It's tough to get too excited for a February FIFA international date ahead of World Cup Qualifying and the upcoming European Championships, but there are some intriguing fixtures - including the USMNT and the US U-23's.
Jürgen Klinsmann and the USMNT are in Genoa, Italy where they'll face four-time World Cup Champion Italy (2:30PM ESPN2, ESPN3). These two teams met in an absolute brawl back in the 2006 World Cup (see video above), the most recent World Cup won by the Azzuri. The game was marred by three red cards - including a straight red for Daniel De Rossi's elbow to the face of Brian McBride (the other two players sent off were Eddie Pope and Pablo Mastroeni of the US).
This was supposed to the first time that Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey would take the field together under Klinsmann, but Donovan will not play due to bronchitis. It's unfortunate because both have been in excellent form.
Dempsey has scored 16 goals in all competitions this season, including the first ever Premier League hat trick for a US born player. Donovan is fresh off of a succesful loan spell with Everton, where he had six assists in nine games, helping to lead the Toffees to upset wins over Manchester City and Chelsea. Alas, their first combine appearance under Klinsmann will have to wait another day.
The US roster is composed primarily of European-based players. In fact, only four MLS players (Break Shea - FC Dallas, Nick Rimando - Real Salt Lake, Geoff Cameron - Houston Dynamo, and Edson Buddle - LA Galaxy) play domestically.
One of the more interesting names on the US roster is Terrence Boyd. Boyd, like his US teammates Danny Williams and Timmy Chandler, is the son of an American father and German mother. All three were raised in Germany - where they also play professionally.
What makes Boyd so interesting is that he's yet to play a game in the Bundesliga for his club (Borussia Dortmund), yet he's been called in to the senior national team. Klinsmann has been criticized for his decision to include so many German-born players in the US squad. Personally, I don't have a problem with it. The deeper the US-eligible player pool, the better.
One quick note on the Azzuri. If you watch the game pay close attention to Andrea Pirlo. There are few players in the world able to pick out and play a ball 60 yards in the air on a dime. The guy is just pure class. He'll dictate the entire pace of the game. He's not particularly flashy, fast, or spectacular, but he's a devastating playmaker.
I mean, just watch him here...
Other international games of note include:
Ghana v. Chile - For some reason this game is being played at PPL Park. It's great to have international soccer right in our backyard, but this game was announced less than two weeks ago. Also, the Black Stars have knocked the US out of consecutive World Cups, so there can't be too much love for them locally.
Germany v. France (2:45PM, ESPN3) - The two European powerhouses will meet in Bremen, Germany. France, still trying to rebound following their disastrous 2010 World Cup, will try to knock off Die Mannschaft on German soil. Good luck with that. Although, Germany will be without its captain Phillip Lahm, who is out due to a knee injury.
England v. Netherlands - Consider it a win for the Three Lions if they simply arrive at Wembley on time. With all the drama surrounding Fabio Capello's departure as manager of England, the associated speculation as to who will replace Capello for the Euros (Spurs boss Harry Redknapp is the odds on favorite), and the controversy over which English player will wear the captain's armband it'll be a miracle if England manage to lace their boots up.
US U-23's v. Mexico U-23's (10PM, Univision Telefutura) - If you are a Union fan this is the game you should be most excited about. Three Union players (Freddy Adu, Amobi Okugo, and Jack McInerney) are part of Caleb Porter's US roster. Mexico, whose youth and junior teams have been the class of the CONCACF region over the last few years - including a third-place finish at the U-20 World Cup, will be a huge test for the U-23's.
Of all the game being played on Wednesday I am most excited about this one. I love getting a glimpse of the young talent in the US pipeline.