LONDON — On Friday night at Craven Cottage the chant “USA! USA!” will be loud and proud.
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Over the years, that chant has been synonymous with Fulham Football Club as the close links between the Cottagers and the U.S. national team will be intertwined once again. If there is any stadium in England to host a home game for the USA, the Cottage is a fitting location.
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US Soccer is expecting a sellout crowd down by the banks of the River Thames on Friday, as over 24,000 fans will turn up to watch the USA play No. 3 ranked Colombia in an international friendly. Jurgen Klinsmann has been putting his squad through their paces all week in London, as the U.S. have practiced at both Fulham and Tottenham Hotspur’s training ground while they’ve also been taking in the sights of England’s capital.
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However as the 2014 season comes to a close for the USA, the players are aware that Friday’s match against Colombia, plus another friendly in Dublin next Tuesday against Ireland, will be tough going as they aim to end the World Cup year on a high.
“It’s a huge test for us. It is going to be a challenging match,” central defender Matt Besler told ProSoccerTalk. “Definitely looking forward to playing at Craven Cottage. We expect a good crowd, hopefully there are a lot of Americans. For us, we are looking to end the year off on the right note.”
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Klinsmann is excited to see his team tested on the road in what will be a hostile environment and a new experience for many of his young players.
“We are looking forward to it, we have a good group of guys here who are eager to show what they have. We have a mixture of experience and youth. It is huge to play these games out of comfort zone away from the United States in order to grow and to learn,” Klinsmann said. “We want to give them a very good game. No matter where we go or who we bring, we want to win. We are here to beat Colombia, we know it is going to very difficult, but we need to grow and have this experience.”
The USA’s head coach also touched on hosting a match in the quaint surroundings of Craven Cottage.
“Obviously it is a very traditional and a very special place,” Klinsmann said. “If you get the opportunity to play a friendly here, it means a lot to us. Having a full house, thanks to a large number of Colombian fans, makes it even more exciting.”
The close links between Fulham (who have been known as “Fulhamerica” among soccer circles in the U.S. for years) and the USA is not lost on the current U.S. squad, as Stoke City’s Geoff Cameron revealed his memories of watching American greats such as Brian McBride, Clint Dempsey, Carlos Bocanegra and others suit up for the Lilywhites in the past.
“The likes of Brian McBride, when I watched the Premier League growing up he was one of the big Americans over here… captain America!” Cameron smiled. “My first year in the Premier League it was special coming down to Fulham because of that close relationship it has with America. Lots of the Americans who have come to England and done well like Clint Dempsey, McBride and Carlos Bocanegra have done it here at Fulham.”
Another American plying his trade in the Premier League is Brad Guzan and the Aston Villa ‘keeper is looking forward to a “special” game at the Cottage.
“It’s not only because of the support we are going to have on Friday night but the ties the club has had with so many Americans playing over here at Fulham,” Guzan said. “It is going to be a special night not only for us, but everyone involved on the game.”
Despite the nostalgia and unique situation of hosting a game on foreign soil — the first time the U.S. has done so since 2006 when they played Poland in Kaiserslautern — and a place entrenched with U.S. soccer history, Guzan knows the team have a job to do.
“We want to continue to build upon what we have started as a group and we will use these two games as a benchmark to hopefully continue to test ourselves,” Guzan said. “We know it is going to be a challenge, but is a challenge we are looking forward to.”