The USA will look to close out a World Cup year on a high note, at least higher than it did in 2003, its best year ever with a record 16
wins, when it finished up with a loss to Austria and tie with Scotland in season-ending friendlies.
The first of its two opponents to close out 2014 is of another level altogether. The
USA faces Colombia, featuring World Cup star James Rodriguez
, on Friday at London's Craven Cottage. 1. Will USA
raise its game?
The USA is unbeaten since the World Cup -- 1-0 win over the Czech Republic and 1-1 ties with Ecuador and Honduras -- but frankly, it did not look good at all in the
second of the two home games in October against Catrachos after Jozy Altidore
put it ahead in the first half.
Heading into 2015 and the Gold Cup it
will host, the USA looks to be in danger of falling into the third spot of a ranking of Concacaf teams, behind 2014 World Cup quarterfinalist Costa Rica and Mexico, which showed with its 3-2 win at
the Netherlands that it's ready to raise its game. Can the USA follow suit? Jurgen Klinsmann
always talks about players challenging themselves and
taking the game to the next level. They'll get their chance against Colombia, one of the best teams at the 2014 World Cup. 2. Nguyen gets his big
and Michael Bradley
aren't in London. Nor is Landon Donovan
for that matter. That leaves Altidore all by his lonesome up front unless he gets some help. This will be a big chance, then, for Lee
, who arrived in London with a run of six straight MLS games with at least one goal.
It will be more than seven years between caps -- the longest gap of any player Klinsmann
has called up and the third longest gap between caps of any U.S. player in the modern era -- and Nguyen should get a chance to show what he can do as a second forward behind Altidore in the role
Donovan and Dempsey have played in the last two games. The Gap Years: PLAYER (LENGTH, YEARS) Marcus Hahnemann
(8 years, 5 months, 1994-2003) Ramiro Corrales
(7 years, 9 months, 1997-2004) Dale Ervine
(7 years, 1 months, 1986-1993) Nick Rimando
(7 years, 2003-10)
(6 years, 11 months, 2001-08) Bruce Savage
(6 years, 7 months, 1984-91) John Kerr Jr.
(6 years, 4 months, 1988-94) Robin Fraser
(5 years, 10 months, 2001-07) Troy Snyder
(5 years, 10 months, 1985-91) Nat Borchers
(5 years, 7 months, 2004-10)
(5 years, 5 months, 2001-07) 3. The Jones experiment continues.
in many of his thirtysomethings, national team veterans who'll unlikely be around for 2018 but whom he wants to mentor his young players. He singled out Kyle Beckerman
, DaMarcus Beasley
, Nick Rimando
and Jermaine Jones
as players whose jobs it is to help in the
For now, the one veteran who very much fits into Klinsmann's plans is Jones. The German-American should again start at center back, like he did for the first time against
Honduras in October. The other center backs are in camp -- Matt Besler
, John Brooks
and Geoff Cameron
-- so they'll likely split starting roles -- Jones and one of the three in the Colombia game and the other two against Ireland four days later.
likely release the three MLS players still involved in the playoffs -- Jones and Nguyen for New England and DeAndre Yedlin
for Seattle -- after the Colombia
game so they can prepare for the conference finals
Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake).
DEFENDERS (9): DaMarcus Beasley (Houston
Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt), Greg Garza (Tijuana), Fabian Johnson (Borussia
Moenchengladbach), Jermaine Jones (New England Revolution), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders).
MIDFIELDERS (6): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro
Bedoya (Nantes), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Julian Green (Hamburg), Alfredo Morales (FC Ingolstadt), Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution).
Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Miguel Ibarra (Minnesota United FC), Jordan Morris (Stanford Univ.), Rubio Rubin (FC Utrecht), Bobby Wood (1860 Munich), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes).