United States v Panama: Klinsmann talks up Ibarra
United States midfielder Miguel Ibarra is in line for a place in the nation's starting XI following praise from coach Jurgen Klinsmann ahead of Sunday's international friendly against Panama.
Ibarra became the first player from North America's second-tier to be called into a senior national team camp since Clyde Simms in 2005 when the Minnesota United star was selected for an October friendly against Ecuador.
The 24-year-old has impressed ever since, making his international bow in a 1-1 draw with Honduras on October 14 last year, while he did not feature in friendlies against Colombia and Republic of Ireland.
Ibarra was an unused substitute as USA twice surrendered a lead to lose 3-2 to Chile on January 28.
But Klinsmann gave the strongest indication yet that Ibarra could be promoted from the bench as he tries to arrest a five-match winless streak when USA welcome Panama to Stubhub Center in Carson, California.
"He has a lot of cards in his pockets," Klinsmann said. "He's an endless runner, he can tie up [defenders], he's technically very gifted, he has a great vision, he sees through people to play the killer balls, he's not afraid in front of the goal to finish things himself.
"There's a huge amount of talent there, and what he's in the middle of that process is he's developing a personality.
"So for him, the biggest step is develop the personality and the confidence to show everybody who you are.
"Every camp, he gets stronger. Every time he comes in, he's another level. And this is what we want to see from Miguel."
Klinsmann has been critical of his team's fitness in the lead up to Sunday's fixture following their defeat in Chile, pointing to the length of the MLS off-season.
And after another intense training camp, the German will be hoping for an improvement against Panama, who are yet to play in 2015.
Panama's trip to Southern California will be first time Hernan Dario Gomez has seen his team in action since November's goalless draw against Canada.
Of Panama's 21-man squad, three of those ply their trade in the United States - goalkeeper Jaime Penedo (Los Angeles Galaxy) and forwards Blas Perez (FC Dallas) and Gabriel Torres (Colorado Rapids).
USA have won five straight matches against Panama, who were dramatically beaten 3-2 in their most recent meeting in October 2013 that cost them a spot at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.