The US men's national team's first matches after the disappointing loss in the Gold Cup Final won't come until September, but they are a pair of good tests that should help the team as it move towards World Cup qualifying in 2012.
US Soccer announced on Tuesday the scheduling of friendlies against Costa Rica on Sept. 2nd and against Belgium on Sept. 9th. The United States will face Costa Rica at Home Depot Center in Carson, California before traveling to Brussels to take on a talented Belgium squad.
"The matches against Costa Rica and Belgium represent another great opportunity to continue the building process as we move towards the start of 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying," said U.S. head coach Bob Bradley. "We will have the chance to look at a variety of players and at the same time challenge ourselves against two very different opponents."
The United States takes on a Costa Rica side it last face in World Cup qualifying in 2009 in an emotional 2-2 tie at RFK Stadium. The match-up against Belgium will be the first between the squads since 1998 and just the fourth meeting between the nations. Belgium has won both match-ups that have taken place in Belgium.
Though US Soccer did not say so, the two friendlies seem destined to feature very different squads. Considering the travel between California and Belgium, there is a good chance the United States will field an MLS-heavy squad against Costa Rica, with a more European-based squad taking on Belgium. The matches are taking place on FIFA dates, meaning we should see close to a full-strength team against Belgium. The match could mark the return to national team action for midfielder Stuart Holden, who has not made a national team appearance since suffering a major knee injury while playing for Bolton Wanderers of the Barclays Premier League.
The Costa Rica match could also be the first chance for Bob Bradley to take a look at DC United striker Charlie Davies, who is enjoying a good season with DC after coming back from life-threatening injuries suffered in a fatal car accident in October of 2009, and accident that occurred just days before the last meeting between Costa Rica and the USA.