CARSON, Calif. – For the past month, the members of U.S. National Team have been training across two continents in an effort to stay in the conversation for this summer’s 2014 FIFA World Cup. And on Saturday, they’ll get a chance to prove themselves against a feisty Korea Republic side.
The match is a culmination of a month of preparations for the Americans which included a two week “dry run” in the same facilities that the team will utilize this summer in Brazil. Although the Americans have kept plenty busy over the past month, the match will be Korea Republic’s third in eight days after they easily handled Costa Rica 1-0 at the L.A. Coliseum last week before dropping a disappointing 4-0 result to Mexico in San Antonio on Wednesday.
Led by Korean soccer legend and former LA Galaxy center back Hong Myung-Bo, the Koreans will play a high-tempo style which U.S. boss Jurgen Klinsmann believes makes them ideal opponents for Americans.
“The reason why we asked South Korea to play this game is because it is a team that will pressure you and will interrupt your rhythm. It is a team with a lot of energy. They have a tremendous amount of individual talent,” said Klinsmann during his press conference at StubHub Center on Friday. “Also, they’re in the same position as we are because many of the players here are from the Korean League and they play a similar type of schedule as we do [in MLS], and all of those players want to build a case [for the World Cup].”
One of those Korean domestic players looking to build a case for Brazil is 6-foot-10 target forward Kim Shin-Wook. The Ulsan Hyundai forward has tallied in two of the team’s last three matches including the lone strike in their 1-0 victory over Costa Rica last Wednesday. The 25-year-old’s towering presence has earned him 25 caps for his country, but with stiff competition from players like Bayer Leverkusen’s Son Heung-Min and Arsenal’s Park Chu-Young, he faces a major challenge to see time during the World Cup.
Coupled with the Myung-Bo’s high tempo style, the rangy striker promises to be a tall order for Omar Gonzalez and the rest of the U.S. defense.
“They’re going to want to get in behind and get balls into [Shin-Wook] and have players make runs off of him,” said Gonzalez. “I think that we’re going to have to be very well organized and just be the aggressors by keeping the ball and finding the lines in-between their back line and see what they can do.”
Although Saturday’s clash in front of a capacity crowd at StubHub Center is the two team’s first meeting since the Americans’ dramatic 3-2 victory over Korea Republic in the group stage of the 2002 FIFA World Cup, the game may not be the only encounter between the two countries this year.
Should the U.S. or Korea Republic advance out of their respective groups—Korea is in Group H alongside Russia, Belgium and Algeria while the U.S. is in Group G with Ghana, Portugal and Germany—they may face each other in the knock out stages.
This is a possibility that is not lost on the U.S. manager ahead of his team’s first match of 2014.
“Who knows? We might end up playing them this June [if both teams advance from their group],” said Klinsmann. “[The game] will give us a lot of information and we’ll get a real test.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com