By MARC SERBER
CARSON, Calif. – South Korea’s whirlwind tour of the United States will end on Saturday with a match against the host nation.
After defeating Costa Rica 1-0 on Jan. 25 at the L.A. Coliseum, and suffering a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Mexico in San Antonio just four days later, Hong Myung-Bo’s side is back in California to play its third game in seven days.
While the South Korean press grilled the former LA Galaxy defender about Wednesday’s loss, Myung-Bo remained adamant that the goal is to see which members of his entirely domestic-based squad can handle the pressure under “World Cup-like” conditions.
“Our players are very tired both physically and mentally,” South Korea’s player turned head coach told the media in the bowels of the StubHub Center. “I am not anticipating perfect conditions, but this is an ongoing process, so its a good chance to test our mental prospects and our ability.”
With a capacity crowd of 27,000 expected at tomorrow’s match, there’s another opportunity for the K-League’s best players to show they are not overawed by playing in front of big crowds.
The average attendance at K-League matches for 2013 was just above 7,650 and it was apparent in the loss to Mexico that playing in front of over 54,000 spectators was a daunting task. This is another issue that Myung-Bo is keeping a close eye on.
“A lot of players in our squad don’t have the experience playing in front of such a big audience,” Hong admitted through a translator. “I think its going to effect our players, but it will give them a great experience to play in front of such a big crowd.”
Much like U.S. Men’s National Team head coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, Hong is closely monitoring closely which players can handle the adversity of large crowds, tight schedules, and keeping a high skill level at the height of mental fatigue.
“At the moment we are preparing for the World Cup,” Hong said. “We have to find out the players who are able to play in the World Cup and who can play in a competitive environment. Although our players are tired and the schedule is tight, we have to overcome these circumstances. This is related to the final squad.”
Despite allowing four goals against Mexico, Hong said there is no need to worry about his side’s defensive tactics.
“Although we conceded four goals, it was not technical (tactical) problems. It was personal mistakes. So I don’t think we will have any problems in terms of the technical (tactical) aspect. Today’s practice we are going to concentrate on testing our physical condition.”