USMNT: Quality opponents in short supply

Four days after playing in Cuba -- more a bonding trip than a serious tuneup -- the USA faces New Zealand, hardly the world-class opponent that U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann says his players need to test themselves against.

With World Cup qualifying in most of the world during the October international window, the All Whites -- ranked 88th in the FIFA rankings -- are the best opponent the USA could find.

Klinsmann, who released nine of the players who faced Cuba on Friday, used the scheduling dilemma -- and the proposed changes in Concacaf -- as evidence of the obstacles he faces getting better competition for the USA.

“Conmebol [South America] is fully scheduled and UEFA is fully scheduled,” Klinsmann told reporters on Monday. “We go [through] the list up and down, believe me. We’re trying to get the best opponents as possible, but it’s going to be a very tricky path going forward.”

FIFA's cutback in the international calendar -- as a concession to European clubs -- means the only dates available for the USA to get teams during these approved period in the next year are the 10 Hexagonal matches that begin in November and the 2017 Gold Cup.

Klinsmann has no problem with the Hexagonal. He just doesn't want to have to play Concacaf teams more often, which goes against the view of new Concacaf president Victor Montagliani, who wants to extend the qualifying campaigns of lesser teams.

“For us, it would be the opposite direction,” Klinsmann said.

After the Copa Centenario, where the USA faces Colombia twice, Argentina, Ecuador and Paraguay in addition to Concacaf opponent Costa Rica, Klinsmann reiterated his call that his players need to a chance to face the top teams of the world to gauge their progress.

The reality is, the USA will see nothing but a steady diet of Concacaf teams until November 2017 when the next friendly dates become available, assuming the USA is not in the intercontinental playoff as Concacaf's fourth-place team.

“Our lesson from Copa America," Klinsmann said on Monday, "is if we want to get our program better, we have to play with the best. In order to break into the top 15, top 10 in the world, we need to challenge ourselves to play them. And the more often we play Argentina, the better our results will get because the less fear we have or respect we have."

U.S. Roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3): David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), William Yarbrough (Leon/MEX)
DEFENDERS (7): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Matt Besler (Sporting KC), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca/MEX), Michael Orozco (Tijuana/MEX), Tim Parker (Vancouver Whitecaps) DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United/ENG).
MIDFIELDERS (6): Paul Arriola (Tijuana/MEX), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Lynden Gooch (Sunderland/ENG), Perry Kitchen (Hearts/SCO), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Danny Williams (Reading/ENG).
FORWARDS (4): Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution), Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Terrence Boyd (RB Leipzig/GER), Julian Green (Bayern Munich/GER).

New Zealand Roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Stefan Marinovic (Unterhaching/GER), Tamati Williams (RKC/NED), Jake Gleeson (Portland Timbers).
DEFENDERS (8): Andrew Durante (Wellington Phoenix), Sam Brotherton (Univ. of Wisconsin), Michael Boxall (SuperSport United/RSA), Kip Colvey (San Jose Earthquakes), Themi Tzimopoulos (PAS/GRE), Winston Reid (West Ham United/ENG), Deklan Wynne (Whitecaps FC 2), Liam Graham (Chesterfield/NG).
MIDFIELDERS (7): Clayton Lewis (Auckland City), Michael McGlinchey (Wellington Phoenix), Matt Ridenton (Wellington Phoenix), Te Atawhai Wihongi (Auckland City), Henry Cameron (Blackpool/ENG), Moses Dyer (Eastern Suburbs), Ryan Thomas (PEC/NED).
FORWARDS (5): Kosta Barbarouses (Wellington Phoenix), Chris Wood (Leeds United/ENG), Monty Patterson (Ipswich Town/ENG), Marco Rojas (Melbourne Victory/AUS), Rory Fallon (Truro City/ENG).
7 comments about "USMNT: Quality opponents in short supply".
  1. Daniel Clifton, October 11, 2016 at 8:10 a.m.

    The US should be playing in the Copa America every chance they get. Why has JK been avoiding that tournament to play in the Gold Cup. The US won the Gold Cup with a B team, including Landon Donovan. Why not bring the B team to the Gold Cup and the A team to the Copa America.

  2. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, October 11, 2016 at 9:45 a.m.

    Don't they have to be invited? Also I think his thinking is that they can win the Gold Cup, thereby qualifying for the Confederations Cup, which would give them a number of games against really good opponents only a year before the world cup. Didn't work out obviously because of the USMNT's pathetic Gold Cup performance in 2015 but I believe that was the thinking

  3. Bob Ashpole replied, October 11, 2016 at 10:13 a.m.

    I like your idea Daniel, but with a slightly different approach. Instead of a "B team," I would use a younger team built around the U23 team. Like in the olympics, add some older players to provide some experience. A younger team, not an inferior team.

  4. Joey Tremone replied, October 11, 2016 at 2:21 p.m.

    CONMEBOL tournaments aren't FIFA match dates for CONCACAF teams, so clubs can refuse their players. A special exception was worked out for this Centenario, but we don't know if it will be repeated. It is NOT a case of Klinsmann avoiding it, exactly the opposite of that, he wants the high-level competition and can't get it.

  5. Bob Ashpole, October 11, 2016 at 10:15 a.m.

    The US was invited before and USSF sent a "B" team that couldn't compete with the SA teams.

  6. Wooden Ships, October 11, 2016 at 3:56 p.m.

    Good luck tonight boys!

  7. Ginger Peeler, October 11, 2016 at 9:41 p.m.

    Thanks, Paul, for the reminder of why JK is NOT responsible for failing to schedule higher rated teams to play in friendlies while working within the confines of the FIFA calendar. We needed to hear it again. Also, I'm getting old and my memory sometimes leaves much to be desired, but didn't we field our "B" team for Copa America because the "A" team was preparing for, or playing in another tournament ...or our players couldn't get releases from their clubs?

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