The United States Men's National Team will meet South Korea in an international friendly from the StubHub Center in Carson, CA for their first game of the 2014 calender year.
There's not a lot to go on here. South Korea's "B" side played a largely "B" Mexico side (are we counting Rafael Marquez as a first teamer again for El Tri?) and lost 4-0 only a few days ago, Wednesday night in San Antonio, TX.
The United States has a largely domestic based MLS roster with Mix Diskerud, who plays for Norway's Rosenborg (currently in preseason like MLS), as the only European based player with the US squad. Regular center backs Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler are in camp along with stalwarts Landon Donovan and Graham Zusi among others. Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann had about 30 players in camp and went to Brazil for a pre-World Cup training session that included scrimmages against Brazilian club side Sao Paulo. Klinsmann sent home five players earlier in the week, among them four defenders including Rapids left back Chris Klute and Dynamo keeper Tally Hall, but added new Crew defender Michael Parkhurst for the game vs. Korea.
It will be interesting to see how Klinsmann deploys his squad, because if the purpose of the camp was to bring in new players it would make sense to give them playing time. Players like Mike Magee and Luis Gil are looking for their first cap and others like Benny Feilhaber have experience with the national team but not recently. With what appears to be a less than stellar South Korea side, experimenting with a squad without Klinsmann's usual regulars might not be a bad idea.
Since it's so much fun, here's the United States best starting lineup and what I'll call its least experienced.
FIRST TEAM (4-2-3-1): GK Nick Rimando, LB Michael Parkhurst, CB Omar Gonzalez, CB Matt Besler, RB Brad Evans, LDM Kyle Beckerman, RDM Mix Diskerud, LM Eddie Johnson, CAM Landon Donovan, RM Gharam Zusi, ST Chris Wondolowski
Yes, I think Micheal Parkhurst was added specifically to this roster to play left back, which he has done before in qualifying. That means in theory, Parkhurst is able to play all three defensive positions and could be a valuable player off the bench in Brazil if Klinsmann picks him for the final roster. Without regular holding midfielders Bradley and Jones, we'll go with a solid pairing of Beckerman and Diskerud. With Beckerman likely to stay back more, it will give Diskerud more of a chance to go forward and help the attack. I couldn't decide where Eddie Johnson should start and opted for the left wing/midfield role with Wondolowski up top. At the end of the day it shouldn't really matter who's up top but EJ is probably best suited for the role.
SECOND TEAM (4-5-1/4-1-4-1): GK Bill Hamid/Sean Johnson, LB Michael Harrington, CB Clarence Goodson, CB Michael Parkhurst, RB DeAndre Yedlin, LM Brad Davis, CM Dax McCarty, CDM Benny Feilhaber, CM Luis Gil, RM Eric Alexander, ST Mike Magee
Okay, so that backline probably terrifies me a little bit, okay a lot, but the midfield could be really fun. I'll have Feilhaber sitting back a little bit in support of Dax and Gil and two pretty solid guys in Davis and Alexander (who had a great season with NY Red Bulls) on the outside. Yes, Mike Magee probably needs a striker partner but that's what the subs are for in the second half. If Klinsmann is trying to see who can maybe have an impact in Brazil, this isn't the worst lineup, it just lacks a lot of international experience.
As for South Korea, they did get mauled by Mexico 4-0 but did beat Costa Rica 1-0 in a friendly in Los Angeles. An early lead through Kim Shin-Wook held up and Costa Rica finished the game with 9 men after two second half red cards (true story, Balomero Toledo was the referee). Park Ji-Sung is not walking through that door, having retired from international football at the end of the 2011 calender year and while South Korea hasn't equaled the huge success of thier 2002 World Cup quarterfinal run (they were joint hosts with Japan), they have been fairly competitive in the last two World Cups. Korea has finished 1-1-1 in both of the last group stages and got into the knockout stages in South Africa but lost 2-1 to Uruguay.
The overall roster for Korea lacks international caps and is largely based from Korea with two players based in Japan and one in China. The two forwards listed on the roster, Kim Shin-Wook and Lee Kuen-Ho have 24 and 60 international caps respectfully. Keeper Jung Sung-Ryong (57 caps), defender Kang Min-Soo (33) and midfielders Yeom Ki-Hun (49) and Lee Ho (25) round out the players with significant international experience.
I fully expect to see Klinsmann go with his best eleven to start and then probably make wholesale changes to the midfield. I don't see Yedlin or Harrington in the mix for a roster spot at this point defensively so anything other than a late cameo for their first caps would be a surprise. Three players I'm excited to see are Magee, McCarty and Gil. Magee is probably the only player who hasn't featured regularly in the last few years (technically, he's never featured for reasons unknown) to make the Brazil roster as kind of a roving attacker/winger off the bench. It's still a tremendous longshot and would likely mean a significant injury to someone else, but at age 29, might not have another shot at a World Cup. Dax and Gil are just two players that I like. Dax just works really hard and is probably the only NY Red Bull player I actually like and Gil has a chance to be a mainstay for the USA for years to come.
The game kicks off at 5PM EST on ESPN2.