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We're waiting for the USMNT to do anything encouraging

Friendlies don't matter. That won't stop anyone from wishing this team was entertaining and good at soccer.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The United States men's national team is playing a pair of friendlies against Denmark and Switzerland during the upcoming international break. It does not matter if they lose. That doesn't mean we can't hope to see some signs of progress.

Post-World Cup friendlies are a time for experimenting. Because of this, losses are perfectly understandable. The United States men's national team hasn't been winning a lot and that's fine. These games don't count towards any kind of standings and the idea that winning friendlies breeds a 'winning mentality' in players who see each other 10 times a year, while they play five times as much soccer for a club team, is a dumb one. This is why Jurgen Klinsmann makes a lot of off-the-wall substitutions at the end of games, the USMNT falls apart and he doesn't sound concerned. Conceding in friendlies after changing a lot of stuff at the hour mark isn't a cause for concern.

There will be more friendlies before competitive matches, but those will have something to do with setting pre-Gold Cup tactics and building chemistry. Doing work in that realm in March is pretty pointless, so Klinsmann is going to experiment. He's going to try a couple of different combinations of players, probably in different formations, and make a lot of subs. That will probably lead to poor results, which, again, doesn't matter.

A lot of the best young talent isn't with this team, and a lot of retreads are. The permanent United States Under-23 national team is a good idea because most 20-year-olds aren't good enough to play for the senior national team yet. At some point between there and, say, 23, we learn how good a player actually is. U.S. Soccer has added another team to allow their coaches to get a look at players between age groups up close and personal, and it's probably going to be a good thing for the national team careers of a lot of players.

Here are a few guys who shouldn't be on that team -- Luis Gil, Wil Trapp and Shane O'Neill. They're being pulled out of their MLS clubs to play a U-23 game instead of a senior one so Klinsmann can get another look at Alfredo Morales, Danny Williams and Michael Orozco Fiscal? What the hell? We know what those players are -- respectable fill-ins that will make decent cover in the case of multiple injuries. They're not going to develop significantly in these matches or impress Klinsmann to the point of winning first choice places. Their ceilings aren't concrete, but they're pretty damn firm. We don't know what kind of ceilings Gil, Tripp and O'Neill have, and it would be nice if Klinsmann bothered to find out.

But there are some cool players in this team. Rubio Rubin is in this squad, and Clint Dempsey's absence means he'll get some chances to impress. DeAndre Yedlin is included even though he's playing in Tottenham's Under-21s, and Gyasi Zardes is likely to keep getting looks, so there are some promising young players here, and there would be probably more if Emerson Hyndman and Joe Gyau were fit. USMNT fans are going to feel better about the future if this squad's youngest players start playing well, and can be forgiven for not wanting to wait until the summer to see that.

This is the last set of games that doesn't matter at all. Eventually, something will matter, and that starts around May. At that point, we'll see a game featuring a starting XI that Klinsmann thinks he might use in a competitive match. They'll try to play the way they would in a competitive match. If the USMNT plays poorly in those games, you can start to get worried.

We're still waiting for this team to have an identity. The promise of a new idea was the biggest selling point when Klinsmann was hired. The United States are known in the footballing world as an athletic, scrappy team that fights hard for 90 minutes, but also one with minimal talent. They're not creative and they're not good at keeping the ball. Enter Klinsmann, who promised to make the U.S. a modern, ball-retaining, technically astute side.

A lot of American fans fetishize Barcelona. They want to know how their team can play like Barcelona. They can't, of course, because the only national team that's ever played like Barcelona is the one that took Barcelona's exact midfield -- with their hundreds of club games together -- and transplanted it into their squad.

So the identity of 'playing like Barcelona' isn't a smart thing to chase, but it would be great to aspire to ... something. At least Bob Bradley's teams had an identity. This team's identity is executing a half-assed version of Bradley's tactics while their manager says they're working towards becoming more technical and stylish.

Hope Klinsmann learns something from these games. Anything. What he's going to learn by playing the 35thish best guy in his player pool, we have no idea, but it would be wonderful if he obtained some piece of valuable information. Hopefully it's more than he would have learned by playing Trapp or Gil or O'Neill instead. Ideally, whatever he learns from these games, combined with the information he gathered from previous friendlies, completes a puzzle that makes team selection and tactics for the Gold Cup abundantly clear to him.

Because this team isn't fun anymore, and fans are going to stop being forgiving if they don't win the Gold Cup.

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