The U.S. Men’s National Team will soon take the field to face fellow 2014 FIFA World Cup finalist and No.3-ranked Colombia in a Nov. 14 friendly set to mark the USA’s penultimate game of 2014. The match will take the MNT overseas to the home of Fulham FC – historic Craven Cottage in London – a home away from home for many U.S. players, who have spent time at or are currently part of the English club. To date, more than 18,000 tickets have been sold for the match.
The West London club has always been a special place for players who have donned the Red, White and Blue. Current MNT forward Clint Dempsey spent six seasons at Fulham and broke the record for most goals by an American with 37, surpassing the mark set by fellow U.S. and Fulham icon, Brian McBride.
McBride, who left an indelible mark on the Whites, quickly became one of the fans most beloved players in his four years with the club from 2004-08. The two-time Fulham Player of the Year amassed 33 goals and was named captain for the 2007-08 season. Recently, McBride was named to a special committee to help select the club’s manager. His legacy is visible throughout the stadium, but perhaps most notably in the stadium pub which was renamed McBride’s in his honor.
Former U.S. MNT captain Carlos Bocanegra also spent time at Fulham, becoming one of the few MNT players in history playing outside the United States to simultaneously wear the captain’s armband for both club and country. He was Fulham’s second leading scorer in the 2006-2007 campaign with five goals- behind McBride’s 12 - and finished his career there with eight total in 116 appearances.
Other former U.S. players to have suited up for the Cottagers include goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann, midfielder and defender Eddie Lewis, three-time World Cup veteran Kasey Keller and striker Eddie Johnson.
This trip will also bring forth several memories for yet another member of the U.S. delegation. During the course of his career, U.S. MNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann played in London on numerous occasions. He was a member of Tottenham Hotspur in 1994-95 and again in 1997-98. His first stint with Tottenham not only saw him win the 1995 Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year award, but also turned him into a fan favorite across England.
Klinsmann still cherishes the unique connection he built with the English faithful, the city of London and the historic venues in which he played, making this a unique moment in his professional experience.
“This city is just amazing,” said Klinsmann of England’s capital. “It’s one of the most beautiful in the world, it’s cosmopolitan, everyone gets along with each other no matter what background they have and it’s just a soccer-driven city. There’s so much soccer knowledge with the clubs, the stadiums, and the history, and it will be great to be back there to feel it for a week.”
“With Craven Cottage you have one of the most historic stadiums in England and it’s going to be a blast for us,” Klinsmann continued. “For me, reconnecting with the people at Tottenham and to see some old teammates is going to be really nice, but we are there in order to get a good game done, and having Colombia agree to that game is huge for us.”
Colombia is coming off its best performance ever at a FIFA World Cup, having advanced to the quarterfinals in Brazil. It also introduced the world to current Real Madrid midfielder James Rodriguez, who won the Golden Boot as the top goal scorer in the tournament. On the other hand, the USA was able to advance past the “Group of Death” after downing Ghana and taking a point off Portugal in the group stage, but exited the tournament after a tough 2-1 loss to Belgium in the Round of 16 that captured the imagination of millions of American fans thanks to an incredible team spirit and the magnificent performance of U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard.
The upcoming game versus Colombia will test Klinsmann’s squad as they are set to once again measure themselves against one of the best in the world. The USA’s performance in Brazil drew the attention of the football fans in the UK, and Klinsmann hopes a similar display can be produced on Nov. 14 at Craven Cottage.
“People in England noticed we are coming along,” Klinsmann commented on the English perspective of American soccer. “They were full of compliments after our World Cup performance. Obviously they were sad about their own team not going through to the knock out stage. The respect is simply growing for the United States on a global stage. They’ve noticed we can develop players. They’ve noticed we can put good teams together and that MLS is growing at a very fast pace and getting stronger. They see a National Team that’s taking the game to their opponents – we are not sitting back and defending only against Colombia, we will attack them as well. We want to beat them. It’s going to be difficult, but it’s doable.”