The United States men’s soccer team open their centennial year Tuesday night in Houston with a friendly against Canada at BBVA Stadium. The game comes at the conclusion of national team camp in California, where coach Jurgen Klinsmann put a mostly MLS based squad through their paces. The coach said prior to camp that he thought as many as six to eight players from the camp could earn their way onto the U.S. team that takes on Honduras in World Cup qualifying on February 6th.
The intensity should be high from the United States players as they use this game against Canada to push for inclusion on the roster for the first game of the Hex, a week from Wednesday in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. Canada are coming off of a bad loss in Arizona, 4-0 to Denmark. That follows a painful 8-1 hammering at the hands of Honduras last time out. The Honduras defeat ended the Maple Leafs World Cup qualification dream, and sparked a rebuilding effort. To that end, Canada is fielding a very young team. For instance, recent Toronto FC first round draft pick Kyle Bekker, started and picked up his first cap against the Danes.
With World Cup places potentially at stake, U.S. players should be expected to put in positive displays on Tuesday night. But despite a good U.S. record versus their northern neighbors, Canada can give the Americans trouble. Last June when these two got together, Canada frustrated the U.S. with a defensive posture that the Yanks were at a loss to solve. The game ended 0-0, with the U.S. clearly frustrated.
Klinsmann’s estimate of six to eight players making the jump to the national team for the Hex seems a bit high, but there are definitely some who could force a call up with a good performance on Tuesday night. One of the the three goalkeepers inHouston will likely be the third keeper in Honduras, behind Tim Howard and Brad Guzan. Houston’s Tally Hall is the new guy in camp. Bill Hamid and Sean Johnson have been on the radar for awhile now.
The Galaxy’s Omar Gonzalez is the, “People Choice,” at central defense, but Sporting KC’s Matt Besler will get a look as well. Steve Cherundolo’s recent knee troubles could open the door a crack for a full back, but the Hannover man hasn’t been ruled out yet.
There are plenty of options in the midfield, but not a lot of roster space. Klinsmann trusts Kyle Beckerman, but d-mid is one spot where the U.S. are deep. There are wide options that Klinsmann could turn to, depending on need. Young Josh Gatt can fly, but he is a bit unpolished. Veteran Brad Davis could get called in to provide service with his cultured left foot, or Alejandro Bedoya might get a chance to display his wares, as he looks to find a club team. SKC midfielder Graham Zusi is one of only two sure things on this list. With Landon Donovan on sabbatical, Zusi may even start.
Up top Eddie Johnson is the other certainty. Klinsmann rescued the Seattle Sounder striker’s international career, and Johnson made him look like genius, with big goals in the semifinal round. Chris Wondolowski has yet to translate his MLS goal scoring success to the international stage, could a couple of goals against a weak Canada side earn him a shot at the Hex? Then there is Juan Agudelo. The 20 year old has all sorts of talent, Celtic are sniffing around, and he was good against Russia in that November friendly. Klinsmann might be tempted.
This will be the only game the United States play before they begin the Hex with that match against Honduras. Even though this is at best a “B” team, players will want to prove a point. Klinsmann has been talking tough in recent days, so expect the Yanks to come out flying. Anything other than a solid win will be a blow to the national team aspirations for many of these players.
U.S. ROSTER BY POSITION
GOALKEEPERS (3): Tally Hall (Houston Dynamo), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire)
DEFENDERS (8): Tony Beltran (Real Salt Lake), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), A.J. DeLaGarza (LA Galaxy), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Connor Lade (New York Red Bulls), Alfredo Morales (Hertha Berlin), Justin Morrow (San Jose Earthquakes), Jeff Parke (Philadelphia Union)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (out of contract), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City), Joshua Gatt (Molde), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
FORWARDS (4): Juan Agudelo (Chivas USA), Will Bruin (Houston Dynamo), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)