BRIAN SCIARETTA - Friday, January 20, 2012
The United States national team will open up its 2012 schedule on Saturday night when they host Venezuela Saturday night at the University of Phoenix stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
2011 was a rough year for US Soccer as they failed to impress at the Gold Cup and fell to Mexico in the final. After Bob Bradley was fired as head coach, Jurgen Klinsmann was hired as his replacement but the team failed to impress.
The team ended its 2011 schedule on a winning note in November with an impressive 3-2 win over Slovenia on the road.
The US team that takes the field on Saturday will be vastly different that the one that took the field in Lljubljana as the game is not on a FIFA international window and neither team will have its top players.
Klinsmann will likely turn to Bill Hamid in goal. The talented 21 year old has been Tim Howard's backup for most of the Klinsmann era but is still yet to earn an international cap.
In the backline, the US will be anchored by Michael Parkhurst in central defense who is having a stellar year for Nordsjaelland who currently sit in second place in Denmark and have the team's best defense.
Parkhurst is likely to be joined by Geoff Cameron in central defense, Zach Loyd at right back, and Heath Pearce at left back.
In the midfield, Jermaine Jones is likely to have a key role in defensive midfield. The imposing German-born American had been having a solid year for Schalke in the Bundesliga but is currently serving an eight week suspension for stomping on Marco Reus in a Bundesliga matchup against Borussia Monchengladbach.
The rest of the midfield will likely consist of New England Revolution and 2010 World Cup veteran Benny Feilhaber, Jeff Larentowicz, and Brek Shea.
At forward, it is unclear who Klinsmann will favor at this point. Chris Wondolowski has impressed in recent MLS season but younger players CJ Sapong or Teal Bunbury could get the nod instead.
The annual January camp has historically been an important tool for the US national team to indentify young talented players who play primarily in MLS or in Scandinavian leagues.
Venezuela, ranked 42 in the latest FIFA rankings, are currently off to a strong start in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying where they have seven point s through their first four games. In their most recent game, they defeated Bolivia 1-0.