PREVIEW: RUSSIA - USA
The United States national team will close out their 2012 schedule on Wednesday when they visit Russia in Krasnodar.
The past year has been and up and down for the United States team which has posted big wins over Italy and Mexico in friendlies but has also struggled in World Cup qualifying. Despite their uneven play, they qualified for next year's final Hexagonal qualifying round.
For the game against Russia, United States will be without regulars Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Steve Cherundolo, and Graham Zusi but will have several top players.
Klinsmann is expected to start Tim Howard in goal along with Carlos Bocanegra and Geoff Cameron in central defense. At left back Fabian Johnson will get the starting nod but at right back Timothy Chandler is expected to get the start. For Chandler, he has been away from the team for exactly a year after being unwilling to commit to the United States internationally.
In the midfield, central midfielders Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, and Danny Williams are the likely starters as all are playing well for their clubs in top European leagues. On the wings it is not as clear since but two intriguing options are speedy youngsters Joe Gyau and Josh Gatt who are both looking for their first international cap.
One final player who could also earn a start is AZ Alkmaar forward Jozy Altidore who is continuing to have a stellar year in the Eredivisie but was dropped from team for qualifiers last month. Klinsmann at the time indicated that he was not happy with Altidore's performance with the team over the past 14 months and that was the reason for his omission. Now Altidore will hope to prove to his coach that he belongs on the team for the important games that lie ahead in 2013.
Russia is coached by Italian Fabio Capello who recently led England at the 2010 World Cup. The team is off to a strong start in their World Cup qualifying campaign and have won all four of their games in Group F. Russia's stellar play now has it ranked ninth in the world in the FIFA rankings.
The teams have only played four times and Russia holds and unbeaten 2-0-2 record. The last time the teams played was in 2000 in Moscow where Russia posted a 2-0 victory.