The road to the 2014 World Cup has already been long and arduous for the Americans, and there is still quite a ways to go before this group qualifies for an appearance in Brazil.
Fortunately, Team USA has been scheduling plenty of tough friendly matches against top-flight international competition. This allows coach Jurgen Klinsmann to evaluate his ever-changing roster and continually tinker with lineups to field the best possible product on the pitch when the games actually count.
Let’s take a look at whom we need to watch from the American side when they take on the Russians in Krasnodar on Wednesday.
Because Altidore has been with the USMNT since 2007, it’s hard to remember that he’s still just a 23-year-old striker with a lot of improvement and learning still left to do.
Even coach Klinsmann is guilty of forgetting this from time to time. He recently spoke with Steven Goff of The Washington Post about Altidore’s age and the peaks and valleys the young man has been experiencing:
“We often forget that Jozy is not a 30-year-old player that you already expect to be kind of perfect and mature. He’s still going through ups and downs, which is totally normal. So when a down period comes and I leave him out of the roster, that’s not the end of the world. But it’s also a little signal to say ‘Hey Jozy, maybe there were things we didn’t like before.’ Now we can catch up and see how it goes.”
Expect Altidore to either start as a striker or come on at some point in the match to make an impact. He’s scored 12 goals in 15 games for AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands and has netted 13 more in 51 international caps.
The young American could earn a World Cup roster spot if he delivers against the Russians.
Chandler is an interesting defensive player for the United States. He had the option to play for Germany due to his parents’ heritage, but finally came to his senses and accepted the call-up to play against Russia on Wednesday.
Interviewed for ussoccer.com, the Nuremburg star addressed his waffling about which country to take his talents to, reassuring fans that he is committed to bringing glory to the United States side:
“I understand that a lot of people in the USA may be unsure. All I can say is that I am clear in my head about the commitment moving forward. This was about me being ready to accept the responsibility of being a part of the national team and everything that goes with it, and now I am ready. I hope I will get chances in the future. I am in 1,000 percent.”
This is great news for the US, as landing the 22-year-old prodigy is integral to improving their back line. He’s likely going to get a long look and should be out on the pitch for the entirety of this impending friendly.
Agudelo, a young forward with Chivas USA, is another surprising call-up for this match with Russia.
The 19-year-old has fifteen caps with the USMNT and has scored two goals, his first in November 2010 setting a record for the youngest player in the nation’s history to score on the senior squad.
Two years later, he’ll be looking to net another and prove to Klinsmann that he deserves to be considered as part of the regular lineup.
There’s still plenty of maturing for Agudelo to do, but getting valuable experience against Russia should certainly help.