The next men’s World Cup is still four years away, but for U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann and his staff, Tuesday’s game against Honduras at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton is an important step on the road to Russia 2018.
It offers coaches a chance to keep tabs on veterans such as Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley and Alejandro Bedoya.
It also is an opportunity to evaluate lesser-known players such as 24-year-old forward Miguel Ibarra, a Lancaster, California, native who plays for Minnesota United in the North American Soccer League. He is Klinsmann’s first call-up from that league, which also includes the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.
“Miguel is a bit of a late bloomer coming through the NASL system, but he did tremendously well the whole season there,” Klinsmann told USSoccer.com. “We watched him and a couple other players in the league, and they might go a different path than coming through MLS, Europe or Mexico. But he’s a good example that there are different ways to get all the way to the top of the senior national team level.”
Klinsmann wants to see how Ibarra integrates with national team players.
“He knows he has to prove it now,” Klinsmann said. “He has tremendous skill — he has speed, he has an engine and he can take people on. He keeps everybody on their toes and keeps them very busy. The tempo and the pace in every league are different, and it’s especially different at the international level. This gives him a really good feeling of what he needs to work for in the future when he trains with us, or if he plays with us.”
Between now and the World Cup, the U.S. has the 2015 Gold Cup, 2016 Olympics, 2016 Copa America hosted in the United States, and possibly the 2017 Confederations Cup.
“For us, it’s exciting to start a new cycle with many big competitions coming up on the horizon,” Klinsmann said. “Now, it’s our job to connect the different age groups and make the younger ones understand that time will fly by and you must take advantage of the opportunity and not waste it. For the experienced players, it’s a signal that the younger ones are breaking in and want to steal their spot. It’s about building a new hierarchy of the senior national team, because after every World Cup it’s time to start fresh again. And, so, whatever the experienced players have done deserves a lot of respect, but it in a certain way it’s behind us. They need to be on their toes; otherwise, the younger ones shoot by them.”
Kickoff for Tuesday’s match is 8 p.m. Tickets range from $28 endline to $48 sideline to $248 VIP seats.
They are available through TicketMaster, by calling 1-800-745-3000 or at the stadium box office the day of the game.
▪ Women start qualifying: The U.S. women’s team, coached by Palmetto Bay resident Jill Ellis, is also busy this week, with games that count. The team plays three World Cup qualifiers over a six-day stretch.
The Americans open against Trinidad and Tobago on Wednesday in Kansas City, Kansas. They then travel to Bridgeview, Illinois, to face Guatemala, and finish group play against Haiti in Washington on Oct.20.
The top three teams after qualifying rounds earn a berth in the 2015 World Cup in Canada.
Ellis said versatility was a big factor in choosing the roster, which includes 11 players with World Cup qualifying experience.
Among the best-known players are Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd, Christie Rampone and Megan Rapinoe.
“I think that most of our players, when I went through the list, versatility was one of the determining factors, especially when it came down to the last spots,” Ellis said. “I think that’s going to be very important. You take a player like Crystal Dunn, she can play multiple positions for us, and while primarily we’re going to look at her as an outside back, I think we can have that flexibility. Certainly with getting out of the friendly mode where you can have six subs and now getting into the three subs, it’s very important for us.”
MLS: East — DC (52), New England and Kansas City (49). West — Seattle and LA (60), Salt Lake (49), Dallas (48).
NASL: Minnesota (30), San Antonio (26), Fort Lauderdale (21), Edmonton (20), Carolina (19).
English Premier League: Chelsea (19), Manchester City (14), Southampton (13), Man United, Swansea City and Tottenham (11).
French Ligue 1: Marseille (22), Bordeaux (17), PSG, Lille and Nantes (15).
Serie A: Juventus (18), Roma (15), Sampdoria (14), Udinese (13), Milan and Verona (11).
Bundesliga: Bayern Munich (17), Hoffenheim and Monchengladbach (13), Bayer Leverkusen and Eintracht (12).
La Liga: Barcelona (19), Valencia (17), Sevilla (16), Real Madrid (15), Atletico Madrid (14).
On the tube
▪ Sunday: England vs. Estonia, Euro qualifying (noon, ESPN Deportes); Spain vs. Luxemburg, Euro qualifying (2:45 p.m., Fox Sports 1); Mexico vs. Panama (5 p.m., ESPN2, Univision); Dallas vs. LA (7 p.m., ESPN2).
▪ Monday: Iceland vs. Netherlands, Euro qualifying (2:45 p.m., Fox Sports 1); Belgium vs. Bosnia/Herzogovina, Euro qualifying (2:45 p.m., ESPN2).
▪ Tuesday: Denmark vs. Portugal, Euro qualifying (2:45 p.m., ESPN2); Chile vs. Bolivia (7 p.m., BeINSport USA); USA vs. Honduras (8 p.m., ESPN); Canada vs. Colombia (9:15 p.m., BeINSport USA).