After returning from 12 days of training in Brazil, the U.S. soccer team will take the field in one of its final pre-World Cup matches when it hosts South Korea on Saturday.
The American squad will feature 22 players after coach Jurgen Klinsmann pared down the roster following the return from Brazil.
Saturday’s exhibition in Carson, Calif., will mark one of the last opportunities for Klinsmann to watch the U.S. in game action before the players gather in mid-May ahead of the Americans’ seventh straight World Cup appearance. The U.S. plays at Ukraine on March 5, a FIFA date when all players should be available, then may host Mexico in early April.
While the U.S. trains at home this week with players mostly from Major League Soccer, many of the likely starters are with their clubs in Europe and Mexico.
Here’s a look at the recent activity of several U.S. hopefuls who aren’t currently with the team:
JOHNSON’S SETBACK: Fabian Johnson, a starter for Hoffenheim of the German Bundesliga, broke his right hand during a 4-0 win at Nuremberg on Saturday and but could resume training this week.
The versatile Johnson, who can play either in the midfield or at defender, made his debut on the U.S. national team in 2011 — following a one-time nationality switch by FIFA. Johnson was born in Germany and is the son of a German mother and American father.
Johnson played in eight games, starting all eight, during World Cup qualifying last year and had three assists. He did, however, missed a pair of exhibitions late in the year with a persistent right ankle injury.
Johnson’s played in 13 Bundesliga games, starting nine, this season for Hoffenheim, collecting one assist, and — injury permitting — is widely projected to make this summer’s U.S. squad.
GOOCH’S RETURN: Oguchi Onyewu has plenty of World Cup experience on his resume, having playing in each of the last two World Cups for the U.S.
What the 31-year-old defender has lacked this season is an opportunity to showcase that he’s ready for a third straight opportunity on the game’s largest stage — a problem he might have recently solved.
Onyewu had failed to play this season while with Queens Park Rangers of the English League Championship.
However, following a winter transfer, Onyewu has quickly made the most of his newfound playing time with another second-tier team — Sheffield Wednesday.
Onyewu scored his team’s second goal in a 2-1 victory over Rochdale on Saturday in the FA Cup’s fourth round, a performance that followed an assist in his debut against Burnley on Jan. 18.
The goal was Onyewu’s first since December 2012 with Malaga in Spain’s Copa del Rey, and his possible resurgence could be too late to impress Klinsmann.
Onyewu has 68 national team appearances and six goals in his career, but he only played in two games for the U.S. last year — a July exhibition against Guatemala followed by a first-round match versus Cuba in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
ABSENT ALTIDORE: While Onyewu isn’t likely in the summer plans for the U.S., one of its top goal scorers continued to struggle over the weekend.
Jozy Altidore, who tied for the team lead with eight goals last year in 14 appearances for the Americans, was scoreless in Saturday’s 1-0 win for Sunderland in the FA Cup. The forward has scored just one goal in the English Premier League this season, and his lack of production has to be a concern for Klinsmann, although he’s had little service with the Black Cats. Altidore did draw a foul that got Stoke’s Steven Nzonzi ejected for a second yellow card in Sunderland’s 1-0 victory Wednesday.
Altidore has 21 goals for the U.S. in 66 appearances, and scored 31 goals for AZ Alkmaar of the Dutch Eredivisie in 2012-13, eight more than Clint Dempsey’s previous record for goals by an American in a European club season.
The New Jersey native transferred to Sunderland last summer, a move that has yet to pay off. Reports from Saturday’s game said the home crowd booed the American while he was on the ball — another troubling sign for a player expected to be one of the top offensive threats for the U.S. in Brazil.