A really poorly kept secret finally became public today when the United States announced that they would take on Russia in a friendly on November 14. The match will be played in Krasnodar, a city in Russia near the Black Sea, and will be the only time that Jurgen Klinsmann will have his full team together before the final round of World Cup qualifying begins in February.
Russia are off to a fantastic start in World Cup qualifying under new manager Fabio Capello with 12 points from four matches, which is five points clear of Portugal and Israel in their group. Led by Aleksandr Kerzhakov and backed by a tremendous midfield and organized defense, the Russians have been as good as their perfect record indicates. They have yet to allow a goal in qualifying and have been the better side in each match so they will present the U.S. with a major challenge.
The way that Russia plays will also give the U.S. a good look at how they are developing under Klinsmann. Capello has Russia playing a 4-3-3 that can give away space in the middle. Can the U.S. exploit that space with their possession and then turn it into chances? Also, how will the U.S. defense handle three attackers, as well as the runs from deep that the Russian midfielders make? Klinsmann has yet to put his team up against a team that plays like Russia and does it as well as the Russians so this will be an illuminating match, or at least as illuminating as a friendly can be.
By playing the match in Russia, Klinsmann assures himself the availability of all of his Europe-based players for this single midweek date. That is especially important because the match falls right in the middle of the MLS playoffs, making many of his domestic-based players essentially unavailable.
The U.S. and Russia last played each other in 2000, which the Russians won 2-0 in Moscow. It was the fourth time that the two countries had squared off, with the U.S. drawing twice before and never winning.
The match will kick off at 10 a.m ET and will be broadcast live on ESPN2 in English and Univision Deportes in Spanish. It will also be streamed live on ESPN3.