The United States men's national team are slowly preparing to take the CONCACAF Gold Cup by storm next month, but first they have two big matches in Europe against a pair of UEFA's titans. They're doing it with a bit of an odd side, though, doing without the likes of Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore, as well as recently-injured Jermaine Jones. They're without some of their best players, but this is an excellent chance for some more fringe talents to step up and show Jurgen Klinsmann what they can do against elite competition.
Their first opponents this month will be the Netherlands, one of the world's best sides, but also a side somewhat in transition. Age has taken its toll on some of their best players, so the Dutch team lead by Guus Hiddink is working on integrating some of his country's best young talent -- and with young players like Memphis Depay, Jordie Classie, Jetro Willems and Bruno Martins Indi at his disposal, Hiddink certainly isn't lacking for quality.
This match should be an excellent test for both sides, as a way to gauge the progress being made in their respective progress. Which team comes out the better could be a very telling sign as to what the next couple of years could hold for both the US and Holland on the international stage.
Manchester United's newest player is also one of the brightest rising stars in football, and despite being just 21 years old, Depay is already starting to establish himself in one of the world's top international sides. He just finished dominating the Eredivisie, and while it may not be the strongest league in the world, scoring 22 goals in 30 matches as a wide forward is impressive no matter where you play. He's going to be a constant threat to the United States' defense, and will bear close monitoring to make sure that they don't become his latest victim.
Key Matchup - Jordy Clasie (Netherlands) vs. Mikkel Diskerud (United States)
This midfield battle looks set to feature an interesting matchup between two players who are very much still finding their way with their national sides. Clasie is a well established, high-quality player at club level, already making well over 100 appearances for Dutch powers Feyenoord and serving as the club's captain despite being just 23 years old. The energetic midfielder has only played for the national side 11 times, though, and is yet to truly break through as a regular in the Holland side.
Across from him will stand Diskerud, who, while he's made 28 appearances already for the US, still seems to be a man in search of a regular role within the side. That's partly due to the US trying different formations and tactics that don't always suit him, but the 24-year-old seems to need to force his way in to the team on a more permanent basis. A strong performance against a midfielder as good as Clasie could be exactly what Diskerud needs to convince Jurgen Klinsmann to stick with him in a single role instead of using him as a mix-and-match piece in his midfield.
Match Date/Time: Friday, 2:30 p.m. ET, 8:30 p.m. local
Venue: Amsterdam ArenA, Amsterdam, Netherlands
TV: ESPN (U.S. - English), Univision Deportes (U.S. - Spanish)
Online: Watch ESPN (U.S. - English), Univision Deportes en Vivo (U.S. - Spanish)