PREVIEW: USA - COLOMBIA
The United States men's national team will take the field on Friday night to face one of the world's best when they play 2014 World Cup quarterfinalists Colombia in London.
Jürgen Klinsmann's squad will play the first of their two final games of 2014 in a stadium familiar to many American fans, Fulham FC's Craven Cottage. The stadium has played host to a number of US National team players over the years, although the three still actively available for duty - Clint Dempsey, Eddie Johnson and Emerson Hyndman - are not in the squad for Friday.
This is the team's third game since their exit from this past summer's World Cup, with a 1-0 win in September against the Czech Republic in Prague followed by a pair of 1-1 draws stateside versus Ecuador and Honduras giving them a solid, if unspectacular record in the interim.
Once again, Klinsmann has raised a number of eyebrows with several unorthodox inclusions in his team, most notably Miguel Ibarra of the second-division NASL team Minnesota United FC and college player Jordan Morris of Stanford.
Apart from these two, New England Revolution attacker Lee Nguyen is making his return to the fold after a seven year hiatus, with his 18-goal season in MLS play giving the 28 year-old former PSV Eindhoven signing a much-deserved shot.
Nguyen is one of three of the MLS-based inclusions who are benefitting from the league's decision to heed the international break in the midst of the playoff season, with his Revolution teammate Jermaine Jones and Seattle Sounders defender DeAndre Yedlin both likely starters at kickoff.
Sunderland outcast Jozy Altidore has been named as team captain for the game, and will hope to pick up where he left off in the US jersey when he scored the team's lone goal in October's draw against Honduras in their last outing.
On the other side of the ball awaits a strong Colombian team that, while making a disappointing quarterfinal exit from the World Cup, is currently seen as one of the best in the world.
Their current FIFA ranking of #4, ahead of traditional powerhouses such as Netherlands, Brazil, France and Spain, might flatter to deceive, however a loaded team featuring 16 players from their Brazil squad will be an enormously difficult test.
The team is lead by World Cup Golden Boot winner James Rodríguez, the most recent addition to Real Madrid's stable of Galacticos, and features a stable of experienced players in their primes who are currently considered one of the country's best generations in decades.
The game will kick off at 8:45pm local time - 2:45pm ET - on Friday.