Next Saturday, January 20, the football world's attention turns to Toyota Field in San Antonio, Texas, where the United States Men's National Team (USMNT) will face Slovenia in an international friendly. The clash marks the conclusion of the American team's annual January training camp and promises to be a crucial test for players eager to earn their first call-ups.
USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter and his Slovenian counterpart, Matjaz Kek, have chosen to call up squads filled with players with little international experience, with 17 athletes on each side seeking to earn their first "caps." This confrontation not only wraps up the teams' preparation but also serves as a gauge for the future, laying the groundwork for more substantial challenges.
While eyes are already set on the future, with the United States returning to Texas in March for the Concacaf Nations League semifinals against Jamaica, the match against Slovenia brings with it a history of past encounters. The teams have faced each other twice, with the USA remaining undefeated, drawing 2-2 in the 2010 FIFA World Cup and winning 3-2 in a friendly in 2011.
The history of Slovenian soccer, since its independence in 1992, has been marked by ups and downs, but the recent impressive run in the qualifiers for Euro 2024 reflects a team on the rise. Under Kek's guidance, Slovenia secured its spot in the tournament, demonstrating their determination to overcome adversities.
Furthermore, a detailed analysis of the Slovenian squad reveals a young and dynamic team, led by defender Zan Karnicnik, one of the few players with international experience on the team. The presence of Mitja Ilenic, playing for the New York City FC, may attract the attention of football fans in the United States.
The duel is not only between two national teams but also between two experienced coaches. Kek, who took over in 2018, led Slovenia in their second qualification for the Euro, boasting a respectable record of 24 wins, 12 draws, and 14 losses.