After the brutal disappointments of 2015, the U.S. MNT will be looking to start off on a positive note when it faces Iceland Sunday afternoon in its first match of the new year.
The game comes at the end of the team’s traditional January camp, although this year’s edition was far from the norm with Jurgen Klinsmann selecting a number younger players with an eye on Olympic qualification.
The nine U23 players are in camp specifically to prepare for a home and home showdown with Colombia coming in March that is the last chance for the two countries to book a place at the Rio Games this summer.
Klinsmann has to prepare his senior side for a pair of World Cup Qualifiers versus Guatemala, also in March while keeping an eye on preparations for the historic Copa America Centenario which U.S. Soccer is hosting in June.
With all that in the mix, it will be interesting to see how the coach selects his team on Sunday and in a subsequent game against Canada on February 5. Both matches will be at the StubHub Center in Carson, California where the U.S. MNT have been holding training camp.
Klinsmann could opt for a veteran-laden squad or a more youthful side, or he could mix and match. There is also the option of relying on the vets in game one before letting youth have its day against Canada or vice versa.
Aside from a pair of players, Jermaine Jones, and Perry Kitchen, listed as unattached, Jerome Kiesewetter (Stuttgart), and Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana) are the only players on the roster not on the books for an MLS club.
The most notable absentee is Clint Dempsey, who decided to prepare for the upcoming season on his own, apparently with Klinsmann’s blessing. Dempsey was left off of the U.S. roster for the November World Cup Qualifiers versus St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a move that seemed questionable when the Yanks drew at T&T, a match that might have been winnable had Dempsey been available.
Also out of the picture for the moment is young center back Matt Miazga who left camp on Tuesday to jet to London to sign with Premier League side Chelsea. That move has yet to be completed but it sounded as good as done when Blues manager Guus Hiddink said today that Miazga will not be sent on loan, rather the soon to be former New York Red Bull will be a Chelsea squad player and will be evaluated throughout the rest of the season.
Veterans Michael Bradley, Matt Besler, Jones, and Jozy Altidore will be looked at to lead the squad while a lot of eyes will be trained on new Seattle Sounder forward Jordan Morris and Portland Timbers Darlington Nagbe, an attacking midfielder who impressed in November, and who many hope can provide some much-needed creativity in the center of the park.
Like the U.S., Sunday’s opponent, Iceland will field a domestic-based squad. Iceland’s players will be pushing for places in the countries roster for the 2016 Euro’s to be held this summer in France.
This is the first major international tournament Iceland has qualified for, so the U.S. can expect a motivated opponent on Sunday.
U.S.A. vs. Iceland
StubHub Center, Carson, California. 3:45 ET
U.S.A. vs. Canada
StubHub Center, Carson, California. 7:15
GOALKEEPERS (3): David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Luis Robles (New York Red Bulls)
DEFENDERS (9): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), Eric Miller (Montreal Impact), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana), Tim Parker (Vancouver Whitecaps FC), Matt Polster (Chicago Fire), Brandon Vincent (Chicago Fire), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Mix Diskerud (New York City FC), Jermaine Jones (unattached), Perry Kitchen (unattached), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution), Tony Tchani (Columbus Crew SC), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC)
FORWARDS (6): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Ethan Finlay (Columbus Crew SC), Jerome Kiesewetter (VfB Stuttgart), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Khiry Shelton (New York City FC), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)