PREVIEW: UNITED STATES - CHILE
The United States national team will look to open 2011 in winning fashion when they host Chile on Saturday night at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California.
2010 ended on a successful note in November when the US defeated South Africa 1-0 in Cape Town on an 86th minute goal from 17 year old Juan Agudelo assisted by 20 year old Mikkel Diskerud.
On Saturday night, Diskerud and Agudelo will once again suit up for the national team as US head coach Bob Bradley has selected a roster full of newcomers to the international scene as is the custom for the friendly at the conclusion of the January camp.
Also expected to play a large role in the game against Chile is forward Teal Bunbury, 20, and central defender Tim Ream, 23. Both players are coming off rookie MLS seasons and made their debuts against South Africa while earning their first cap.
Ream is likely to be partnered in central defense with Omar Gonzalez of the LA Galaxy. Gonzalez, 22, made his international debut in August against Brazil in a 2-0 loss and, due to commitments with the LA Galaxy, has not played with the national team since.
One of the most interesting players at this camp is 22 year old forward Eugene Starikov who is looking to earn his first cap on Saturday after finishing the season strong with Tom Tomsk of the Russian Premier League.
The most experienced player for the US is Alejandro Bedoya of Swedish club Orebro. The former Boston College standout made his international debut last year in the January camp in a 3-1 loss to Honduras.
Bedoya, 23, made the US preliminary 30 man World Cup roster but failed to make the final cut. His six caps are the most of any player on the US roster.
While both Chile and the US will be fielding young squads with little international experiences, Saturday's game will mark the first step in an important year for both teams.
For Chile, they are coming off a World Cup year in which they advanced to the Round of 16 before falling to Brazil. Now they are looking to build toward the 2011 Copa America with the winner of that tournament advancing to the 2013 Confederations Cup as the South American Champions.
Similarly, the US will be looking to introduce new players into the team in preparation for this summer's Gold Cup where a spot in the 2013 Confederations Cup will also be on the line.
In adidtion, the American players will have a lot at stake in this contest as those who impress on Saturday night will likely be included in next month's friendly against Egypt in Cairo when many of the first team regular players will rejoin the team.