[USA MEN]It's only a friendly, but the squad Jurgen Klinsmann will start Friday against Scotland Hampden Park will be close to what he views to be his first XI for the World Cup. He'll have his attacking trio of Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley together on the field for the first time in five months even if the fall has been challenging for all three players.
With only the two friendlies over the next week, plus a friendly in March with his full team, before having to name his squad for the World Cup, Klinsmann has no time for fooling around.
Klinsmann said in an interview with U.S. Soccer that his staff will use this week's training sessions to evaluate the fitness of his players, but he expects to field his "top group" against Scotland.
“It’s important here and there to give people a chance on the field to jump in and prove a point," he said, "but also it’s important to always respect and show appreciation for the ones we see in front, that we see in the starting roles, that we see as the No. 1 in a position."
Altidore has yet to score in the Premier League since his move to Sunderland, Dempsey scored just one goal in three months with his new club, the Seattle Sounders, and Bradley has been fighting to gain playing time under a new coach at Italian leader Roma and following his ankle injury suffered in September.
If you addJermaine Jones ("suspended" by Schalke 04),Fabian Johnson(only one 45-minute appearance since September) and Alejandro Bedoya(playing well but in and out of the lineup at new French club Nantes), it's been a struggle for the entire front six Klinsmann's likely to start against Scotland.
The situation was typified by Klinsmann's journey to Sunderland to watch the Back Cats' game Sunday against Manchester City. He went to see Altidore in person, but he only came on late in the 1-0 win.
Klinsmann, nonetheless, sees lots of positives in what his main striker has been going through:
“We are very satisfied with the way things are going with Jozy even with him being in a tough situation right now. The Premier League started and he hasn’t scored yet. Sunderland is a new club for him. It’s a big club, and the way they were playing their game, he was not getting many opportunities to score. So I went there myself, watched it myself and have proof of what I saw before when I watched it on TV. It’s really difficult for Jozy, but this is also what he needs to go through.
“He has a very positive attitude and has come a long way already in his young career and will get stronger. I told him, ‘You will score your goals sooner or later’ if you have that mentality that you develop now, if you have that drive to get through those periods where you haven’t scored, which for a striker is always the most important thing. But, he also has had a tremendous 2013 scoring goals for us in World Cup qualifying, scoring big, crucial goals for us in friendlies as well. He really matured a lot over the last year and deserves a huge compliment.
“Now we need to give him patience, and I think the club has done that very well bringing him through that stretch. Hopefully for Sunderland, he starts to score more goals. They will produce chances and eventually he will score.”
Klinsmann was also positive about Dempsey's progress:
“We are excited to have Clint back. He’s our captain. It was a huge transition for him going back into MLS, struggling with injuries, not having had a preseason with Seattle. He’s working his way back to full fitness and sharpness, and he looks good for us. The results didn’t work out the way he wanted them to be in Seattle, but we could see that he, step by step, is getting back in a rhythm, attacking the game and looking good. We’re excited to have him back and see him in our group again."