South Florida soccer fans are in for another world-class February treat.
Colombia’s Radamel Falcao, arguably the most sought-after forward in the world at the moment, is expected to be in the starting lineup at Sun Life Stadium on Feb.6 when the Colombian national team plays Guatemala in a friendly match.
The game falls on an official FIFA international competition date, which means both teams should have their best players available. And, it doesn’t get much better than Falcao.
Falcao has scored 17 goals for Atletico Madrid in the Spanish league this season, trailing only Argentine great Lionel Messi, who has 27 goals with Barcelona. Falcao is one goal ahead of Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, and reportedly is being wooed by Chelsea, Manchester City and Real Madrid.
Falcao is a big reason resurgent Colombia is No. 5 in the FIFA World Rankings and sits in third place in the South American World Cup qualifying tournament with 16 points, trailing Argentina (20) and Ecuador (17). Colombia’s next qualifiers are scheduled for March 22 against Bolivia and March 25 at Venezuela.
Barring a collapse, the Colombians should advance to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, which would be their first World Cup since 1998, back in the glory days of Carlos “El Pibe” Valderrama and Faustino Asprilla.
Last February, Falcao scored a goal for Colombia’s “ Cafeteros” (coffeemakers) in a 2-0 exhibition win over Mexico at Sun Life Stadium. The game drew a crowd of 51,615. Tickets to the Feb. 6 match range from $29 to $97 and are available through TicketMaster. For information, call 305-943-8000.• MLS Combine in Lauderhill: Major League Soccer coaches and executives are gathered in Lauderhill this weekend to evaluate the new crop of young players before the Jan. 17 draft. The four-day combine is being held at Central Broward Regional Park and features 72 players who were invited.
The combine’s top draft prospects include Andre Farrell, a Louisville defender/midfielder; Dillon Powers, a Notre Dame midfielder; Walker Zimmerman, a Furman defender, and forward Jason Johnson, a Jamaican national who played at Virginia Commonwealth. Gyasi Zardes, a dynamic forward who scored 33 goals in 37 games for Cal State Bakersfield the past two years, signed early with the Los Angeles Galaxy as a “Homegrown Player.’’ MLS teams are allowed to sign local players before the draft, and Zardes had played for the Galaxy youth system for several years.
Also invited to the combine are young foreigners such as Kekuta Manneh of Gambia, Franco Donado of Colombia, Junior Padilla of Honduras, Stefano Pinho of Brazil and Kevin Mercado of Ecuador.
The combine games are open to the public. Tickets for $10 are available on game days. They will play Sunday at 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., and Tuesday at 10 a.m. and noon.
The question is how many will stick with the team for the Feb. 6 World Cup qualifier at Honduras. The majority of the players on the roster are expected to be Europe-based and Mexico-based, but Klinsmann decided to give MLS players a look because they are out of season and available in January.
Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Brad Davis (Houston), Eddie Johnson (Seattle), Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles), Graham Zusi (Kansas City) and Matt Besler (Kansas City) were invited.
Among the non-MLS players he invited is Weston’s Alejandro Bedoya, an outside midfielder who was in Bob Bradley’s camp before the 2010 World Cup. Bedoya played for Helsingborg in Sweden last season, but is currently out of contract.
Landon Donovan, the best-known American player, was left off the roster because he wanted a break from the game and is undecided about his future.
“The roster is who we believe are the players that are in line to challenge for spots in the national team,” Klinsmann said. “This raises the competition within our squad. We want the players to understand that they are here because they are good and they deserve it. We want to see them stepping it up, taking over responsibilities and maturing because being a part of the national team roster means you have to become a leader on and off the field. You have to show how serious you take your profession, and that you live for it and you think about it 24/7.”