The U.S. men’s national team gathers Sunday in Miami for a two-day training camp, and then it’s off to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, for what could be a dangerous World Cup qualifier against the Catrachos on Wednesday.
It is the opening match of the final round of CONCACAF qualifying. Six teams remain in the quest to reach the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The top three advance, and the fourth-place team enters a playoff against a team from Oceania for another berth. Finishing in the top three won’t be easy for the United States in a group with Honduras, Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Panama.
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann will have to find capable defenders to fill in for injured Steve Cherundolo and Fabian Johnson against Honduras. There wasn’t much to get excited about among the 23 players Klinsmann brought in for a January camp that culminated in a listless 0-0 tie with Canada on Tuesday night.
Former U.S. defender Jay DeMerit was really unimpressed. After the game, his Twitter post read: “Dear #usMNT v #canMNT. I would like the past two hours back. Sincerely, Everybody.”
Klinsmann wasn’t quite as harsh in his assessment of those he brought in to evaluate, most of whom were young and/or play in Major League Soccer.
“I think we saw over the past three weeks that we have a pretty good picture of where they are at,” Klinsmann said. (Translation: Very few of these guys will be making the trip to Honduras.) “You wish that they can finish it off in a friendly game, but it’s always difficult to start the season with your first game and have only training scrimmages before. With Canada staying back and being very defensive-minded, you just hope that sooner or later it opens up, but that was not the case. We have a pretty clear picture of who we want to take to Honduras.”
Of those in the January camp, the ones who seem to have the best chance of sticking are center back Omar Gonzalez, forward Eddie Johnson and midfielder Graham Zusi. Plan on seeing regulars Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, Carlos Bocanegra, Jozy Altidore and Hercules Gomez.
One player you won’t see is Landon Donovan, star of the 2010 World Cup team and the all-time leading U.S. scorer. The 30-year-old Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder is on an indefinite leave from the game. Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said last week he expects Donovan back, but Klinsmann was not so sure.
“Once he’s back in training with the Galaxy, he will kind of go back into his rhythm and work on getting his game back to the highest level,” Klinsmann said. “Once he’s there and he’s playing consistently, we’ll look at it on our end.”
Klinsmann is 9-2-3 since taking over in July 2011, including friendly wins at Mexico and Italy. But the biggest test is about to begin.
The Fort Lauderdale Strikers are hosting a watch party at The English Tap & Beer Garden — 5050 Town Center Circle in Boca Raton — for the match, which is at 4 p.m. Players are expected to attend.
• Falcao in Miami: The Colombian soccer federation announced that international superstar Radamel Falcao, who plays in Spain for Atletico Madrid, will be on the roster for Wednesday’s exhibition match against Guatemala at Sun Life Stadium. He is the third-leading scorer in Spain, behind Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Colombia is also expected to bring Mario Yepes, Luis Perea, Faryd Mondragon and Freddy Guarin, among others.