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US lacks toughest opponents in World Cup warmups

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 31, 2014 at 2:31 pm •  Published: May 31, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) — Defending champion Spain and stars Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta will train in the Washington, D.C., area next week. England and Wayne Rooney arrive Sunday for a week of workouts in Miami. Ivory Coast and Didier Drogba have games in St. Louis and Texas.

But instead of preparing for the World Cup against top teams and global stars, the United States arranged a sendoff series against No. 85 Azerbaijan, No. 39 Turkey and No. 44 Nigeria.

Not that U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann didn't try to schedule tougher opponents.

"You're trying to find the best teams that suit you. It's not that easy anymore," he said leading to Sunday's exhibition against the Turks at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey.

When the U.S. contacted high-profile teams, Klinsmann said they backed off.

"Has to do a little bit with our results of the last two years," he added.

Since Klinsmann replaced Bob Bradley in July 2011, the U.S. beat Italy for the first time in 11 games over 78 years, defeated Mexico in Mexico for the first time in 75 years and qualified for its seventh straight World Cup.

Klinsmann chose Stanford University for a two-week training camp that opened May 14, and the Americans started their prep schedule Tuesday with a 2-0 win over the Azerbaijanis — coached by Berti Vogts, a special adviser to Klinsmann. The American defense and goalkeeper Tim Howard were hardly tested, and the U.S. offense seemed to be slowed by heavy legs following a physically demanding training camp.

"Now the teams start progressively getting harder," defender Omar Gonzalez said. "I think it's a great three games for us, and it's just an opportunity for us to shore things up, to gain a little bit of confidence."

Turkey hasn't appeared at the World Cup since 2002, when the Crescent-Stars finished third after losing to eventual champion Brazil 1-0 in the semifinals, then lost to Germany in the semis of the 2008 European Championship. The Turks finished fourth in their qualifying group for this World Cup, behind the Netherlands, Romania and Hungary.

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