Los Angeles Soccer: Chile
CARSON, Calif. -- If might not have been a game to remember, but Sean Franklin will never forget it.
The Galaxy right back, a three-year MLS veteran from Palmdale (Highland HS/Cal State Northridge) made his first appearance for the U.S. national team in Saturday night's 1-1 draw against Chile at Home Depot Center -- he was one of seven Yanks to do so -- and if his game wasn't a beauty, well, eh, it was all right.
He went the distance for the U.S., with family watching from the stands, and the thrill of the occasion will apply a golden glow to the proceedings.
“I found out today [I was starting]. Even though the day before you kind of have the starting group practicing, but nothing's final until it's written down,” Franklin said. “I was excited to get the start. I just wanted to calm down and not freak out too much, but I was excited.”
He was beaten badly, twice, by Edson Puch, who owned Franklin in the first half (and Chile was unfortunate, thanks to a reaction save by Nick Rimando, not to capitalize) -- and he wasn't much of a factor in the U.S. attack up the right flank.
Several among this young, inexperienced band of Americans impressed, but Franklin wasn't one of them.
“I think I did OK,” he said when asked to assess his performance. “I wish I could have done maybe better attack-wise, as far as some better balls being crossed, but I think I did OK tonight.”
Puch, he noted, was “a handful. ... In the first half he was moving a lot; he had a lot of good moves. I was trying to read him more and more as the game got on. I found in the second half I did a better job of kind of containing him, but he's a good player.”
So is Franklin. He's an improving attacking winger who still needs work on the defensive side of his game. He had a superb second half of last year's Major League Soccer season -- Soccer America, in its latest issue, rated him the best right back in the league -- and a similar campaign in 2011 will keep him in U.S. coach Bob Bradley's thoughts.
“Games like this, camps like this give you a snapshot of where guys are ...,” Bradley said. “You have a sense now as to the bigger pool and who's moving along, and we continue to do our work to watch these guys, get them into camp.”
Seventeen of the 24 players on the U.S. roster are either uncapped or have made just one international appearance -- four of them debuted in the Americans' last game, at South Africa in November -- and none have more than six caps.
The only real veterans: Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando (Montclair/Montclair HS and UCLA), who has played four times for the U.S., and Pasadena-born Colorado Rapids midfielder Jeff Larentowicz, who has never been on the field for the Yanks.
The opponent in the Jan. 22 friendly that concludes the camp is nearly as young and nearly as inexperienced.
Marcelo Bielsa, who guided Chile to two victories last summer in South Africa -- the country's first World Cup wins in 48 years -- has devised a 16-man domsestic roster for the Home Depot Center clash that includes 10 players younger than 25 and nine with two or fewer caps.
Only forward Esteban Paredes was part of the World Cup squad -- he played against Switzerland and Spain -- and only two others, midfielder Jose Pedro Fuenzalida and defender Luis Pedro Figueroa, join Paredes with more than 10 international appearances.
Others might have a future with the national team: Midfielder Fernando Meneses was Fuenzalida's teammate at the 2005 FIFA U-20 World Cup; forward Daud Gazale has drawn interest from Paris Saint-Germain Real Betis; and defender Paulo Magalhaes has featured extensively for Chile's youth national teams.
Then there's midfielder Felipe Seymour, who was discovered on a reality television show and scored two stunning, long-range goals for Universidad de Chile in last year's Copa Libertadores.
Bielsa's future is uncertain. The Argentine coach resigned two months ago, after Spanish-born businessman Jorge Segovia's election as president of the Chilean federation, but the results were thrown out and another election will be held Friday.
A.J. DeLaGarza, so impressive during Major League Soccer's stretch run, gets his first call-up to the national team; he'll be joined by Galaxy backline mates Sean Franklin (Palmdale/Highland HS and Cal State Northridge) and Omar Gonzalez in the Jan. 4-22 camp at Home Depot Center.
Chivas USA forward Justin Braun and three players with local ties -- Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando (Montclair/Montclair HS and UCLA) and Colorado Rapids defender Marvell Wynne (UCLA) and midfielder Jeff Larentowicz (born in Pasadena) -- also are on the 24-man roster, from which Bradley will draw his lineup for the Jan. 24 friendly against Chile at HDC.
The annual January camp, always at HDC, usually is used to scout younger players -- including those who emerged during the previous MLS campaign -- and give U.S.- and Scandinavia-based veterans a foundation to build fitness before their seasons begin in the late winter or spring.
This time Bradley called in very few veterans. Sweden-based midfielder Alejandro Bedoya is the only player from the U.S. pre-World Cup training camp on the roster, and none who went to South Africa is involved. A dozen players are uncapped, five more have just one cap, nobody has made more than six international appearances -- across the roster, there are only 28 caps.
A rundown on the two dozen players coming to HDC:
The expected U.S. Soccer announcement of its Home Depot Opener came down Monday afternoon. The game is, indeed, against Chile, and it will be played Saturday, Jan. 22, at 6 p.m.
The game will conclude a camp in Carson for the Americans, who are preparing for next summer's CONCACAF Gold Cup. Details on the camp, which traditionally includes players from Major League Soccer -- including the top young players from the previous season -- national team veterans who play in Scandinavia and in fall-to-spring leagues with winter breaks, is tentatively slated for Jan. 3-22.
Chile, like the U.S., reached the round of 16 at the World Cup in South Africa. It is preparing for next summer's Copa America, South America's nations championship.
Tickets are on sale Friday.
The U.S. has started its year with games at Home Depot Center in 2004 and 2007-10, and it also played a January friendly in Carson in 2006. The Americans also used the venue for two CONCACAF Gold Cup matches in 2007 and a World Cup qualifier in 2008. Their record at HDC is 7-1-1.
Mexico avoided Argentina and Brazil, but that doesn't mean El Tri received a favorable draw for next summer's Copa America.
The Mexicans, who join Japan as a guest team in South America's nations championship, were placed Thursday into Group C with Uruguay, Chile and Peru. Uruguay was the top Latin American team at the World Cup in South Africa, reaching the semifinals and finishing fourth behind Golden Ball winner Diego Forlan. Chile reached the round of 16.
Host Argentina is in Group A with Colombia, Japan and Bolivia. Brazil heads Group B, with Paraguay, Ecuador and Venezuela.
The tournament begins July 3.
The Mexico City giant will take on Guatemala's national team in a Dec. 29 friendly at the Home Depot Center, its 11th appearance in Carson and second in the L.A. area in six months. Kickoff is expected to be 7 or 8 p.m., and tickets go on sale Nov. 18. America beat Cruz Azul at the Rose Bowl in July.
The match will be a replacement of sorts for the InterLiga, Mexico's annual qualifying tournament for Copa Libertadores that had been played the last seven Januarys at HDC. InterLiga was discontinued earlier this year.
HDC also will stage, as always, the opener on the U.S. national team's calendar. The game, usually in the third or fourth week of January, following a national team camp, is expected to be announced in the next few days. Chile, we hear, will be the U.S. opponent.