Soccer / Sports

US men's soccer team to face Turkey in friendly

NEW YORK -- The U.S. men's national team will continue its preparation for the World Cup by playing a friendly against Turkey on Sunday at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J. The match will be the team's second of three friendlies leading up to the tournament.

In scheduling Turkey, U.S. coach Juergen Klinsmann hopes to challenge his team with a tougher opponent in preparation for the difficult World Cup draw, which includes Ghana, Germany, and Portugal.

"I think with Turkey we have a team now on a very high level, a team that almost qualified and (with) very good individual players," Klinsmann said at a news conference Friday. "They'll challenge us."

The Americans defeated Azerbaijan, 2-0, in their first friendly Tuesday night at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. Midfielder Mix Diskerud and forward Aron Johannson scored in the win.

Klinsmann said he scheduled Azerbaijan because he wanted the team to start off with an easier opponent to build momentum.

Forward Clint Dempsey, the team's captain, sat out the match against Azerbaijan with tightness in his groin, but he participated in full training Friday and will play Sunday.

"It's a huge honor to be captain of this team," Dempsey said. "Any time you can go into a World Cup and be the captain of your team, it's going to be something special you'll never forget."

Klinsmann has been widely questioned for not selecting forward Landon Donovan to the 23-man World Cup roster. Donovan, 32, had been a cornerstone for the United States in the 2002, 2006 and 2010 World Cups, scoring five goals.

The roster leans toward youth, but Dempsey thinks the inexperienced players will perform well on the big stage in Brazil. Sunday's friendly will give the young players another chance to adjust.

"I think that's what's good about some of the young talent we have in the United States," Dempsey said. "They're not afraid of the big stage. They accept the challenge."

In order to advance past the dangerous group, the newcomers will have to complement the team's older players right away, increasing the importance of pre-World Cup friendlies. When questioned about his team's being an underdog in a competitive group, Klinsmann said he doesn't view the situation in that light.

"We expect to advance to the knockout stage, so we've got to figure out a way to do that," Klinsmann said.

After playing Turkey, the U.S. team will play Nigeria in Jacksonville, Fla., on June 7 in its final friendly before the World Cup. Klinsmann noted Friday that he scheduled Nigeria because of its similarities to Ghana, his team's first opponent in Brazil, on June 16. He also said he hopes playing in Jacksonville will help the team adjust to the kind of warmer climate it will face in Brazil.

On Friday night, a crowd of about 2,000 filled part of Times Square to cheer the U.S. team during a televised send-off pep rally.

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