WASHINGTON - The U.S. men's soccer team has been practicing this week in Washington ahead of two important friendly matches against Peru and Brazil that will serve as warm-ups for a key regional playoff game against rival Mexico next month.
As it prepares for Friday's match against Peru in Washington, the U.S. men's soccer team is hoping to bounce back from a disappointing sequence.
Less than two months ago, Jamaica upset the U.S., 2-1, in the Gold Cup semifinals. That defeat, perhaps the worst in the four-year tenure of U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann, was compounded by a penalty shootout loss to Panama in the third-place game.
The U.S. will have to face Mexico in a playoff in October, with the winner earning a spot in the 2017 Confederations Cup, considered a warm-up for the World Cup.
Friday's match against Peru is very important said Klinsmann.
"It’s a very good team, Peru. They finished third in the Copa America so they will give us a very, very good game, and for us it’s a huge opportunity to see our players in details in order to put the puzzle together towards the Mexico game,” said Klinsmann.
Klinsmann said he and his players still feel bitter about the way the U.S. bowed out of the Gold Cup.
"So we're having to go kind of the extra mile, we will go the extra mile, but it can only help us," he said.
The U.S. roster for the friendlies against Peru and five-time World Cup champion Brazil includes some veterans who have been away for some time.
One of them is goalie Tim Howard, who last played for the U.S. team at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where he looked spectacular at times.
But Klinsmann said Brad Guzan will continue starting in goal through the Mexico game over Howard, who does not consider himself a back-up.
"I think that’s a mentality. I work my tail off every day. I know what it means to compete at the highest level and have a certain level of excellence. And I do that. Never been a back up, never will be, so that’s not something I really worry about too much,” said Howard.
After facing off against Mexico, which won the 2015 Gold Cup, the U.S. will prepare for two World Cup qualifiers in November.