U.S. Men’s National Team will kick off their campaign to Russia 2018, with a friendly against the Czech Republic tonight.
Manager Jürgen Klinsmann has enlisted the help of a 23-man squad in the team’s first post-World Cup game and the start of a four game series of friendlies that will help round out 2014.
“It’s the first game after the World Cup,” U.S. winger Julian Green said. “It’s the first step toward Russia.”
After months of scrutinizing Klinsmann’s every call up (or non-call up) and starting XI, it’s time sit back and watch as the third-year manager wades through the player pool in the first steps of a new cycle.
As the 18th ranked U.S. team moves beyond their round 16 loss to Belgium at the 2014 World Cup, the squad can focus on new faces as familiar experience is missing. Notable absences for this friendly include goalkeeper Tim Howard, who recently announced a departure from the international game until September 2015, and captain Clint Dempsey.
Only nine members of the 2014 World Cup squad have been called into camp (defender Geoff Cameron was a late scratch due to injury), while only one player (Nick Rimando) is MLS based. Many European clubs have a break in their schedules allowing MLS players to focus on a tight race in the tail end of their season.
“Ultimately, the goal is four years from now,” U.S. goalkeeper Brad Guzan said. “We do everything with 2018 on our minds, whether it’s the first game against the Czech Republic, next year’s Gold Cup, the Copa America, whatever. Everything has a bit of an emphasis towards the World Cup in 2018. And, ultimately, that’s what we’ll be looking for.”
Kickoff is set for 2:15 pm ET and can be watched on NBC Sports Network.