Most casual fans probably haven’t noticed, and there is no reason for alarm, because the next World Cup is still three and a half years away, but the U.S. national team has not been playing particularly well since Tim Howard’s spectacular performance in a close loss to Belgium in Brazil.
The U.S. men have not won in their past five matches, the latest disappointment a 3-2 loss at Chile on Wednesday. They previously lost 4-1 to Ireland, 2-1 to Colombia and tied 1-1 with Ecuador and Honduras. Since the Ghana win at the World Cup, the U.S. team is 1-4-4.
Coach Jurgen Klinsmann had eight World Cup players on his roster against Chile — Nick Rimando, Matt Besler, Jermaine Jones, DeAndre Yedlin, Michael Bradley, Mix Diskerud, Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey. Chile had just one player from its World Cup team, and yet the Chileans managed to overcome two U.S. leads to pull off the victory.
Brek Shea and Altidore scored the U.S. goals. Both recently returned to Major League Soccer from Europe. Altidore is playing for Toronto FC, and Shea is with expansion team Orlando City. They are among four U.S. players who signed with MLS this offseason. Diskerud moved to New York FC, and Sacha Kljestan last week joined New York Red Bulls.
Klinsmann has the team in an extended camp this month, and they will continue training together until their next friendly, Feb.8 against Panama in Carson, California. With so many players back on American soil during the MLS offseason, Klinsmann has the luxury of being able to work with them longer.
He experimented with a 3-5-2 formation against Chile, and that remains a work in progress. Jones might be better as a defensive midfielder than a center back in a three-defender lineup.
The next big tournament is the Gold Cup this summer. Klinsmann and his staff have six months to get the team ready. A win against Panama would be a good start.
▪ Women head to Europe: The U.S. women’s national team is preparing for the 2015 World Cup with a Feb. 8 match at France (noon, ESPN2) and a Feb. 13 match at England. Both are strong opponents, particularly France, which was a surprise fourth-place finisher at the 2011 World Cup.
The team will be without Megan Rapinoe (knee injury), Christie Rampone (back injury) and Hope Solo, who is serving a 30-day suspension for behavior detrimental to the team.
“These games are exactly what we need,” said U.S. coach Jill Ellis, who lives in Palmetto Bay. “Our goal leading up to the World Cup is to play some of the best teams. These are two opponents that will test us and certainly two teams we could meet in Canada. Both teams are exceptionally well-organized, have a high level of athleticism and will pose some excellent challenges.”
The U.S. roster: Goalkeepers — Nicole Barnhart (FC Kansas City), Ashlyn Harris (Washington Spirit), Alyssa Naeher (Boston Breakers); Defenders — Lori Chalupny (Chicago Red Stars), Crystal Dunn (Washington Spirit), Whitney Engen (Western N.Y. Flash), Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Meghan Klingenberg (Houston Dash), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City), Rachel Van Hollebeke (Portland Thorns FC); Midfielders — Shannon Boxx (Chicago Red Stars), Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lauren Holiday (FC Kansas City), Tori Huster (Washington Spirit), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), Heather O’Reilly (FC Kansas City); Forwards — Sydney Leroux (Seattle Reign FC), Alex Morgan (Portland Thorns FC), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Amy Rodriguez (FC Kansas City), Abby Wambach (Western N.Y. Flash).
▪ Cuadrado to Chelsea: The transfer window closes Monday, and one of the biggest moves heading into the weekend was Colombian winger Juan Cuadrado going from Fiorentina to Chelsea.
▪ MLS expansion: While South Florida waits for David Beckham to make his next move in his quest for a Miami MLS stadium, the movers and shakers in Northern California are putting together an impressive bid for Sacramento to get a team. San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York announced he will invest in the Sacramento Republic, and the Sacramento Kings have also offered to be part-owner. They are ready to construct a stadium in the city’s downtown rail yards area.
The league has said it wants to expand from 20 to 24 teams by 2020. Atlanta and Los Angeles are expected to join in 2017. Minneapolis, St. Louis and Las Vegas are also interested.
English Premier League: Chelsea (52), Manchester City (47), Southampton (42), Manchester United (40), Arsenal (39).
La Liga: Real Madrid (48), Barcelona (47), Atletico Madrid (44), Valencia (41), Sevilla (39).
Serie A: Juventus (49), Roma (42), Napoli (36), Lazio and Sampdoria (34).
Bundesliga: Bayern Munich (45), Wolfsburg (37), Bayer (28), Monchengladbach and Schalke (27).
Ligue 1: Lyon (48), PSG (47), Marseille (44), ASSE (40), Monaco (39).
On the tube
Sunday: Arsenal vs. Aston Villa (8:30 a.m., NBCSN), Southampton vs. Swansea City (11 a.m., NBCSN), Sevilla vs. Espanyol (1 p.m., BeINSport USA), Barcelona vs. Villarreal (3 p.m., BeINSport USA).