May 29, 2013 in Sports

U.S. soccer team expects challenge from Belgium

Tom Withers Associated Press

CLEVELAND – United States men’s soccer coach Jurgen Klinsmann isn’t exactly sure what type of team he has at the moment.

He’s about to get a much better idea.

To prepare for upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Jamaica, Panama and Honduras, the Americans will play an international friendly tonight against Belgium, a young, talented team – ranked 15th in the FIFA standings – that will challenge the U.S. squad all over the field.

“They have top-class players,” Klinsmann said. “And they will have a team that will give us a tough test – and that’s what we need.”

With games this week against Belgium and Germany on Sunday in Washington D.C., Klinsmann is hoping to get his squad up to speed for the June 7 match in Kingston against Jamaica, which beat the U.S. last year.

“We need to be ready for Jamaica,” Klinsmann said, “and we will be ready for Jamaica.”

On Tuesday, the U.S. team held a practice open to the public at FirstEnergy Stadium, home of the NFL’s Cleveland Browns.

As the Americans went through some drills and scrimmaged, a few Browns players, including quarterback Brandon Weeden, linebacker D’Qwell Jackson and wide receiver Greg Little, watched with interest from the sideline as the U.S. team dribbled, headed balls and worked on some set pieces.

Afterward, both sets of players posed for photos and shared stories.

One of Klinsmann’s biggest challenges is readying a team missing some key components. Midfielder Michael Bradley will not join the team until later this week after just completing his club season in Italy. Also, Joe Corona and Edgar Castillo remain with their Mexican club team and Danny Williams and Fabian Johnson are doing the same in Germany.

However, Klinsmann can’t worry about which players aren’t present and must get the group he has to gel quickly.

“Facing Belgium at this stage allows us to get a couple answers in terms of where the players are at right now,” he said.

“We still have the challenge in the next couple of days to get everybody on the same page because they come from different schedules.”

Klinsmann is notoriously tight-lipped when it comes to his game-day lineup, but he revealed during his news conference that midfielders Sacha Kljestan and Jermaine Jones will both start against Belgium.

Klinsmann identified Kljestan as a player who needs to step up his game and play well against Belgium and Germany to earn additional playing time in the future.

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