to their commitments in Major League Soccer.
As well as the Confederations Cup playoff, the U.S. will also have one eye on the start of their road to the World Cup in Russia in November. But, while Klinsmann’s side should be able to ease through its initial round of qualifying, its opponents on Friday will be thrown right into the grueling South American qualification campaign.
Peru have plenty of reason for confidence heading into their attempts to make it to their first World Cup since 1982. Ricardo Gareca’s team were a surprise package at this summer’s Copa America, losing narrowly to hosts and eventual champions Chile in the semifinals before going on to take third place. Experienced striker Paolo Guerrero was the star of that run, finishing as the tournament’s joint-top scorer with four goals, but is set to miss out against the United States with a sprained ankle.
Prediction: Both sides will be weakened by the loss of key players and have their focus on challenges that lie ahead, likely limiting the intensity and quality of this encounter. The U.S. has plenty of work to do after a series of poor performances at the Gold Cup and may have to settle for a draw against a resilient Peru side.
Predicted score: USA 1-1 Peru
Kickoff time: 7 p.m. EDT
TV channel: Fox Sports 1