Switzerland vs. USA
Tuesday, March 31, 2015, noon ET
Stadion Letzigrund; Zurich, Switzerland
Watch on FOX Sports 1, UniMás, UnivisionDeportes.com
The US national team's spring European tour continues on Tuesday. But it's no vacation as they move from Wednesday's 3-2 loss to Denmark (ranked No. 28 in the latest FIFA World Rankings) in Aarhus to a clash with Switzerland (ranked twelfth in the world) in Zurich.
Coach Jurgen Klinsmann's side showcased their dogged competitiveness against the Danes, coming within a few minutes of a 2-1 win despite being outplayed by some distance in terms of possession, shape and fluidity. Now they'll seek to put it all together with a more complete performance in their last game in a FIFA match window (in other words, as a full-strength squad) until June.
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The USMNT are 1-3-3 all-time against Switzerland, with the Yanks winning their most recent meeting 1-0 on Oct. 17, 2007, at St. Jakob Park in Basel via Michael Bradley's 86th-minute strike.
These nations made history in the 1994 World Cup, playing out a 1-1 draw in their opening group-stage match at the Pontiac Silverdome outside Detroit – the first World Cup match played indoors. They also tied 1-1 that January in a friendly in Fullerton, California.
Friendlies at this early stage of the 2018 cycle are never going to be “must-win” for a coach with Klinsmann's level of job security. But last week's labored display against Denmark bore little resemblance to the flowing footy he's long promised, and left fans wanting to see a great deal more from Tuesday's match.
Can the USMNT keep the ball more effectively against top opposition? Is defend-and-counter hard-wired into the American DNA? How will Klinsmann and his men stop the persistent tendency to concede in the late stages of matches? Will the myriad personnel and formation experiments continue? These are just a few of the questions observers hope to elucidate from this mercurial squad.
“We want to make progress in managing the game and taking the game to the opponent and winning away from home and not being in our comfort zone,” said Klinsmann in a ussoccer.com Q&A posted on Friday.
Like the USA, the Rossocrociati navigated a tricky group-stage assignment at Brazil 2014 only to have their hearts broken in an extra-time Round of 16 loss. In their case, mighty Argentina appeared to be there for the taking, but the chance passed and a new era began as the grizzled master Ottmar Hitzfeld left the head coach's post after the tournament.
There's been limited time for transition, as they were soon drawn into a dogfight of a Euro 2016 qualifying group. Switzerland already see England – who snatched all three points from their trip to Basel in September – surging into a commanding lead atop Group E, while they themselves are locked in a tie with Slovenia with nine points from the first five games.
Plenty of work lies ahead for Hitzfeld's successor Vladimir Petković, but he has an impressively talented and diverse player pool to choose from relative to the nation's compact dimensions.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
USA – John Brooks
The lanky center back got the start against Denmark last week, and showed off all the highs and lows that young talent can bring to the international game: Brooks defended well for long periods and even threatened a few times in the attacking end, only to be caught out on Nicklas Bendtner's late winner. Klinsmann later said he “had a very focused, solid game” – is Brooks taking hold of a regular starting spot?
SWITZERLAND – Breel Embolo
The Swiss are no strangers to the dual-national recruiting game Klinsmann plays so well, and this month they've welcomed their latest recruit, Embolo, into the senior squad. FC Basel's 17-year-old Cameroonian-born wunderkind turned heads in this year's UEFA Champions League, and with Xherdan Shaqiri nursing a thigh injury, the home crowd will be watching to see if Embolo makes his debut against the Yanks.
GOALKEEPERS: Cody Cropper (Southampton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake), William Yarbrough (Club Leon)
DEFENDERS: Ventura Alvarado (Club America), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt), Greg Garza (Club Tijuana), Michael Orozco (Puebla), Tim Ream (Bolton Wanderers), Brek Shea (Orlando City SC), DeAndre Yedlin (Tottenham Hotspur)
MIDFIELDERS: Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Julian Green (Hamburg), Miguel Ibarra (Minnesota United FC), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Alfredo Morales (Ingolstadt), Danny Williams (Reading FC), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)
FORWARDS: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Jordan Morris (Stanford University), Rubio Rubin (Utrecht)
GOALKEEPERS: Yann Sommer (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Roman Bürki (SC Freiburg), Marwin Hitz (FC Augsburg)
DEFENDERS: Stephan Lichtsteiner (Juventus), Johan Djourou (Hamburger SV), Steve von Bergen (Young Boys), Ricardo Rodríguez (VfL Wolfsburg), Fabian Schär (Basel), François Moubandje (Toulouse), Silvan Widmer (Udinese), Fabian Lustenberger (Hertha Berlin)
MIDFIELDERS: Gökhan Inler (Napoli), Valon Behrami (Hamburger SV), Gelson Fernandes (Rennes) Xherdan Shaqiri (Inter Milan), Blerim Džemaili (Galatasaray), Granit Xhaka (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Valentin Stocker (Hertha Berlin), Fabian Frei (Basel) Pajtim Kasami (Olympiakos)
FORWARDS: Admir Mehmedi (SC Freiburg), Haris Seferović (Eintracht Frankfurt), Josip Drmić (Bayer Leverkusen), Breel Embolo (Basel)