- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 29, 2012

U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann isn’t downplaying Wednesday’s match against Brazil as a mere friendly. Exhibition or not, a game against the traditional standard-bearer of the soccer world is going to matter, and he knows it as well as anyone.

“This is a team that belongs to the best in the world,” Klinsmann said of Brazil. “You can’t get tougher than that game on Wednesday night.”

The United States has won five straight contests, raising Klinsmann’s record since taking over last July to 6-4-1. One of those victories was a historic 1-0 result against four-time World Cup champion Italy in Genoa on Feb. 29.

But the tilt at FedEx Field will be Klinsmann’s highest-profile match yet on U.S. soil thanks to the Samba Boys’ star-studded roster, which includes AC Milan center back Thiago Silva, Real Madrid left back Marcelo, Porto striker Hulk and, most notably, Santos forward Neymar, a 20-year-old anointed by Brazilian legend Pele as the world’s greatest player.

“Look, it’s Brazil,” U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley said. “We know what playing games against them means. Certainly their ability with the ball, always to take little plays and make the most of them, is at the highest level. We know on our end we’re going to need a really strong effort, but we’re confident.”

The U.S. plays five matches in less than three weeks: three friendlies followed by the first two 2014 World Cup qualifiers. The five-game “tournament,” as the federation is calling it, kicked off Saturday as a Landon Donovan hat trick paced the U.S. to a 5-1 thrashing of Scotland in Jacksonville, Fla.

With Clint Dempsey set to make his return from a groin injury after missing Saturday’s win, the prolific Fulham attacker will join Donovan, the national team’s all-time leading scorer, on the field for the first time in Klinsmann’s tenure. Also back with the squad is striker Jozy Altidore, who joined the camp Monday after scoring 19 goals in all competitions for Dutch side AZ Alkmaar this past season.

With more than 55,000 tickets sold, the match is set to boast the biggest crowd for a U.S. national team friendly in the Washington, D.C., area.

“This is a great place to come and play,” Dempsey said. “The people really love soccer here, and you want to play in cities like this.”



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