Austria vs. USA
Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013, 2:45 pm ET
Ernst-Happel-Stadion, Austria, Vienna
Watch on NBCSN, UniMas
The US national team wraps up its European mini-camp with an intriguing match against Austria on Tuesday, providing coach Jurgen Klinsmann and his men with another quality test and – hopefully – a welcome opportunity to show more dynamism and creativity after Friday's underwhelming 0-0 draw with Scotland in Glasgow.
The compact Alpen nation just concluded a solid but ultimately disappointing World Cup qualifying campaign that saw them finish third in UEFA Group C behind Germany and Sweden with a record of 5-3-2. Changing migration patterns have diversified Austria's talent pool in recent years, adding flair that has moderated old stereotypes about their dourly efficient playing style, and the USMNT will welcome this challenge as it looks to conclude their historic 2013 with panache.
These programs have only met twice, first getting introduced in the group stage of the 1990 World Cup in Italy. It was the United States' first trip to the tourney in nearly half a century and coach Bob Gansler's squad – which included a few college players as the U.S. Soccer Federation had only just begun to professionalize – was humbled in three losses. But they gave a good account of themselves in a 2-1 trip-ending loss to Austria.
Eight years later, the Yanks underlined their vast progress by cruising to a 3-0 win in Vienna on goals by Frankie Hejduk, Brian McBride and Claudio Reyna.
It's worth noting that USMNT assistant coach Andy Herzog is an Austrian legend who holds his country's all-time record for appearances and heads the USA's European scouting effort from his home base in Vienna.
In a situation diametrically opposed from the USA's CONCACAF setting, “Das Team” are confronted with the daunting reality that as a small European nation surrounded by global powerhouses, they have little to no margin for error in major international competitions.
Missing out on Brazil 2014 means that their World Cup drought will extend to at least 20 years and they still have yet to qualify for a European Championship, having only participated in Euro 2008 on account of their status as co-hosts.
All that said, Austria can call on a talented player pool interspersed among strong clubs in the German and Austrian Bundesligas and beyond. Depending on their group draw, they will be optimistic when Euro 2016 qualifying kicks off in about 10 months' time. The US can expect a organized, hard-nosed and focused unit to greet them when they take the field in Vienna.
Win, lose or draw, the Yanks aren't going to make too many new friends at home or abroad with bland contests like last week's scoreless stalemate in Scotland. Perhaps the clean sheet provided a useful experience for Klinsmann's backline, yet the lack of attacking impetus reinforces nagging doubts about traditional difficulties against elite opposition.
A front four of Eddie Johnson, Sacha Kljestan and Alejandro Bedoya behind Jozy Altidore did not appear to match up to the sum of its parts last Friday and, while most fans would probably prefer a revamped approach with a slightly more adventurous outlook, it's not inconceivable that Klinsmann persists with familiar faces as he seeks continued gains in chemistry and understanding.
Nonetheless, the stated priority of continued player evaluation with an eye towards the World Cup would seem to portend a reshuffled lineup in Vienna. The likes of Eric Lichaj, John Brooks, Terrence Boyd and Aron Johannsson are hungry for meaningful minutes, if not a shot in the starting XI.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Austria – Marko Arnautovic
One of the men keeping Brek Shea off the field for Stoke City, Arnautovic is an unpredictable character both on the ball and off the field. Earlier this year, his former Inter Milan teammate Mario Balotelli said he “makes me look like the most boring guy in the world ... one of the funniest and craziest people I have ever met.” Though with his reputation for rashness and petulance fading as he adapts to life in the English Premier League, he could be a real problem child for the Yanks defense on Tuesday.
USA – Terrence Boyd
Unless he's had a truly miserable week of training, it's hard to see how Klinsmann won't give his enthusiastic young striker at least a few minutes' run-out in the city where he plays his club soccer. The German-American has slowly but steadily developed the finer points of his game with Rapid Vienna and seemingly deserves a chance to state his case for World Cup roster consideration after logging a scant few moments on the field as an injury-time substitute against Scotland.
GOALKEEPERS (3): Robert Almer (Energie Cottbus/Germany), Heinz Lindner (Austria Vienna), Ramazan Ozcan (Ingolstadt/Austria)
DEFENDERS (9): Aleksandar Dragovic (Dynamo Kiev/Ukraine), Christian Fuchs (Schalke 04/Germany), Grorgy Garics (Bologna/Italy), Martin Hinteregger (Red Bull Salzburg/Austria), Florian Klein (Red Bull Salzburg/Austria), Manuel Ortlechner (Austria Vienna), Sebastian Prodl (Werder Bremen/Germany), Markus Suttner (Austria Vienna), Kevin Wimmer (FC Köln/Germany)
MIDFIELDERS (9): David Alaba (Bayern Munich/Germany), Marko Arnautovic (Stoke City/England), Julian Baumgartlinger (Mainz 05/Germany), Guido Burgstaller (Rapid Vienna/Austria), Martin Harnik (Stuttgart/Germany), Andreas Ivanschitz (Levante/Spain), Zlatko Junuzovic (Werder Bremen/Germany), Veli Kavlak (Besiktas/Turkey), Christoph Leitgeb (Red Bull Salzburg/Austria)
FORWARDS (3): Lukas Hinterseer (Wacker Innsbruck/Austria), Marc Janko (Trabzonspor/Turkey), Philipp Zulechner (Grödig/Austria)
GOALKEEPERS (3): Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Tim Howard (Everton/England), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire)
DEFENDERS (7): DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla/Mexico), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin/Germany), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/England), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest/England), Michael Orozco (Puebla/Mexico)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Alejandro Bedoya (FC Nantes/France), Michael Bradley (Roma/Italy), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Jermaine Jones (Schalke/Germany), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht/Belgium), Brek Shea (Stoke City/England)
FORWARDS (5): Jozy Altidore (Sunderland/England), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna/Austria), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar/Netherlands), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)