This year is going to be one of the busiest years ever for US Soccer. There are several friendlies against difficult opponents. Plus, there’s the Gold Cup, the Women’s World Cup, and the start of World Cup Qualifying for Russia 2018. And for the US Men’s National Team, it all starts on Wednesday when the US plays Chile in a friendly at Estadio El Teniente in Rancagua (televised on FOX Sports 1 at 6pm ET).
To prepare for this year, Jurgen Klinsmann has called a total of 28 players (29 with the late addition of Jozy Altidore, after his move from Sunderland to Toronto FC) into the annual January Camp. Several World Cup veterans are present including Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones. There are also a total of 14 uncapped players including LA Galaxy forward Gyasi Zardes and Columbus Crew midfielder Will Trapp. Klinsmann has said that in addition to preparing the team for the busy year ahead, one of the goals of this camp is to prepare some of the younger players for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
For the immediate future, the goal is getting ready for Chile on Wednesday and for Panama 11 days later. The game against Chile represents a stiff challenge for the US team, one on the road in a hostile environment against a team that made it to the Round of 16 at last summer’s World Cup before losing to Brazil on penalties. The Chileans also have a big year ahead of them as the hosts of this year’s Copa America. They will be without their star man Alexis Sanchez as this is not a FIFA fixture date and clubs are not obligated to release their players. Manager Jorge Sampaoli named a 20 man roster made up exclusively of domestic players, with only one player who was on the World Cup roster (Johnny Herrera).
For the US, the biggest concern is conceding goals late into the game. The US has given up goals after the 80th minute in nine of the last eleven games. In those nine games they have given up a total of eleven goals in the last ten minutes. For the US to become the international power that Klinsmann and the fans want to see the US become, there has to be consistent 90 minute performances. Another small worry is that for the first time under Klinsmann, the US has gone four straight games without a win. In fact, the US has won just once in their last eight games, a 1-0 victory in Prague against the Czech Republic in September.