Viet Nam News
HAVANA – The US will have one eye on their looming World Cup showdown with Mexico when they face Cuba in a rare trip to Havana on Friday, only the third time in history the two nations have met on Cuban soil.
The match at the Estadio Pedro Marrero is the latest byproduct of the thaw in relations between the US and Cuba, after more than half a century of bitter Cold War enmity.
It is the first time the US have played in Cuba since their World Cup qualifying clash in Havana in 2008, when the Americans won 1-0 courtesy of a Clint Dempsey goal.
Aside from that, the only other meeting between the teams in Cuba came in 1947, when the hosts won 5-2.
Yet while Friday’s game comes loaded with political symbolism as the two former foes build towards the normalization of relations, for USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann the match is primarily preparation for World Cup qualifiers.
Klinsmann’s men open their CONCACAF "Hexagonal" competition with a home match against Mexico in Columbus on November 11 before facing 2014 World Cup quarter-finalists Costa Rica in San Jose four days later.
Friday’s friendly, and a further fixture against New Zealand in Washington on October 11, give Klinsmann an opportunity to cast his eye over the depth of his squad as he mulls his options for World Cup qualifiers.
"There’s a lot at stake for the players to make their case, to show where they are right now," said Klinsmann.
"We have the opportunity to bring some players back that haven’t been with us for a little bit, and we want to see if they can put a stamp on this camp and have a chance for being in the roster next month.
"The bigger picture behind this is definitely Mexico and Costa Rica, and these two games will show us a lot about individual players."
Klinsmann has recalled three German-born players – midfielder Danny Williams, defender Timmy Chandler and Bayern Munich winger Julian Green – for the first time since May, while he has also opted to experiment in goal, bringing in David Bingham, Ethan Horvath and William Yarborough.
US captain Michael Bradley, whose father Bob was named this week as coach of Premier League side Swansea, meanwhile said the team was firmly focused on the upcoming clash with Mexico.
"Obviously a USA-Cuba game in Havana is special for so many reasons, and given where we are in terms of the qualifying cycle and the evolution of the team, it’s another great chance for us to spend a week and a half together, get to work and play two good games," Bradley said.
"We’ll head back to our clubs for a few weeks before we come in together in November, ready to kick things off in this final round of qualifying." AFP