CARSON, Calif. – Mexico made plenty of noise with a rout of South Korea earlier this week, and the US national team would like nothing more than to cap its January camp by doing the same Saturday before a sold-out crowd at StubHub Center.
Though the World Cup roster won’t look the same and the pieces have yet to fall into place, a sound victory against South Korea on Saturday (5 pm ET, ESPN2/UniMas) would help set the foundation for the months ahead, according to US coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
“Everybody wants to set a tone,” Klinsmann told reporters this week. “You want to get results. It helps with the atmosphere around the team, but at the same time we know it’s only part of the preparation towards the World Cup.”
South Korea, built similarly to the US in their use of domestic-based players, last week defeated Costa Rica, 1-0, before falling to Mexico 4-0 in San Antonio on Wednesday night. They pose a good test for a US side that reportedly experienced mixed results during scrimmages in Brazil, but one that is antsy to match up against another World Cup-bound opponent.
“It’s nice to know all the work we've put in is leading up to a competitive game, an international appearance,” midfielder Graham Zusi told reporters. “We're watching Korea play lately. They’re a great squad, a squad that’s very technical and their commitment to press the game is impressive.”
This will be the first meeting between the two sides since the group stage of the 2002 World Cup, when they played to a 1-1 draw. It’s also the last chance for some players to make an impression at the end of the January camp, and for the established players to build towards Brazil.
“We just want to keep moving forward,” defender Omar Gonzalez told reporters. “Over the past year, we’ve done really well building chemistry on the field, scoring goals, playing good defense and just putting together all-around complete games, so we want to keep that going forward, keep on building confidence and just keep looking to play well.”
For Klinsmann, it's only the beginning of the itinerary. Preparatory steps toward Brazil also include an away match against Ukraine in early March and, according to reports, a friendly against CONCACAF rival Mexico in April.
But before that happens, Klinsmann wants his side to generate momentum in its first challenge of 2014.
“It’s a game at the end of January camp where you want to see the players implement the things we worked on in these three and a half weeks,” Klinsmann said. “You want to see the progress they made throughout the camp to get an idea of where they are individually. … We get a nice benchmark there for the group we have together now. Then we go from there.”