Stats for USA vs. Venezuela
The United States men kick off 2012 against Venezuela Saturday (live on ESPN3 at 9 p.m. ET) with a 19-man roster that features 16 MLS players, along with Ricardo Clark (Eintracht Frankfurt), Jermaine Jones (Schalke) and Michael Parkhurst (Nordsjaelland). USA has lost one year-opening match since 1998, a 3-1 defeat to Honduras in 2010.
With that in mind, here are five notes to get you ready for Venezuela:
• The United States seeks to end a 13-match winless streak against South American teams. USA's last win over South America was a 3-1 friendly versus Ecuador in March 2007. The drought began that summer with a B-team at the 2007 Copa América, where USA lost all three games by a combined 9-2 score.
Victor Decolongon/Getty ImagesCan Brek Shea continue his impressive form under Jurgen Klinsmann?
• Venezuela will be the seventh different South American country the United States has played since the '07 win over Ecuador. Brazil has been the most common opponent, with four matches, including two at the 2009 Confederations Cup. USA has faced Argentina three times and Paraguay and Colombia twice each, and it has had one meeting each with Ecuador and Chile during the streak.
• The forward-thinking question for this roster is how many players will make the 2014 World Cup roster, assuming the United States qualifies. A look back at similar camps, which were also dominated by MLS players, may give an indication of what to expect. Five of 27 players on the 2004 January roster made the 2006 World Cup squad: Chris Albright, Brian McBride, Ben Olsen, Eddie Pope and Josh Wolff. They combined for seven appearances and five starts in Germany.
• Four years ago, 26 players were called in for January training, and six of them played their way on the 2010 team: Jozy Altidore, Ricardo Clark, Landon Donovan, Maurice Edu, Clarence Goodson and Brad Guzan. That sextet played a total of 11 matches and made nine starts in South Africa, as the United States reached the round of 16. With 11 of 53 previous January campers making World Cup rosters. That ratio projects four of the 19 players currently in camp to represent the United States in Brazil.
• Of those 19 players, Brek Shea looks like the leading candidate to start for the United States during this qualifying cycle. In the seven games of the Jurgen Klinsmann era, Shea leads the team with nine chances created. That number may not seem impressive, but no other player has more than four, by both Michael Bradley and Donovan. Admittedly, Shea has the advantage of being one of three players to appear in all seven games under Klinsmann, along with Tim Howard and Carlos Bocanegra, so he played many more minutes (445) than Bradley (232) and Donovan (180).