U.S.A. vs. Azerbaijan
Tuesday, May 27; 7 pm PT; Candlestick Park, San Francisco, Calif.
With just 20 days until opening the World Cup against Ghana, the U.S. National Team will get its first dress rehearsal on Tuesday night against Azerbaijan at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, Calif.
It will be the first glance at what is expected to be the starting group that Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann plans to use in the World Cup as the tune-ups begin in the Send-Off Series that will include matches against Turkey and Nigeria before the U.S. heads to Brazil.
"We'll definitely experiment here and there because we want to give the guys as much playing time as we can," Klinsmann said. "We also want to see a flow in our game with the lineup that looks very strong and very close to the one we will be seeing three weeks down the road. We try to fit both, but it's not easy."
Sounders FC has two players on the squad in forward Clint Dempsey, who captains the U.S., and defender DeAndre Yedlin. They are both in very different places as Dempsey is an established veteran with 103 caps that is looking to become the first American to score in three World Cup tournaments while Yedlin has two caps and is trying to establish himself on the team as a viable long-term option at a right back position that is very much up in the air.
However, both are important in what Klinsmann aims to develop within the team in the three Send-Off matches.
"We want to see more action, we want to see that they have a better understanding for each other on the field, defensively and offensively. We want to see, step-by-step, things improving, which will give us more confidence," Klinsmann said. "There's a lot of work right now on the training field. It's great to go out on a real field and measure yourself with an international team."
After a rigorous training schedule over the past two weeks, the players are ready to get on the field and face another international opponent.
"I think the objective in any of these games is to play the best possible and try to get as many goals, get confidence, keep clean sheets and keep everybody healthy," Dempsey said. "The players are excited to go out there and play after all this hard work we've been putting in. We look forward to the game; I think it'll be a good one."
Azerbaijan is ranked 85th in FIFA's world rankings and has Berti Vogts as head coach – the same Berti Vogts that is serving as a consultant to U.S. Soccer in its build-up to the World Cup.
Having Vogts aboard and Azerbaijan on the schedule has a multi-fold purpose. Vogts was the coach of Germany's World Cup teams in 1994 and 1998, taking a Klinsmann-led side to two quarterfinal appearances while winning the 1996 European Championship in between.
In addition to his connection to the U.S. through Klinsmann, Vogts also coached Azerbaijan against Portugal – one of the U.S opponents in the Group Stage – in qualification for the World Cup and also met Germany in qualification for the 2012 European Championships.
Against an opponent like that, the U.S. hopes to perform well but also get a result, which often goes hand-in-hand.
"I think they will give us a very good game. We want to win any game that we play," Klinsmann said. "It's important to start with a win in the Send-Off Series and build confidence and see where the guys are right now after an intense two weeks. We hope we can offer the fans an exciting match."