U.S. awaits Slovakia in World Cup warmup
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia -- The U.S. soccer team gets to see what life is like without scoring leader Landon Donovan.
The Americans play Slovakia in an exhibition game Saturday, with both nations tuning up for next year's tournament in South Africa.
Coach Bob Bradley will not have the luxury of Donovan, who is with the Los Angeles Galaxy for a game against Houston in the Major League Soccer playoffs.
"Landon is a very important player," Bradley said. "But when we (talk) about the opportunity to see different variations, then tomorrow we have a chance to play without Landon, to see some other players. Because you always want to be prepared for the day when you have to make adjustments, maybe because of injury or suspension."
U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra said the game was important for players trying to make the World Cup team.
"We have a chance to go out and prove ourselves every time we play in front of the coach and try to win our spots for the World Cup," he said.
This will be the first meeting between these teams since Slovakia became an independent state in 1993 following the split of Czechoslovakia. Before that, some Slovaks faced the U.S. team at the 1990 World Cup in Italy, where Czechoslovakia won 5-1.
Slovakia upset the Czech Republic and Poland in its World Cup qualifying group to reach a major tournament for the first time. The U.S. finished first in the region from North and Central America and the Caribbean, advancing to its sixth consecutive World Cup since 1990.
"It's an opportunity for us to test us and to take our game or our way of playing to try to play this way against a very good opponent," Bradley said. "It does give an opportunity to use all the substitutes, an opportunity to look at some new players, that's important."
According to FIFA's rankings, the U.S. is No. 11 and Slovakia is No. 33.
"We know who we're facing," Slovakia coach Vladimir Weiss said. "The Unites States is high in the rankings. They managed to beat Spain recently. It will be a decent test for us."
The U.S. reached the final at the eight-team Confederations Cup in June in South Africa, a test run for the World Cup. The Americans beat a powerful Spain team 2-0 before losing 3-2 to favorite Brazil.
"These matches present a terrific opportunity to continue building on the nucleus of our team, and at the same time evaluate more of the player pool against very good opponents," Bradley said.
The U.S. has played 22 games this year, winning 13, losing six and drawing three.
"We are very pleased with what we have accomplished in a long and challenging year," Bradley said.
Slovakia defender Martin Skrtel is impressed by the Americans.
"At the Confederations Cup, we could see they're responsible in the defense," Skrtel said. "They're ready to strike with quick counterattacks."
Skrtel echoed Bocanegra in stressing that every player knows what's at stake.
"Only the best could travel to the World Cup," he said. "Everyone will be doing his best to prove that he belongs to the team."
Two of those players are the sons of both coaches -- Michael Bradley and Vladimir Weiss. They will be in the starting lineup.
"They're young players that must earn the respect from their teammates and the coaches," Bradley said.
World Cup warmups for both nations resume next week. Slovakia faces Chile on Tuesday in Zilina. The U.S. plays Denmark in Aarhus on Wednesday.