Photo by ISIphotos.com
Wednesday is most notable in U.S. Soccer circles because of the men's national team's friendly in Italy, but teams on three of the federation's other levels will be in action as well.
The women's national team kicks off its quest for a third consecutive Algarve Cup championship in Portugal, the U-23 men's team faces Mexico in the final friendly leading into next month's CONCACAF Olympic qualifying and the U-20 men's team faces the Montreal Impact reserves as Tab Ramos continues guiding his current camp down in Florida. All of the games happen to be staggered timewise, meaning it's possible to keep up with multiple facets of U.S. Soccer throughout the day.
Here is a closer look at all of Wednesday's U.S. Soccer matches:
U.S. MEN VS. ITALY
WHEN: 2:30 p.m., ESPN2/ESPN3.com/Galavision
Jurgen Klinsmann seeks his fourth win in a row against perhaps the stiffest competition he has faced yet as manager, as the U.S. men go after their first-ever win against the Azzurri (0-7-3 all-time).
Injuries have depleted Klinsmann's roster, with potential starters Landon Donovan, Jose Torres, Timmy Chandler and Jermaine Jones all withdrawing from taking part in the friendly. Oguchi Onyewu injuring his knee just days before the roster announcement prevented him from participating as well.
As a result of the injuries, Brek Shea and Sacha Kljestan were called in for the match, the final one before a three-game stretch starting in late May that leads into World Cup qualifying. Considering who he now has at his disposal, Klinsmann's lineup choice should be intriguing. With Shea able to man the left flank, it could provide the versatile Fabian Johnson with an opportunity to play at left back, where he has performed for Hoffenheim.
U.S. WOMEN VS. DENMARK
WHEN: 12 p.m.
The U.S. women are in search of their ninth Algarve Cup title and their third in a row, but this year's field will provide stiff resistance. Pia Sundhage's side kicks things off against Denmark, a team that the U.S. women have beaten in the Algarve Cup eight straight times.
It will only get more difficult for Abby Wambach, Hope Solo & Co., as they'll face Norway two days later and Japan in a rematch of the World Cup final three days after that in a competitive Group B. The winner of the group will face the winner of Group A (Germany, Sweden, Iceland, China) in the championship game on March 7, meaning the U.S. women can play up to four top-notch opponents in an eight-day stretch.
After appearing primarily as a reserve in past competitions, Alex Morgan seems poised for a starting role alongside Wambach. The 22-year-old forward was stationed there for a closed-door friendly against China on Saturday. The other lineup decision to keep an eye on is how Sundhage molds her back line, which has been a point of contention since right back Ali Krieger tore her ACL and MCL during the opening game of Olympic qualifying.
U.S. U-23 MEN VS. MEXICO
WHEN: 10 p.m., Univision
Caleb Porter's U-23 side concludes its latest training camp with a rivalry match against Mexico at FC Dallas Stadium.
With Terrence Boyd and Shea getting called into the senior national team, the opportunities are there for other attacking players to step up and stake their claim for a place on next month's Olympic qualifying roster.
The match also presents a chance for the late-arriving players to get their feet wet. Players like Joe Gyau, Joe Corona, Sebastian Lletget, Mix Diskerud and Alfredo Morales just arrived over the weekend, and they'll look to get integrated into the lineup against a Mexico side that will feature the likes of striker Marco Fabian and Mexican-Americans Miguel Angel Ponce and Ricardo Bocanegra.
An MLS-heavy side has guided the U-23s to victories over FC Dallas and the San Antonio Scorpions during camp so far. Shea was a big part of both wins, scoring goals in both games.
U.S. U-20 MEN VS. MONTREAL IMPACT RESERVES
WHEN: 10:30 a.m.
Three days after playing the FC Dallas reserves to a 2-2 draw, the U-20s get another crack at MLS opposition by facing the Impact.
Daniel Cuevas and Villyan Bijev scored against FCD for the U-20s, who are in the process of building cohesion leading into qualifying for the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup. The match against the Impact will be the final scrimmage of the camp, which ends on March 1.
Of note in U-20 camp is that Molde FK left back Sean Cunningham withdrew because of an injury and club commitments, and he was replaced by Javan Torre, who plays in the Los Angeles Galaxy academy.
Excited for all the various U.S. Soccer action? How do you see Wednesday's games unfolding?
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