With the decisive match against Mexico set for Oct. 10 at the Rose Bowl, the U.S. Men’s National Team has shifted its focus to the preparation matches in September against Peru, the third-place finishers in the 2015 Copa America, and five-time World Cup champion Brazil.
U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann will be able to call on two veteran hands as four-time World Cup veteran DaMarcus Beasley and 2014 U.S. Soccer Male Athlete of the Year goalkeeper Tim Howard will be included in the squad leading up to the all-important 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup playoff.
Beasley retired from international play last December, but returned to the squad after being approached by Klinsmann for the Gold Cup knockout stage last month. After suffering an injury in his first training session back, Beasley played just the final 30 minutes of the team’s shootout defeat to Panama in the Third Place match.
Though the game was billed before as a sendoff for Beasley, both player and manager indicated afterwards that they’d be open to seeing the defender continue.
“One of the most important follow-ups after the Gold Cup was definitely a conversation with DaMarcus Beasley,” Klinsmann told ussoccer.com. “He made himself available for the Gold Cup and it didn’t work out the way we all wanted it with his injury after the first training session. So we had that conversation and I asked him to reconsider the National Team and he was all fired up. He was all proud and happy and he said ‘I’m there for the U.S. National Team’.
With 122 appearances since his debut in 2001, Beasley is the fifth-most capped U.S. player of all-time and according to Klinsmann brings much more than just on-field acumen.“It’s a big statement for us because not only is he a guy that’s important on the field with all of the qualities that he has, it seems like he’s not getting older at all, but he’s also extremely important as a chemistry guy within the group. He’s always a positive thinker. He looks after young players. He makes sure that the energy level is high, so to have him back in our group for the future is huge for us. Hopefully it will be a long future still with DaMarcus Beasley with the National Team.”
With his return to the National Team, Howard keeps his word down almost to the day, as his initial announcement to take a year off from international play came on August 21 of last year.
“I think we can be really thrilled to have Tim Howard back on board,” Klinsmann said of the most capped U.S goalkeeper of all-time. “He took a year off because of family reasons and that was all fine for us. Now after the Gold Cup we had the understanding that we were going to talk on the phone, which we did at length. He said he would love to come back. This is more great news for us.”
Having backstopped the U.S. at the last two FIFA World Cups, the veteran Everton goalkeeper returns to the fold after Brad Guzan did well with his turn as the MNT’s number one.
With Guzan’s performances over the past year, Klinsmann made it clear to Howard that the Aston Villa ‘keeper will stay his first choice for the moment.
“He knew it was not going to be easy to come back because obviously Brad Guzan established himself as the number one and played a very good tournament and the whole year he really did a good job. Tim has accepted for the time being to be the number two, and then down the road there will be a fight for the number one spot like in every position. He accepted that, and we are really happy to have him back on board because of who he is and what he has done for us.”
Either way, Klinsmann feels that having the veteran presence of Howard back in camp bolsters the team heading into an important month-long stretch.
“Like DaMarcus Beasley, having Tim Howard back on board gives the group a tremendous amount of quality and experience and leadership, so we are thrilled.”
While Beasley and Howard will work their way back into the team during next month’s matches, Klinsmann is taking the two friendlies, against two strong South American opponents, as the final test for his team heading into October’s showdown with Mexico.
“Both games - against Peru, which took third place in the Copa America, a big surprise and very well deserved, and obviously against Brazil - will give us a hint and a lot of information towards the all-decisive Mexico game on October 10 at the Rose Bowl,” Klinsmann told ussoccer.com.
Having surprised many in Chile this past summer, the match against the rising Peruvian side at Washington D.C.’s RFK Stadium will mark the two sides’ first meeting since 2000 – a 1-0 U.S. victory during the group stage of that year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Meanwhile, the Sept. 8 match against five-time world champions Brazil, presented by Liberty Mutual Insurance, marks the 18th game in the series between the two sides and first since a 4-1 friendly defeat in 2012.
“We want to do well,” Klinsmann continued. “We want to excite the fans and play two very good games, and at the same time we want to see the players perform. We want to see the players make statements towards the Mexico game, because that is really the biggest game of the year now after what happened at the Gold Cup. So it will be very interesting. We are looking forward to those two friendlies and then obviously all eyes are already on the October 10 game at the Rose Bowl. There’s a lot at stake and it’s going to be really exciting.”