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U-23 MNT Ready to Clash with England in Preston

For the second time in 2015, the U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team is set to play England on European soil, this time facing off with the Young Lions at Deepdale Stadium in Preston, England. Kickoff is set for 2:45 p.m. ET.  Fans can follow the match on Twitter @ussoccer.

The USA’s training camp runs from Aug. 30-Sept. 8 in Manchester and the match with England will be followed by a friendly against Qatar on Sept. 8 at Gigg Lane in Bury. The camp is the final for the U-23 MNT before the 2015 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament in October.

The Olympic Qualifying Championship will be played across the United States from Oct. 1-13. The U.S. was drawn into Group A and opens with a pair of games at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas, against Canada on Oct. 1 at 8 p.m. CT and Cuba on Oct. 3 at 4 p.m. CT. The U.S. will conclude group play at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado on Oct. 6 against Panama at 7:30 p.m. MT. [TICKETS]

The U-23’s were last in Europe in June, where they competed in the prestigious Toulon Tournament. With group stage wins against Netherlands and Qatar, the team advanced to the tournament’s third-place playoff, where it defeated England and matched its best ever finish in the tournament. The U-23 MNT is 5-3-0 in 2015, having also logged wins against Bosnia in March and Mexico in April.

Roster by Position:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Cody Cropper (MK Dons; Maple Grove, Minn.), Ethan Horvath (Molde; Highlands Ranch, Colo.), Zack Steffen (Freiburg; Downington, Pa.).
DEFENDERS (8): Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham Hotspur; Westcliff on Sea, England), Matt Miazga (New York Red Bulls; Clifton, N.J.), Eric Miller (Montreal Impact; Woodbury, Minn.), Boyd Okwuonu (Real Salt Lake; Edmund, Okla.), Shane O’Neill (Royal Mouscron-Péruwelz; Boulder, Colo.), William Packwood (Unattached; Concord, Mass.), Dillon Serna (Colorado Rapids; Brighton, Colo.), Oscar Sorto (LA Galaxy; Los Angeles, Calif).
MIDFIELDERS (8): Gboly Ariyibi (Chesterfield; Arlington, Va.), Luis Gil (Real Salt Lake; Garden Grove, Calif.), Emerson Hyndman (Fulham; Dallas, Texas), Benji Joya (Club Necaxa; San Jose, Calif.), Marc Pelosi (San Jose Earthquakes; Sunnyvale, Calif.), Matt Polster (Chicago Fire; Milwaukee, Wisc.), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew; Gahanna, Ohio), Gedion Zelalem (Rangers; Bethesda, Md.).
FORWARDS (5): Alonso Hernandez (C.D. Juarez; El Paso, Texas), Jerome Kiesewetter (VfB Stuttgart; Berlin, Germany), Mario Rodriguez (Borussia Mönchengladbach; North Hollywood, Calif.), Rubio Rubin (Utrecht; Beaverton, Ore.), Maki Tall (Scion; Washington, D.C.).

Roster Notes:

  • Seven players from the USA’s 2015 U-20 World Cup team that advanced to the quarterfinals in New Zealand now join the U-23 group: Cameron Carter-Vickers, Emerson Hyndman, Matt Miazga, Rubio Rubin, Zack Steffen, Maki Tall and Gedion Zelalem.
  • Five players from this roster have scored goals for the U-23’s in 2015: Alonso Hernandez, Benji Joya, Jerome Kiesewetter, William Packwood and Mario Rodriguez.
  • Three from this roster scored goals with the U-20’s in 2015: Hyndman, Rubin and Tall.
  • Shane O’Neill was a force for the squad on the backline in the Toulon Tournament, and earned honors as the Third-Best player in the tournament.
  • Hernandez and Joya both scored penalties in the third-place playoff of the Toulon Tournament. Hernandez’s strike was the first score of the game and Joya’s proved to be the game-winner.
  • Rodriguez returns to the mix after missing the Toulon Tournament. The strong striker plays at Borussia Mönchengladbach, the same club as Men’s National Team defender Fabian Johnson. The North Hollywood-native has scored twice in as many games in 2015.
  • Luis Gil also returns to the U-23’s after missing the Toulon Tournament. Gil wore the captain’s armband in each of the first three games of 2015, where he leads the team with four assists.
  • Goalkeeper Cody Cropper (MK Dons), defender Carter-Vickers (Tottenham Hotspur) and midfielder Hyndman (Fulham) won’t have far to travel for this camp, coming over from their nearby English club teams.
  • Eighteen-year-old Gedion Zelalem, who recently completed a loan move from Arsenal to Rangers, made his U.S. debut for the U-20’s in this summer’s World Cup. Zelalem will join the team on Sept. 6.
  • The roster is a diverse mix with the players coming from club teams of various leagues around the world. Nine players from this roster represent MLS clubs, three come from German club teams, four from English teams, two from Mexico, and a single player each from leagues in Cyprus, Netherlands, Norway, Scotland, and Switzerland.
  • Twelve players from this roster have ties to the Development Academy: Ethan Horvath (Real Colorado), Emerson Hyndman (FC Dallas), Benji Joya (De Anza Force), Matt Miazga (New York Red Bulls), Eric Miller (Minnesota Thunder Academy), Boyd Okwuonu (FC Dallas), Shane O’Neill (Colorado Rapids), Marc Pelosi (De Anza Force), Dillon Serna (Colorado Rapids), Oscar Sorto (LA Galaxy & Pateadores), Zack Steffen (Continental FC DELCO), Wil Trapp (Crew SC Academy).

England Roster:
GOALKEEPERS (2): Angus Gunn (Manchester City), Jordan Pickford (Preston North End)
DEFENDERS (8): Calum Chambers (Arsenal), Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur), Joe Gomez (Liverpool), Kortney Hause (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Dominic Iorfa (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Jack Stephens (Middlesbrough), Matt Targett (Southampton)
MIDFIELDERS (5): Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur), Nathaniel Chalobah (Chelsea), Jake Forster-Caskey (Brighton & Hove Albion), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea), James Ward-Prowse (Southampton)
FORWARDS (6): Jordon Ibe (Liverpool), Solly March (Brighton & Hove Albion), Nathan Redmond (Norwich City), Duncan Watmore (Sunderland), James Wilson (Manchester United), Cauley Woodrow (Fulham)

England Roster Notes:

  • Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, defenders Kortney Hause, Dominic Iorfa and Jack Stephens and forwards Duncan Watmore and James Wilson were a part of England’s squad when it was defeated by the USA in the third-place playoff of the Toulon Tournament in June.
  • Hause scored was the lone goalscorer for England in the last matchup.
  • 18-year-old Joe Gomez 19-year-old Jordon Ibe have appeared in all four matches for Liverpool this season. Gomez has stared in all four games and Ibe has started in two.
  • Delle Ali has played in three matches for Tottenham Hotspur this year and scored his first Premier League Goal in the team’s 1-1 draw with Leicester City on Aug. 22
  • Head coach Gareth Southgate earned 57 caps for the English national team and scored two goals. He previously managed Middlesbrough from 2006-2009.
  • Eight players from this group have been capped at England’s U-21 level.
  • Thirteen players from the roster represent Premier League clubs
  •  It will be a homecoming of sorts for Pickford, with the match taking place at Preston North End’s Deepdale Stadium
  • It is the first call up at the U-21 level for Manchester United forward James Wilson

U-23’s Last Time Out

Match: U.S. U-23 Men’s National Team vs. England
Date: June 7, 2015
Competition: 2015 Toulon Tournament – Third Place Match
Kickoff: 11 a.m. ET (5 p.m. local)
Attendance: 910
Weather: 80 degrees, Sunny 

Scoring Summary:  1          2          F
USA                          1          1          2
ENG                          1          0          0 

USA – Alonso Hernandez (penalty kick)      7th minute
ENG – Kortney Hause                                  10
USA – Benji Joya (penalty kick)                   65 

Lineups:
USA: 1-Cody Cropper; 3-Boyd Okwuonu (20-Tyler Turner, 55), 5-William Packwood, 4-Shane O’Neill, 2-Juan Pablo Ocegueda; 7-Dillon Serna, 14-Daniel Metzger, 8-Benji Joya (capt.), 16-Julian Green; 17-Jerome Kiesewetter, 11-Alonso Hernandez (17-Alfred Koroma Shams, 63)
Subs Not Used: 22-Tyler Miller
Head Coach: Andreas Herzog
 

ENG: 1-Christian Walton (13-Jordan Pickford, 41); 2-Iorfa Dominc, 5-Jack Stephens, 6-Bailey Cargill, 15-Kortney Hause; 17-John Swift, 7-Matthew Grimes (capt.), 20-Duncan Watmore, 18-Jamie Hanson; 19-Kwame Thomas (10-Chuba Akpom, 49), 11-Rolando Aarons (16-Callum Robinson, 49)
Subs Not Used: 8-Lewis Baker, 9-James Wilson, 12-Isaac Hayden, 14-Demarai Gray
Head Coach: Aidy Boothroyd
 

Auction Underway for Autographed WNT Jerseys to Benefit the Chattanooga Heroes Fund

CHICAGO (Sept. 1, 2015) – The U.S. Women’s National Team’s autographed game-worn jerseys from the Victory Tour match against Costa Rica on Aug. 19 are now available via an online auction with all proceeds going to benefit the Chattanooga Heroes Fund.

Before and during the USA’s match against Costa Rica on Aug. 19 at Finley Stadium, U.S. Soccer and Women’s National Team players honored the victims of the July 16 tragedy in Chattanooga in which five servicemen were killed. There players were led out on the field by members of the military, there was a moment of silence before the match and the players wore black armbands in remembrance.

Now, with the support of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team Players Association, the jerseys from all 23 players that were on the 2015 Women’s World Cup winning team who were in Chattanooga for the match are up for auction online on the U.S. Soccer Federation auction page. The Chattanooga Heroes Fund supports the families of those who lost their lives in the tragic shootings on July 16th as well as those who were wounded.

The auction concludes on the afternoon of Sept. 21, with the bidding opening at $200 for each jersey.

Gallery: Press, Johnston, Chalupny Throw Out First Pitch at Cubs Game

World Cup Champions Lori Chalupny, Julie Johnston and Christen Press visited Wrigley Field in Chicago to throw out the first pitch of the Cubs Oct. 31 game against the Cincinnati Reds. The WNT trio play their club soccer with the Chicago Red Stars, helping the side to its first NWSL playoff berth this season. 

Klinsmann Adds Defender Jonathan Spector ahead of Peru, Brazil Friendlies

CHICAGO (Sept. 1, 2015) – U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has called Birmingham City defender Jonathan Spector into training camp ahead of U.S. friendlies against Peru on Sept. 4 and Brazil on Sept. 8, Mass. The roster now includes 24 players, who will continue to train in Washington, D.C. in preparation for Friday’s match at RFK Stadium [TICKETS]. 

Last called into camp for a friendly against Ukraine on March 5, 2014, Spector has experience playing across the back line for the MNT and has a chance to make his first appearance since taking part in the side’s historic 1-0 win against Italy on Feb. 29, 2012 in Genoa. 

Spector has appeared in each of Birmingham City’s first four league matches this season, helping the club to a 2-0-2 record to begin the 2015/16 English League Championship campaign. 

Friday’s match marks the first meeting between the U.S. and Peru in 15 years, when the MNT defeated Los Incas 1-0 during the 2000 CONCACAF Gold Cup group stage in Miami, Florida. Kickoff at RFK Stadium is set for 7 p.m. ET and the match will be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1, UniMas and Univision Deportes. Fans can also follow the game live @ussoccer on Twitter.

U.S. Roster by Position: Detailed Roster
GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), William Yarbrough (Club Leon)
DEFENDERS (9): 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), Jonathan Spector (Birmingham City)
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)

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 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 nearly 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.”

Academy Alumni: Johannsson Nets First Bundesliga Goal

Recent Men’s National Team call-up and IMG Academy alum Aron Johannsson netted his first goal for Bundesliga side Werder Bremen on Sunday. Scoring a penalty kick in the 39th minute, Johannsson helped his side to a 2-1 win over Borussia Monchengladbach. The American forward, who has made three appearances for Werder Bremen this season, will meet up with fellow Development Academy alums Joe Corona (Nomads SC), DeAndre Yedlin (Crossfire Premier & Seattle Sounders), and Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy) in Washington D.C. when the U.S. MNT takes on Peru on Sept. 4 at RFK Stadium.

Youth National Teams

  • U-23 MNT Set for England, Qatar Friendlies: Thirteen players from this roster have ties to the Development Academy: Luis Gil (Pateadores), Ethan Horvath (Real Colorado), Emerson Hyndman (FC Dallas), Benji Joya (De Anza Force), Matt Miazga (New York Red Bulls), Eric Miller (Minnesota Thunder Academy), Boyd Okwuonu (FC Dallas), Shane O'Neill (Colorado Rapids), Marc Pelosi (De Anza Force), Dillon Serna (Colorado Rapids), Oscar Sorto (LA Galaxy & Pateadores), Zack Steffen (Continental FC DELCO), Wil Trapp (Crew SC Academy).
  • U-20 MNT Heads to Czech Republic Tournament: Twenty-two players from this roster have ties to the Development Academy: Amir Bashti (San Jose Earthquakes), Coy Craft (FC Dallas), Kyle Duncan (New York Red Bulls), Collin Fernandez (Chicago Fire), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake-AZ), Christian Hererra (Real Salt Lake-AZ), Nicholas Hinds (Kendall SC), Cameron Lindley (Chicago Fire & Indiana Fire Academy), Andrew Lombard (New York Red Bulls), Christian Lucatero (Houston Dynamo), Victor Mansaray (Seattle Sounders FC),  Abuchi Obinwa (Chicago Magic PSG), Christian Onalfo (LA Galaxy), Erik Palmer-Brown (Sporting Kansas City), Pablo Palaez (San Diego Surf), Mauricio Pineda (Chicago Fire), Nash Popovic (Vardar), Emmanuel Sabbi (Chicago Magic PSG), Martin Salas (FC Dallas), Sebastian Saucedo (Real Salt Lake-AZ), Ben Swanson (Crew SC Academy), Justin Vom Steeg (Real So Cal)

Across Major League Soccer

  • Tim Parker (Albertson SC) helped the Vancouver Whitecaps earn a new piece of silverware with with a goal in the 53rd minute of a 2-0 win over the Montreal Impact in the Canadian Championship final last Wednesday.
  • Conor Doyle (Dallas Texans) scored a 90th minute goal to punctuate a 3-0 victory for D.C. United over Montego Bay and all but secure passage to the knockout rounds of the 2016 CONCACAF Champions League last Tuesday.
  • Dillon Serna (Colorado Rapids) assisted Kevin Doyle’s game-winning goal in the 79th minute for the Colorado Rapids’ 2-1 victory over Houston Dynamo on Wednesday.
  • Diego Fagundez (New England Revolution) scored the game-winning goal against the Philadelphia Union on Saturday. The 20-year-old Fagundez became the youngest player in MLS history to score 25 career goals.
  • Wil Trapp (Crew SC Academy) assisted Federico Higuain in the 10th minute off a corner kick in Columbus Crew SC’s 2-1 victory over New York City FC on Saturday.
  • Sheanon Williams (FC Bolts Celtic) assisted Ricardo Clark in the 34th minute to help Houston Dynamo in a 2-0 league win over the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps.

Mallory Pugh: A Day in The Show

During the run-up to the 2015 Women’s World Cup, U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team player Mallory Pugh got a chance to train in with the senior side. The experience was brief, but it left a big impression, and it’s something she hopes to build on as her team works toward the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, a tournament that has been a springboard for many players to the full National Team.

Olympic Qualifying Championship Semifinals Kickoff Times Changed

CHICAGO (Monday, Aug. 31, 2015) – The Confederation of North Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) today announced that the two Oct. 10 semifinal matches of the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Championship have been shifted forward by one hour, and are now set to kickoff at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. MT (3 p.m. and 6 p.m. ET) in Sandy, Utah.

The tournament finalists qualify directly to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro Brazil. The third-place finisher advances to a playoff against Colombia to determine an additional representative of the Americas in Brazil.

The USA opens qualifying with a pair of games at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas, against Canada on Oct. 1 at 8 p.m. CT [TICKETS] and Cuba on Oct. 3 at 4 p.m. CT. The U.S. will conclude group play at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado, on Oct. 6 against Panama at 7:30 p.m. MT [TICKETS].

2015 CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship

Group A:              Group B:
Canada                 Mexico
United States       Honduras          
Panama                Haiti
Cuba                    Costa Rica

2015 CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship Schedule (Local time/ET)

Thursday, October 1 (Sporting Park)
5:30 pm (6:30 pm ET) Panama vs. Cuba
8:00 pm (9:00 pm ET) United States vs. Canada

Friday, October 2 (StubHub Center)
6:00 pm (9:00 pm ET) Honduras vs. Haiti
8:30 pm (11:30 pm ET) Mexico vs. Costa Rica  

Saturday, October 3 (Sporting Park)
1:30 pm (2:30 pm ET) Canada vs. Panama
4:00 pm (5:00 pm ET) Cuba vs. United States

Sunday, October 4 (StubHub Center)
1:30 pm (4:30 pm ET) Honduras vs. Costa Rica
4:00 pm (7:00 pm ET) Haiti vs. Mexico 

Tuesday, October 6 (Dick’s Sporting Goods Park)
5:00 pm (7:00 pm ET) Canada vs. Cuba
7:30 pm (9:30 pm ET) United States vs. Panama

Wednesday, October 7 (Dick’s Sporting Goods Park)
5:00 pm (7:00 pm ET) Costa Rica vs. Haiti
7:30 pm (9:30 pm ET) Mexico vs. Honduras 

Saturday, October 10 (Rio Tinto Stadium)
Semifinals (Winners advance to the 2016 Olympic games)
1:00 pm (3:00 pm ET) 1A vs. 2B
4:00 pm (6:00 pm ET) 2A vs. 1B 

Tuesday, October 13, (Rio Tinto Stadium)
3rd Place (Winner advances to Olympic Games play-in against Colombia)
5:00 pm (7:00 pm ET) Loser Semifinal 1 vs. Loser Semifinal 2

Final
8:00 pm (10:00 pm ET) Winner Semifinal 1 vs. Winner Semifinal 2 

Long-Time FIFA Assistant Referee Marlene Duffy Announces Her Retirement

Marlene Duffy didn’t ever think she would be a good enough player to advance to a high level. Although she loved the game, her 5’2” frame didn’t lend itself well to her position as a goalkeeper and eventually she chose a different way to be involved with the game by becoming a referee.

Duffy began that track at age 12, eventually rising through the ranks before joining the FIFA Panel, qualifying her to officiate international matches as an assistant referee in 2008. After nearly 25 years and 10 international tournaments, Duffy announced her retirement this week because of health reasons.

"I feel so lucky to have had the experiences I've had, travelled to some amazing places, and met so many great friends,” she told ussoccer.com.

After becoming a referee himself, Duffy’s father encouraged her to become an official. Like many, her early view of the work was to make extra money, but as time went on, Duffy became more interested in improving upon every performance.

 “It wasn’t just about going out to get money for doing whatever game I could get anymore,” Duffy said. “It was about growing and doing better and better. I was trying to improve and excel and I wanted to see what the highest level I could achieve was.”

She went pretty high.

Her first big game came in 2004 when she worked Mia Hamm’s final international match. Her first international tournament came four years later when she officiated during CONCACAF Qualifying for the 2008 FIFA U-17 World Championship[NW1] . She stepped up the ladder later that year, running the line in a first round game of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing – a rematch of the previous year’s World Cup Final between Germany and Brazil.

Duffy’s most memorable match though came during the opening game of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final between France and Nigeria.

“The World Cup is the pinnacle,” she told ussoccer.com. “Everything is faster and there’s just a different level of experience when you get there.”

She would go on to work CONCACAF qualifying and the tournaments themselves at the 2012 Summer Olympics and 2014 U-20 Women’s World Cup. Nearly all of her big international matches came working with one of the top female referees of all-time in Kari Seitz.


Marlene Duffy (left) and Keri Seitz (center-right) officiated together for many years at the pinnacle of the women's game.

Having retired herself in 2013, Seitz is the only referee – male or female – to work four FIFA World Cups and three Summer Olympic Games. The veteran referee garnered professional admiration from Duffy early on.

“I was amazed at how much preparation she put into every single game and her professionalism,” she said. “I don’t think I know of anybody who could say a bad thing about her. She was an excellent referee who I was pleased to have the ability to work with and learn from.”

Seitz had the highest praise for her former assistant referee.

“Marlene has been a wonderful representative of quality assistant referees in the USA,” Seitz told ussoccer.com. “She never stopped working hard to maintain the very highest standard.  I am personally very fortunate to have the distinct pleasure of working with Marlene in many games including her first Women's World Cup and Olympic games.  These are incredible moments in one’s referee career and I am incredibly proud to have shared them with Marlene. It's been an honor to work with her and she will be missed."

While she’s still trying to figure out how she wants to stay involved in the game, there are opportunities for Duffy to pass 25 years of experience along to a younger generation of referees as an instructor and assessor. Having surveyed the referee landscape, Duffy said the development of the Professional Referee Organization has seen her side of the game continue to grow.

"It’s getting better and becoming more professional,” she said. “It’s possible that’s a factor of me getting higher in the ranks and seeing more of it, but it seems more organized now and the experiences you get going to PRO camps now is more similar to what you see going to a tournament. The education is getting better.”

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.”

Results

Date Matchup Result Venue Attendance Goal Scorers
October 16, 2012 MNT vs Guatemala 3-1 W Sporting Park; Kansas City, Kan. 16,947 Bocanegra, Dempsey(2)
October 12, 2012 MNT vs Antigua & Barbuda 2-1 W Sir Vivian Richards Stadium; North Sound, Antigua 7,000 Johnson(2)
September 11, 2012 MNT vs Jamaica 1-0 W Columbus Crew Stadium; Columbus, Ohio 23,881 Gomez
September 7, 2012 MNT vs Jamaica 2-1 W National Stadium; Kingston, Jamaica 24,000 Dempsey
June 12, 2012 MNT vs Guatemala 1-1 D Estadio Mateo Flores; Guatemala City, Guatemala 18,000 Dempsey
June 8, 2012 MNT vs Antigua & Barbuda 3-1 W Raymond James Stadium; Tampa, Fla. 23,971 Bocanegra, Dempsey, Gomez
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