The U.S. men's national team plays its first match of the new year today, as the Nats traveled to Santiago to face South American power Chile in a sold-out international friendly. The first of two friendlies to mark the end of U.S. Soccer's annual January training camp, the game will feature a 23-man roster made up almost entirely of MLS players.
And in the mix to face Chile is none other than San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski, a veteran of last summer's World Cup squad. Wondo, who celebrates his 32nd birthday today, is not expected to start, but head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has called on the birthday-boy to start the game on the bench. FIFA international friendly rules are in effect, so Klinsmann will have the chance to make up to six substitutions in the match.
The game is slated to kick-off at 3:00 p.m. Pacific Time from Estadio El Teniente in Rancagua, Chile, and it will be televised live in the U.S. on Fox Sports 1 and UniMas. To follow the game live online, streaming will be provided on UDN.com, as well as at Fox Sports2Go. Not at your computer? Be sure to follow @USSoccer on Twitter for updates throughout the game.
The USA has not played an international friendly in South America in nearly 15 years, a 2-1 victory over Chile on January 29, 2000. That win marks the only USMNT victory in a South American-based friendly in six tries.
Wondolowski has become a fixture in Klinsmann's USMNT training camps over the past couple years. The veteran forward has been called "a driver" by his coach -- the type of player that brings everyone else along in practice. Wondolowski is famed for his work ethic as part of the Quakes, and Klinsmann likes the younger members of the national team to see that commitment in action.
Players such as forward Bobby Wood, the 1860 Munich product that is looking to crack the lineup in the new cycle of World Cup qualifying that begins later this year, represent guys that Klinsmann will need ready and focused. Other youngsters just getting their feet wet in training camp are Steve Birnbaum, Luis Gil, Wil Trapp, and Dillon Serna -- all know the rigors of MLS, but none is familiar with the demands of the national team.
While Wondolowski's inclusion in the 23-man roster for today's friendly in Chile and a February 8 friendly against Panama at the StubHub Center in Carson, CA is another feather in the cap for the Quakes MVP, it has prevented him from joining his club side for the start of the MLS preseason. As of Monday, when players were expected to arrive in San Jose, Wondolowski was the only one of 26 players not in attendance. Wondo has an excused absence.