PREVIEW: USA - ARGENTINA
The full US national team has assembled for the first time in 2011 in advance of Saturday night's friendly against Argentina in the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Since a pair of friendlies against Colombia and Poland in October 2010 the US team has played only two matches, in which Bob Bradley fielded experimental lineups of mostly young and unproven players.
The USSF's plan to convene the first-choice team in February was dashed after a scheduled friendly against Egypt in Cairo was canceled due to political unrest. Saturday's friendly against Argentina and Tuesday's game against Paraguay represent the last FIFA dates before the start of this summer's CONCACAF Gold Cup.
On Saturday night, Bob Bradley's squad will be largely familiar to veteran US soccer fans, featuring mainstays Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, Oguchi Onyewu, Jozy Altidore, and Carlos Bocanegra.
At the beginning of a new World Cup cycle, however, Bradley has not hesitated to bring in new players. Timothy Chandler, who has been a revelation for FC Nuernberg this spring, is in his first camp with the US national team. The 20 year old German-American will vie for playing time at right back and right midfield.
Also receiving the call for the first time is MSV Duisburg goalkeeper David Yelldell. Meanwhile, uncapped Norwich City center back Zak Whitbread will have to hope for another chance after withdrawing from the camp due to injury.
Other inexperienced young players include Mikkel Diskerud, Juan Agudelo, and Tim Ream, who all have just two caps to their name.
Agudelo, 18, has soared through the US national team system. The New York Red Bulls forward scored in his US debut against South Africa last November, just a year after he had represented the US at the 2009 U-17 World Cup.
Agudelo, who would otherwise be an integral part of the current U-20 team, is spending time with the senior US team instead of helping the U-20s through qualifying, which indicates he may be part of Bradley's Gold Cup plans.
US national team players young and old will face a stiff test against Argentina, who can boast of a squad that includes the likes of Lionel Messi, Javier Mascherano, Angel di Maria, and Javier Pastore.
The Albiceleste have an eye on preparations for this summer's Copa America, which will be especially important because Argentina is hosting the tournament.
The Argentines will serve as an important test for an evolving American squad. Much is at stake as fringe players are under pressure to make their case for the summer's roster of 23, while emerging talent will be sorely tested as they face a baptism by fire.