While the U.S. national team prepares for its first soccer game of the World Cup year Saturday against South Korea at StubHub Center, Coach Juergen Klinsmann is monitoring two key players in Germany.
During a break in training Monday, Klinsmann said that German-born midfielder Jermaine Jones has until Friday to clear up his situation with Bundesliga club Schalke 04 and that defender Fabian Johnson, who broke a hand during Hoffenheim's loss to FC Nurembeg on Saturday, has undergone surgery for the injury.
Klinsmann said Johnson, who was also born in Germany, had screws inserted into the broken hand and is wearing a protective cast. And while the club hasn't released an official timeline for his return, Klinsmann said Johnson hopes to play this weekend.
"All good. He wants to play on Saturday," Klinsmann said of Johnson, 26, who started eight games for the national team in 2013.
Jones, a Klinsmann favorite and a major contributor in the U.S. midfield, is looking for a new place to play after losing his starting job at Schalke 04. But he has to move fast since the transfer window closes Friday.
"We've been in contact. He hasn't solved his situation yet," Klinsmann said of Jones, a physical player who started 12 games for the U.S. last year. "The club, they have a clear understanding that he's looking for a new club. There are some issues within that relationship. I can't go deeper into that one.
"He has four days and then hopefully [there's] a solution."
Although Jones had expressed a desire to play in Major League Soccer, Klinsmann expects him to hook on with another team in Europe. For the coach, it's important that Jones play regularly somewhere.
"Every player that doesn't have a solution right now on the table is a concern. Absolutely," Klinsmann said. "So want him to solve it. But we are in touch and we are positive that he finds a good solution and then gets back on the field and plays. That's what we need the players to do."
By midday Monday, more than 23,000 tickets had been sold for Saturday's friendly with South Korea, another World Cup qualifier, virtually guaranteeing a sellout at the 27,000-seat StubHub Center.
The U.S. has one other exhibition game scheduled ahead of its World Cup camp, a March 5 friendly in the Ukraine. But weeks of demonstrations have given way to political violence in that country, with the government preparing to call a state of emergency.
A U.S. Soccer official said the situation in the Ukraine is being monitored and alternate plans are being considered if it becomes too dangerous to play the game as scheduled.
As for the team's final spring exhibitions before leaving for Brazil and the World Cup, the U.S. is reportedly looking at the possibility of scheduling at least one game against an African opponent. The U.S. will open World Cup group play against Ghana, but since Kilnsmann took over as coach 2 1/2 years ago, the Americans have yet to play an African team.
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