Hexagonal Game With Honduras Bigger Than One In Mexico.
The serious business of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil begins next month. Over the coming year the U.S. will play 10 games in the final round of regional qualifying. The Hexagonal!
Six CONCACAF teams are still in the hunt for three guaranteed spots. The most important game will be played on Feb. 6 in Honduras.
The most important because it is the first of 10. The U.S. schedule has Jurgen Klinsmann’s team on the road for three of the first four. The other two road games of that opening quartet are in Mexico City and in Jamaica. Historically, difficult venues for U.S. victories.
With that in mind, it is absolutely critical for the U.S. to begin the Hexagonal with a victory.
While the U.S. is playing Honduras, on the same day the other two “big fish” in the final round, Mexico and Jamaica, will be playing each other in Mexico City.
With the professional leagues in Europe underway, Klinsmann will not see any of his European-based players in the January camp. Those will be the core of the roster that he is expected to have available to open the final round of qualifying.
Of the 25 players on the January training roster, 21 play in Major League Soccer. A notable absence is Landon Donovan, who is taking some time away from the game in order to decide if he wants to continue to play.
From this group of 25, Klinsmann will pick his game-day roster for an international friendly against Canada on Jan. 29 at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, TX.
Klinsmann addressed the Donovan situation when the training camp announcement was made on the Fox Soccer Channel, and indicated that Donovan had not been invited into camp and would not be included on the roster for the February qualifiers.
Donovan’s Los Angeles Galaxy teammate Omar Gonzales was included in the January camp. The 2012 MLS Cup MVP has long been a consideration to fill a need at center back for the U.S., but has only two national team appearances because of injuries.
Midfielder Benny Feilhaber is back on the U.S. training camp roster, along with forward Eddie Johnson, who finished the MLS season with 14 goals.
Midfielder Mix Diskerud and Josh Gatt, along with defender Alfredo Morales, are the only players currently playing with European clubs. This is the first callup for Morales, who has seen very little action of late with Hertha Berlin in Germany.
“There is a tremendous amount of talent in the player pool. We follow these players very carefully, and the group coming in is the next line to challenge the players ahead of them in the National Team,” said Klinsmann.
“This is absolutely a huge opportunity, and we’re looking forward to working with them. We are getting ready for the friendly against Canada, and also the big World Cup qualifier in Honduras, so these are going to be an important few weeks of preparation.”
After Honduras, the U.S. will have a March 22 game against Costa Rica on American soil. Then comes the trips to Azteca in Mexico City and to Kingston in Jamaica.
It would make sense to schedule the Costa Rica game in either Salt Lake City or Denver, which are at altitude, thus preparing the team for the high altitude of Mexico City days later.
The last time the U.S. men visited Azteca they came away with a 1-0 victory, the first ever for the U.S. on Mexican soil. The last time they were in Jamaica they came home with a loss.
While Klinsmann acknowledged that the core of his Hexagonal squad would not be in the January training camp, he also said that he hoped that 6-8 players who are there would have a shot at being included for the games against Honduras and Costa Rica.
Eight players in this training camp are looking to get their first international cap with the senior team: Steven Beitashour, Tony Beltran, Matt Besler, Will Bruin, Tally Hall, Connor Lade, Morales and Justin Morrow.