Soccer

U.S. soccer team ready for friendly in Puerto Rico

Jurgen Klinsmann watches over a practice session for the U.S. national team on Tuesday at Barry University, where the team was busy preparing for a friendly in Puerto Rico on Sunday, followed by the Copa America in June.
Jurgen Klinsmann watches over a practice session for the U.S. national team on Tuesday at Barry University, where the team was busy preparing for a friendly in Puerto Rico on Sunday, followed by the Copa America in June. pportal@elnuevoherald.com

Jurgen Klinsmann and his U.S. national team are in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, for a friendly at noon Sunday after training for four days at Barry University last week in what the coach termed a “transition camp.”

It was a chance for him to see the Europe and Mexico-based players just off the finish of their seasons before the Major League Soccer players join the group this week in Frisco, Texas, to begin preparations for the Copa America Centenario. The United States opens that tournament against Colombia on June 3 in Santa Clara, California.

The Miami camp was also an opportunity for Klinsmann to get a close look at some fresh talent, such as Miami’s Fabrice “Fafa” Picault (St. Pauli, Germany), Paul Arriola and Amando Moreno (Club Tijuana, Mexico), and goalkeeper Zach Steffen (Freiburg). Picault, a 25-year-old U.S.-Haiti dual citizen, scored four goals in his past eight club games.

Klinsmann hopes the new players take the path of Bobby Wood, who two years ago was in a similar situation and this season had a breakout year in the German second division. He scored 17 goals for Union Berlin, the most ever by an American in Germany, and two weeks ago signed a four-year deal with Hamburg of the Bundesliga.

“This is big because it’s a great example for our youngsters, guys like Fafa,” Klinsmann said. “ They can say, ‘Where was Bobby Wood two years ago?’ Probably two years ago you [the media] said, ‘What is he doing calling in Bobby?’ But it was a chance to tell him, ‘Now it’s up to you, time to start grinding, working harder than everyone else. Bobby made a huge, huge step this year.”

Klinsmann said Wood’s leap was a product of maturity.

“A lot has to do with becoming a man,” he said. “When you become an adult, you have to bring out your elbows. Bobby learned to bring out his elbows. He realized you’ve got to make it this year, or they’ll move you on. They’re not that patient. He took that message and scored 17 goals, took his team to the highest ever finish in a very hot-tempered place. And now he has the opportunity to play for one of the most prestigious clubs in Germany. A stadium is waiting for him next year sold out every week with 60,000.”

Wood is likely to be the focus of the U.S. attack against Puerto Rico on Sunday, especially with Jozy Altidore out six to eight weeks with a hamstring injury. Another forward who could see time is Julian Green, who scored a goal in the 2014 World Cup but hadn’t been with the U.S. team since April 2015.

Others to watch for Sunday include defender Matt Miazga, who moved from the New York Red Bulls to Chelsea in January, and World Cup veterans DeAndre Yedlin and Fabian Johnson — coming off strong seasons with Sunderland and Borussia Monchengladbach.

▪ Ellis invites 25 players: U.S. women’s national coach Jill Ellis, a Palmetto Bay resident, called in 25 players for a training camp ahead of two June matches against Japan. The group will convene in Denver on May 27, play Japan on June 2 in a sold-out Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, and then go to Cleveland for the second match June 5 at FirstEnergy Stadium, where 19,000 tickets have been sold.

“We are going with a slightly larger roster for this camp than the last few, so internally we can play in more [11 on 11] training scenarios,” Ellis said. “My staff and I have been watching the league play, and now we get to evaluate them back together. Both environments are important.”

U.S. captain and World Cup star Carli Lloyd is not on the roster, as she is recovering from a strained MCL sustained while playing with the Houston Dash of the NWSL. Among the young players to watch is 18-year-old Denver native Mallory Pugh.

Goalkeeper Hope Solo is two shutouts shy of 100, which would be a U.S. record.

Defender Christie Rampone returns to the team for the first time since September 2015 following knee surgery. Fifteen members of the 2015 World Cup champion team are on the roster.

▪ U.S. Open Cup: South Florida’s two NASL teams face third-round matches in the U.S. Open Cup on June 1. The Fort Lauderdale Strikers host the Richmond Kickers (USL) at Lockhart Stadium, and Miami FC plays the Wilmington Hammerheads (USL) at FIU Stadium. The Hammerheads won their second-round game 6-0 over Miami Fusion FC (NPSL).

Seven amateur teams advanced to the third round of the all-comers tournament, including Lansdowne Bhoys (N.Y.), which beat the USL’s Pittsburgh Riverhounds 2-0, and La Maquina (N.Y.), which beat NPSL’s Sacramento Gold 2-0.

Who’s leading

MLS: East — Philadelphia (18), NYC (17), Montreal (16), Toronto (15). West — Colorado (24), Dallas (23), Vancouver (20), L.A. (19), San Jose (18).

NASL: Minnesota and Carolina (13), N.Y. (12), Edmonton (11), Indy (10).

NWSL: Washington (13), Orlando (12), Chicago (10), Portland (9), Seattle, Sky Blue and Houston (7).

On the tube

Sunday: U.S. at Puerto Rico (noon, FS1), Copa del Rey: Barcelona vs. Sevilla (3:30 p.m., ESPN2), Vancouver at Portland (4:30 p.m., ESPN), San Jose at L.A. (7 p.m., FS1).

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