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Veterans Return to MNT with Eyes on Claiming a Place in CONCACAF Cup Squad

As the U.S. Men’s National Team ramps up its final preparations for next month’s CONCACAF Cup playoff with Mexico, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s has brought several veteran faces back into the fold to compete for spots in October’s playoff.

Three of the players that return to the mix are midfielder Jermaine Jones, defender Matt Besler and goalkeeper Tim Howard – a trio that played every minute of every match at last summer’s FIFA World Cup in Brazil. All recently absent from the team for different reasons, the three returned to MNT camp this week with joy at seeing teammates again and anticipation for the task ahead.

“It’s always nice to be back with the boys,” Jones told ussoccer.com Monday. “I think every player is happy to represent his country and I always want to play.”

Set to join the National Team for June’s friendlies against the Netherlands and Germany, Jones suffered a groin injury in his last match with the New England Revolution prior to leaving for the games. The injury required surgery, which subsequently kept him from last month’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.

While he got to see his teammates when they came to Boston for their second group match against Haiti, all he could do was watch. In the end, he felt the same disappointment as his teammates on the field when the U.S. fell 2-1 to Jamaica in the tournament semifinals, setting up October’s showdown with Mexico.

“It’s always bad if you have to fix an injury and be out because of it,” he said. “I was sad to sit upstairs and not play and watch on TV. I think the whole team isn’t happy with the result at the Gold Cup, but we have a chance on October 10 where we can fix it. This is the goal, and now we have two games with Brazil and Peru.  I think we see them differently than other friendlies.”

Having first returned with New England a month ago, Jones has gradually built up his fitness, playing the first hour of the Revolution’s 1-0 win against the Philadelphia Union over the weekend.

“I try to get my fitness back,” he added. “I got 60 minutes with my club team now. It’s good to get a little bit harder training and get some good balance. I want to get my body to 100 percent as quick as possible.”

State of the Squad: Position Battles Abound in Important Friendlies against Peru, Brazil

As the U.S. Men’s National Team convenes in Washington, D.C.  on Sunday to prepare for their final friendlies before taking on Mexico in the October 10 Confederations Cup playoff, the message from head coach Jurgen Klinsmann is clear: “Prove a point that you want to be at The Rose Bowl.”

The two friendlies against Peru and Brazil have taken on a new meaning from the time when they were originally planned. Scheduled with an eye on preparation towards November’s World Cup qualifying matches and next year’s Copa America Centenario, the two games now serve as the ultimate proving ground for veteran and young players alike to make their case for the October playoff.

“This is now a huge opportunity for the players to show us that they deserve to go to the Mexico clash,” Klinsmann told ussoccer.com. “With these games, it is not the time to be patient. This is really now time for the guys to make a really strong impression that they understand the situation because of what happened in the Gold Cup. Experience or no experience, this is not about developing things. This is about proving a point.”

While 15 players return from July’s Gold Cup roster, Klinsmann’s eye towards more competition in the team has seen the return of four World Cup veterans in goalkeeper Tim Howard, midfielder Jermaine Jones and center backs Matt Besler and Geoff Cameron all returning after varying levels of absences over the last year.

Besler and Cameron rejoin a U.S. center back pool that also features Gold Cup starters Ventura Alvarado and John Brooks as well as Omar Gonzalez, Michael Orozco and Tim Ream.


MNT defender Tim Ream battles Panama's Adolfo Machado during the 2015 Gold Cup.

With seven options providing a good mix of youth and experience, Klinsmann made clear, “The heat is on in that position.”

“Some positions are definitely there to grab, but you've got to grab them with a lot of determination and a lot of ambition,” he added. “That's why bringing back Tim Howard now and Jermaine Jones and Geoff Cameron kind of signals the fight and the competition now happening between the older established ones and the new wave of players. This is what we want to see from Sunday on in training. We want to see competition, and then we're going to make some calls. Obviously the most crucial calls come for the roster that goes to the Rose Bowl.”

After taking the summer off following strong performances in the June friendly wins against The Netherlands and Germany, forward Bobby Wood and midfielder Danny Williams also returned to the fold, while the lone newcomer in camp is forward Andrew Wooten. The 25-year-old striker has been tracked by Klinsmann and his staff for two years and has started the 2.Bundesliga season off strong, scoring five goals in five matches for Sandhausen.

“We like how dynamic he is and we like his nose for goals. He has a very good instinct of where the ball will drop in the box and knows how to finish things off. We don’t look at him as a youngster coming in because he's 25 years old and in a certain way he's a late bloomer. For him it's important not to lose one second of time to impress his teammates and obviously the coaching staff. It's a chance that he has been waiting for for a long time, and because he’s on a good run right now he deserves that chance, but he needs to jump in the cold water right away and swim really fast.”

Wooten’s good form and entrance into the National Team picture has come at an opportune time for the striker as he comes into the fold with no clear cut pecking order after Clint Dempsey. Though the U.S. veteran won the Golden Boot with six goals at the Gold Cup, injury issues will force him out for at least the Peru match, leaving Wooten, Wood, Aron Johannsson, and Jozy Altidore a chance to prove they belong in the squad come October.

“I think the situation with our forwards is wide open,” Klinsmann said. “Obviously the most consistent player over the last years with us has always been Clint Dempsey, but Clint right now also has some injury issues and is obviously not the youngest anymore, so we constantly try to develop the next wave of forwards and so far nobody has a real big advantage over another guy. This is really crucial for them to understand. There's a time period to break in and make yourself comfortable and be a part of a group, but there's also a time to understand the moment to step up and build your future in the team.

“Now after a year that we called a transition year where we developed young forwards like an Aron Johannsson and a Bobby Wood and obviously some others, we are eager to see the next generation of forwards becoming consistent. By that I mean first of all scoring goals.”


MNT forward Aron Johannsson controls the ball in the USA's match against Jamaica during the 2015 Gold Cup.

While Dempsey and captain Michael Bradley will miss out on the Peru match, other regulars that would have otherwise been part of the camp were ruled out due to injury.

“Of course this is normal whenever we have international games,” Klinsmann said. “Unfortunately for Fabian Johnson he got injured a couple weeks after a very good start to the season with Monchengladbach. We have some cases where guys are nursing some injuries, like Nick Rimando and Kyle Beckerman in Salt Lake.”

Originally slated to continue with the National Team after coming out of international retirement last month, veteran DaMarcus Beasley was also forced to pull out of the squad after suffering an injury over the weekend with the Houston Dynamo.

 With the experimental period following the World Cup now coming to an end, Klinsmann put an impetus on the younger players that have received opportunities over the last year to sink or swim with established veterans back involved with the team.

“We gave the younger generation a lot of confidence and a lot of support and a lot of help, which is our job from a coaching standpoint,” he said. “Now the moment comes and they have to prove it. They have to go face-to-face with the established guys and try to steal their spot. This is what it’s about now. We will find out if they are ready for it. We have the playoff game for one, and then we have World Cup qualifying which is not experimenting any more. In a certain way you can tell that the transition phase comes to an end and now they need to prove if they are still in the top spot or not.”

Q&A: Klinsmann, "Now the players need to prove if they are still in the top spot or not.”

ussoccer.com: What was the approach to putting this roster together?
Jurgen Klinsmann: “The bigger picture is to get some answers for how we put things together for Mexico game a month from now. Obviously we want to continue to have a good flow of guys from the Gold Cup, but also to bring back guys who are in position to compete for a spot on the roster for Oct. 10.  Our message to these guys is simple: prove a point that you want to be at the Rose Bowl.”

“With these games, it is not the time to be patient. This is really now time for the guys to make a really strong impression that they understand the situation we’re in because of what happened in the Gold Cup. These games are not about developing things for the future. This is about proving a point towards the Mexico game.”

ussoccer.com: What is the objective for these matches?
JK: “Coming into two games like this against Brazil, whose accomplishments speak for themselves, and Peru coming off a third place finish in Copa America, this is now a huge opportunity for the players to  show us that they deserve to go to the Mexico clash. Initially with the games – and also going back to the games against Holland and Germany – our goal was to get these experiences for World Cup qualifying and Copa America next summer. Now obviously the focus has shifted and we are zoomed in on the CONCACAF Cup and qualifying for the Confederations Cup 2017 in Russia.”

ussoccer.com: How will having some of the veterans back help this team in camp?
JK: “We will just want to make it very, very intense and competitive from the first day on in training, so the veterans need to set the tone and they need to understand that there's a high energy there. The ones that were not a part of the Gold Cup, and the other ones that were with us before like a Danny Williams or a Bobby Wood, they need to prove a point now. This is really now about truly competing. It’s about competing for spots, competing for the Rose Bowl and obviously also towards the World Cup qualifiers.”

ussoccer.com: You said that you have been tracking Andrew Wooten for a while. What do you like about him and what kind of opportunity does he have with this camp?
JK: “We've been watching him for more than two years now and we like how dynamic he is and we like his nose for goals.  He has a very good instinct of where the ball will drop in the box and knows how to finish things off. We don’t look at him as a youngster coming in because he's 25 years old and in a certain way he's a late bloomer. For him it's important not to lose one second of time to impress his teammates and obviously the coaching staff. It's a chance that he has been waiting for for a long time, and because he’s on a good run right now he deserves that chance, but he needs to jump in the cold water and right away swim really fast.” 

ussoccer.com: Is there an opportunity for a player to step up in the striker position?
JK: “I think the situation with our forwards is wide open. Obviously the most consistent player over the last years with us has always been Clint Dempsey, but Clint right now also has some injury issues and is obviously not the youngest anymore, so we constantly try to develop the next wave of forwards and so far nobody has a real big advantage over another guy. This is really crucial for them to understand. There's a time period to break in and make yourself comfortable and be a part of a group, but there's also a time to understand the moment to step up and build your future in the team. Now after a year that we called a transition year where we developed young forwards like an Aron Johannsson and a Bobby Wood and obviously some others, we are eager to see the next generation of forwards becoming consistent. By that I mean first of all scoring goals.”

All-Important October Matches Loom Large for MNT and U-23s

At the start of the year, the clearest goal for the U.S. Men’s National Team was to lock up a spot at the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup. The road to Russia now has one final hurdle, and it’s a mouth-watering matchup with its biggest rival.

On Oct. 10, the United States and Mexico will meet in a do-or-die, one-match playoff at the legendary Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, with the winner taking CONCACAF’s spot at the World Cup warm-up competition.

While the U.S. has largely been successful against Mexico on home soil in the last 20 years, the task of facing a charged Mexican side at a giant venue like The Rose Bowl will serve up a new challenge. Four of the six largest crowds ever to watch the MNT play have watched a USA-Mexico match in southern California, and often with a heavy pro-Mexico tilt. That tide has turned in other venues – most notably Columbus Crew Stadium – and now the opportunity exists to make the Rose Bowl another example of the growing legion of U.S. supporters. After experiencing strong fan turnout during domestic matches throughout 2015, U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann stressed the importance of making sure American fans turn up for the team at the imperative playoff match.

Klinsmann Calls 23 Players for CONCACAF Cup tune-ups against Peru and Brazil

CHICAGO (Aug. 30, 2015) – U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has named the initial 23-player roster that will gather for friendlies against Peru and Brazil in the final preparation games before the decisive Oct. 10 playoff against Mexico at the Rose Bowl for a spot in the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup.

The U.S. faces Peru, which finished third in Copa America this summer, on Sept. 4 at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. (7 p.m. ET; FOX Sports 1, FOX Sports Go, UniMas, Univision Deportes Network) and four days later meets five-time World Cup champion Brazil at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts (8 p.m. ET; ESPN Networks, UniMas, Univision Deportes Network).

“The bigger picture is to get some answers for how we put things together for the Mexico game a month from now,” said Klinsmann. “Obviously we want to continue to have a good flow of guys from the Gold Cup, but also to bring back guys who are in position to compete for a spot on the roster for Oct. 10.  Our message to these guys is simple: prove a point that you want to be at the Rose Bowl.”

A total of 15 players from the group were a part of the team that represented the United States this summer at the CONCACAF Gold Cup, and 12 join from the 2014 FIFA World Cup squad. The roster is loaded with experience, boasting an average of nearly 27 caps. Three players have 50 or more appearances, while only five have 10 caps or less.

Matt Besler and Jermaine Jones could see action for the first time since February and fellow 2014 World Cup teammates Geoff Cameron and Tim Howard are back in the mix for the first time in 2015. Meantime, SV Sandhausen forward Andrew Wooten will make his first appearance in an MNT camp, the 25-year-old having scored five goals in the first five games this season.

Toronto FC midfielder Michael Bradley and Seattle Sounders FC forward Clint Dempsey will be added to the U.S. roster for the match against Brazil, and goalkeeper William Yarbrough will return to his club and be replaced by Chicago Fire ‘keeper Sean Johnson. Any additional changes will be determined following the game against Peru.

U.S. Roster by Position: Detailed Roster
GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), William Yarbrough (Club Leon)
DEFENDERS (8): Ventura Alvarado (Club America), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Greg Garza (Atlas), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana), Tim Ream (Fulham)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Joe Corona (Veracruz), Mix Diskerud (New York City FC), Jermaine Jones (New England Revolution), Alfredo Morales (FC Ingolstadt), Danny Williams (Reading), DeAndre Yedlin (Tottenham Hotspur)
FORWARDS (5): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Aron Johannsson (Werder Bremen), Bobby Wood (Union Berlin), Andrew Wooten (SV Sandhausen), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)

While the MNT works on the east coast, the U-23 Men’s National Team will hold a camp of its own in England, where it will play both England and Qatar in its final preparation before it competes for a spot in the 2015 Olympic Games in Rio at the 2015 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Championship, which runs from Oct. 1-13 in the United States.

ROSTER NOTES

  • Six different players from this roster have scored for the USA in 2015: Jozy Altidore, John Brooks, Mix Diskerud, Aron Johannsson, Danny Williams and Gyasi Zardes
  • Brad Guzan earned Golden Glove honors as the top goalkeeper at this summer’s Gold Cup.  He has posted a 7-2-3 record since September of last year.
  • DaMarcus Beasley aggravated a right calf injury on Aug. 29 in a 2-0 win for Houston Dynamo and is not available for selection.
  • Gyasi Zardes was called in for his first MNT camp in January and has appeared in 13 games in 2015, starting in 10. The LA Galaxy forward has scored twice and assisted on three goals for the United States
  • Bobby Wood was given the summer off to settle in with his new German club, Union Berlin. Wood has started all three of the team’s 2 Bundesliga games and scored his first goal on Aug. 16. The Hawaii-native scored late game-winners in back-to-back appearances in June, burying a goal in the 90th minute against Netherlands and following up with another against Germany five days later.
  • The last time Tim Howard was on the field for the USA, he made 15 saves in the MNT’s Round of 16 matchup with Belgium in the 2014 World Cup.
  • Matt Besler is back in the mix for the first time since the Feb. 8 win against Panama. Besler is the captain of MLS club Sporting KC and is one of three MNT players on this roster – along with Tim Howard and Jermaine Jones - to have appeared in all four matches in the 2014 World Cup.
  • John Brooks has a pair of clutch international goals to his name. He headed in the game-winner against Ghana in the USA’s 2014 World Cup opener and scored the first of the MNT’s three second-half goals in the 4-3, comeback win against sixth-ranked Netherlands in June.
  • Ventura Alvarado has appeared in seven of the last eight MNT matches since making his debut in a U.S. uniform on March 25 against Denmark. He became cap-tied to the U.S. after starting in the first match of the Gold Cup against Honduras on July 7. Alvarado is a regular starter for the Club America team that captured the CONCACAF Champions League title and earned a trip to the FIFA Club World Cup.
  • Geoff Cameron has started and played 90 minutes in all of Stoke City’s 2015 Premier League matches. He last appeared for the MNT on Nov. 18, 2014, against Ireland. The game against Brazil will be a homecoming of sorts for the center back, who was born and raised in Attleboro, Massachusetts.
  • Michael Orozco returns to the MNT for the first time since June. Orozco – who moved to Club Tijuana this summer - came on in the second half of the game against Netherlands, where he played a part in the MNT’s comeback win.
  • Tim Ream, who recently completed a transfer to Fulham, earned honors as the Player of the Year for his former club Bolton in each of the last two seasons.
  • Jermaine Jones has recovered from the injury that kept him out of this summer’s Gold Cup and is back with the MNT for the first time since February.
  • Alfredo Morales played a key role in FC Ingolstadt securing first place in the second division in Germany last year and its subsequent promotion to the Bundesliga. Morales, who holds Peruvian citizenship through his father, has started in each of the team’s first three matches.
  • Yedlin has appeared in 13 of the 14 MNT matches in 2015 and has tallied three assists, which ties for second on the team with Gyasi Zardes, behind Michael Bradley’s five.
  • Jozy Altidore has two goals and an assist this year with the MNT. The Toronto FC forward was with the U.S. for the group stage of the Gold Cup. In six appearances with Toronto since the summer tournament he has scored three goals.
  • Aron Johannsson recently completed a transfer from Dutch club AZ Alkmaar to Bundesliga team Werder Bremen. In his final season with AZ, he recorded four goals in the team’s last three matches to help the team snatch the third spot in the Dutch Eredivisie and a place in the 2016 UEFA Europa League. Johansson made his Bundesliga debut in the opening game of the season against Schalke and followed up with his first start a week later in Werder’s match against Hertha BSC.
  • This will be the first camp with the senior MNT for Andrew Wooten. The German-American is off to a hot start in 2 Bundesliga at SV Sandhausen, having scored five goals in five games.

Supporters Club Members Have First Opportunity to Purchase Tickets for Unprecedented USA-Mexico Clash on Oct. 10

CHICAGO (Aug. 27, 2015) – U.S. Soccer will hold a special sales process for its allotment of tickets for the USA-Mexico clash in the CONCACAF Cup on Oct. 10 at the Rose Bowl. The match pits the champions of the 2013 and 2015 Gold Cups in a winner take all showdown for the right to represent the region at the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia.

Similar to other previous ticket sales, U.S. Soccer Supporters Club members and other members of the U.S. Soccer community will have an opportunity to purchase tickets from the allotment and will be seated in designated U.S. fan sections. U.S. Soccer Supporters Club members must have been registered before Aug. 26.

In early September, these supporters will receive information directly from U.S. Soccer via email about the ticket purchasing process. The exact details and timing of the process will be communicated directly at that time. Supporters will be able to purchase up to six tickets per household on a first-come, first-served basis while the supply of allocated tickets lasts.

Klinsmann Talks MNT Players at European Clubs and Potential Deadline Deals

The return of foreign-based U.S. MNT players to their clubs following July’s CONCACAF Gold Cup always had the potential to present challenges for the players trying to win starting spots. Missing the full preseason on international duty puts their club teammates ahead of the curve, and so far results have been a mixed bag, with some players growing into new situations while others have work ahead to earn back their places in the first team.

“What we’ve seen after the Gold Cup is a little similar to what we saw after the World Cup last summer in Brazil,” U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann explained. “Some players struggle to get back into rhythm and get their starting spots right away.”

The time away with the National Team while clubs were going through their preseason paces has left the likes of John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt) and Ventura Alvarado (Club America) – all starters for during last month’s Gold Cup – on the bench to begin their respective league campaigns.

“It’s kind of a consequence of maybe that they came late into the preseason of their club teams and the coaches gave the other players a head start first. They have to fight their way back; it’s as simple as that.”

On the positive side, the former Germany striker has seen forward Aron Johannsson make a summer transfer splash.

Having battled back from injury to help Dutch club AZ Alkmaar qualify for the UEFA Europa League last season, Johannsson secured the biggest summer move among his U.S. teammates, transferring to German Bundesliga side Werder Bremen earlier this month. 

After seeing the 24-year-old striker score 29 goals in 58 appearances for the Dutch side, Klinsmann was pleased to see the budding striker rise to a bigger club challenge.

Neymar to Lead Star-Studded Brazil When U.S. MNT Faces Five-Time FIFA World Cup Champion, Presented By Liberty Mutual Insurance

CHICAGO (Aug. 13, 2015) – Barcelona striker Neymar leads a star-studded roster for Brazil that will face the U.S. Men’s National Team on Tuesday, Sept. 8, at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, presented by Liberty Mutual Insurance.

Brazil head coach Dunga revealed the 24-player squad today. A total of 10 players were part of league-championship winning teams in the top leagues in Europe last season, including three each from Premier League champion Chelsea and Ligue 1 champion Paris St-Germain. Along with Neymar, defender Daniel Alves captured the 2014-15 UEFA Champions League crown. Orlando City SC midfielder Kaka returns to the fold, the 2002 World Cup champion and 2007 FIFA Player of the Year back in for Brazil for the first time in nearly a year.

Kickoff for the match is set for 8 p.m. ET, and the game will be televised on an ESPN Network as well as UniMas and the Univsion Deportes Network. Fans will also be able to follow the match via Twitter @ussoccer and Instagram @ussoccer.

Brazil Roster by Position:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Jefferson (Botafogo), Marcelo Grohe (Gremio), Alisson (Internacional)
DEFENDERS (8): David Luiz (PSG), Marquinhos (PSG), Miranda (Inter Milan), Gabriel Paulista (Arsenal), Daniel Alves (Barcelona), Filipe Luiz (Atletico Madrid), Danilo (Real Madrid), Douglas Santos (Atlético Mineiro)
MIDFIELDERS (9): Luis Gustavo (Wolfsburg), Fernandinho (Manchester City), Elias (Corinthians), Ramirez (Chelsea), Oscar (Chelsea), Firmino (Liverpool), Willian (Chelsea), Kaká (Orlando City SC), Lucas Lima (Santos)
FORWARDS (4): Neymar (Barcelona), Lucas (PSG), Hulk (Zenit St. Petersburg), Douglas Costa (Bayern Munich)

Tickets are on sale through ussoccer.com, by phone at 1-800-745-3000 and at all Ticketmaster ticket centers throughout the region. Starting Monday, August 3, tickets also become available at the Gillette Stadium ticket office (open Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) Groups of 30 or more can obtain an order form at ussoccer.com or call 312-528-1290. Ultimate Fan Tickets (special VIP packages which include a premium ticket, a custom made official U.S. National Team jersey with name and number, VIP access to the field before and after the game, and other unique benefits) are also available exclusively through ussoccer.com.

The match against No.6-ranked Brazil will be the third of the year for the United States against a team ranked in the world top 10. The U.S. defeated sixth-ranked Netherlands, 4-3, as well as world No. 1 and reigning World Cup Champion Germany 2-1 in June. This will be the 15th time Gillette Stadium has hosted the MNT and second this year, following the team’s 1-0 win against Haiti in the Gold Cup on July 10. Overall, the U.S. is 10-2-2 at the venue.

The United States is preparing for a CONCACAF playoff against Mexico on Oct. 10 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. The match, featuring the Gold Cup Champions from 2013 and 2015, will determine the CONCACAF representative at the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia.

Press Credentials:

The U.S. Soccer press credential application for media who plan to cover the match against Brazil is available on ussoccer.com. The deadline to submit the application is Friday, Aug. 28.

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