MLS’ newest stadium plays host to its first-ever US national team match Tuesday as Canada visit Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium for an international friendly (8 pm CT on ESPN2/Univision Deportes, Sportsnet in Canada, live chat on MLSsoccer.com), an occasion that will help Jurgen Klinsmann decide who earns the final places in his squad for next week’s World Cup qualifier in Honduras.
Klinsmann and his staff have run the rule over an assortment of MLS and young overseas talent during the January camp that just wrapped up at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. And with mere days before the demanding trip to San Pedro Sula that kicks off the Yanks’ CONCACAF Hexagonal campaign, the USMNT boss has repeatedly stated that several of the camp’s top performers will be called to join up with the European stars who constitute the core of the “A team.”
Tuesday night in Houston marks their chance to drive home the good impressions they’ve made over the past three weeks.
For less experienced members of the US roster, humbler milestones like a first international appearance will provide motivation. Seven players on Klinsmann’s current list – Real Salt Lake’s Tony Beltran, Sporting KC defender Matt Besler, Houston Dynamo stars Will Bruin and Tally Hall, Connor Lade of the New York Red Bulls, San Jose’s Justin Morrow and Germany-based youngster Alfredo Morales – are seeking their maiden caps.
WATCH: Gonzo, Bedoya back in US mix
For the visitors, the road to Brazil 2014 has already come to a harshly premature halt with that crushing 8-1 setback in their own decisive trip to Honduras last October, setting off a process of rejuvenation currently being overseen by interim coach Colin Miller.
Along with veterans like Nik Ledgerwood, Lars Hirschfeld, Dwayne De Rosario and Terry Dunfield, Canada have called in a range of fresh faces for this month’s action, including eight players who took part in the memorable 2-0 upset of the US in the 2012 CONCACAF Olympic tournament last spring.
These border rivals first met on June 27, 1925, and have faced off 31 times in all. The US hold the advantage with a 13-8-10 record, though perhaps it’s more revealing that the Stars and Stripes have not lost to Les Rouges in 15 games, an 8-0-7 streak that dates back to 1985.
Canada, though, took some encouragement from their last meeting, a 0-0 draw at Toronto’s BMO Field in June, as well as the shock result during Olympic qualifying a few months prior.
USA Team Outlook
The hunger and relative youth of the January invitees has been a focal topic of this month’s US camp, which featured 23 talents largely in the earlier stages of their international careers. That said, a few unsettling issues lie in wait for the Yanks, including injury concerns for first-choice fullbacks Steve Cherundolo and Fabian Johnson, Landon Donovan’s continued absence and limited playing time at club level for important midfielders Jermaine Jones (due to suspension) and Danny Williams.
WATCH: Klinsmann looks ahead to Canada
Those factors could present Tuesday's leading lights with even greater opportunities. Brad Davis, one of three Houston Dynamo players making a proud homecoming in national team colors, has enjoyed a positive return to the USMNT picture after several years of snubs and could find himself seeing meaningful minutes on the left flank both now and next week.
Alejandro Bedoya, Brad Evans and Josh Gatt possess the tools to contribute on the opposite wing, and up-and-coming center backs Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler can inject themselves into the Honduras conversation with good work against Canada. And keep an eye on MLS Golden Boot holder Chris Wondolowski if and when he gets a chance up top.
Canada Team Outlook
As if the lingering sting from that 8-1 loss in the do-or-die qualifier against Honduras wasn’t bad enough, this past Saturday’s 4-0 humbling at the hands of Denmark provided a reminder that rebuilding processes can be long, difficult and occasionally ugly. An all-MLS backline (Nana Attakora is rumored to be a San Jose target) was ripped apart by hat trick hero Andreas Cornelius and the Canadian attack mustered only three shots on target.
A closer look shows encouraging signs, however. TFC’s Kyle Bekker, the shining star of the MLS Combine, made his international debut and offers long-term promise as a leading member of the Under-23 group that nearly snuck into the London Olympics, along with Doneil Henry, Andres Fresenga, Russel Tiebert, Philippe Davies, Matt Stinson, Evan James and Attakora.
“The best way to get over a poor result is to get back on the pitch again as early as possible,” interim head coach Colin Miller told MLSsoccer.com on Monday. “We get that on Tuesday against a very good US side.”
Players To Watch
WATCH: Canada ready to face USMNT
USA – Brad Davis: The oldest member of the Yanks roster is also the one with the most to gain as he renews an international career he admits he thought was over. His intelligence, passing and sterling service could slot well into the senior team’s midfield and tonight he’ll get to show his abilities in front of an appreciative home crowd.
Canada – Dwayne De Rosario: In some ways, BBVA Compass is a house DeRo helped build. Now D.C. United’s playmaker-in-chief, De Rosario was a leading light both on and off the field in the Dynamo’s early championship-winning years in the Bayou City. He now returns as the spiritual leader of a national team in transition.
GOALKEEPERS (3): Tally Hall (Houston Dynamo), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire)
DEFENDERS (8): Tony Beltran (Real Salt Lake), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), A.J. DeLaGarza (LA Galaxy), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Connor Lade (New York Red Bulls), Alfredo Morales (Hertha Berlin/Germany), Justin Morrow (San Jose Earthquakes), Jeff Parke (Philadelphia Union)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (out of contract), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Mikkel Diskerud (Rosenborg/Norway), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City), Joshua Gatt (Molde/Norway), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
FORWARDS (4): Juan Agudelo (Chivas USA), Will Bruin (Houston Dynamo), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)
GOALKEEPERS (3): Lars Hirschfeld (Vålerenga/Norway), Roberto Stillo (Genoa/Italy), Simon Thomas (unattached)
DEFENDERS (6): Ashtone Morgan (Toronto FC), Nana Attakora (FC Haka/Finland), Dejan Jakovic (D.C. United), Doneil Henry (Toronto FC), Mason Trafford (IFK Mariehamn/Finland), Andres Fresenga (Racing Club de Montevideo/Uruguay)
MIDFIELDERS (10): Nik Ledgerwood (Hammarby/Sweden), Philippe Davies (Richmond Kickers), Terry Dunfield (Toronto FC), Kyle Bekker (Toronto FC), Russell Teibert (Vancouver Whitecaps), Jonathan Beaulieu-Bourgault (unattached), Dwayne De Rosario (D.C. United), Emmanuel Gomez (Club Atlético Griffa/Argentina), Matt Stinson (Toronto FC), Evan James (unattached)
FORWARDS (3): Tosaint Ricketts (Sandnes Ulf/Norway), Kyle Porter (FC Edmonton), Frank Jonke (FF Jaro/Finland)