U.S. World Cup worries grow, draw with Saudis in last tuneup
Takeshi Okubo, the U.S. goalkeeper, has been playing in the World Cup for the first time since 1995. U.S. goalkeeper Brad Friedel, one of the stars of the group stage, leads a discussion with a teammate about preparing for the biggest event of the year. Photo: U.S. Soccer’s Mike Sorber
By Tom Carey and Josh Begley
Special to the Star
With the U.S. World Cup taking place in an unfamiliar setting, the group stage matches Wednesday against three Central American teams in Honduras, Panama and Guatemala offered a chance for the United States to test itself against a new team.
The U.S. will travel for the first time to Saudi Arabia for the Cup’s final tuneup on Friday and Saturday. The United States’ first game will be played in the oil-rich nation, where soccer is popular, and the team plays in a venue that is less of a soccer stadium than the warm and cozy venue that is home to the MLS-affiliated Houston Dynamo.
However, as the U.S. prepares for what will be its fourth World Cup in four years, the trip to the Gulf country is no different from the other games in which the United States has participated.
The U.S. has played three group stage games so far: a 2-1 win over Ghana in November and a 0-0 tie with South Korea in May. However, the team had a 0-0 tie with Mexico’s Azteca in the first game of the tournament before defeating Jamaica in a surprise 2-0 victory in the second game of the group stage.
The United States will face off with Costa Rica, Panama and Guatemala for the first time.
The United States is facing an unfamiliar situation in Saudi Arabia, said Brian Kopp, who is director of the program in the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate. While soccer has been a growing sport in the country, it was never a part of the world’s political scene until a revolution in 2011.