The United States men’s national team’s fraught friendly with Ukraine on Wednesday, March 5 has been canceled, according to several reports.
The United States Soccer Federation, however, could not confirm that the game was off. “We have been in contact with the Football Federation of Ukraine and are awaiting final confirmation that the team is still planning to travel to Cyprus for the match,” it said in a statement
The game had originally been slated to be played in Kharkiv, Ukraine, but a popular uprising and deadly skirmishes led President Viktor Yanukovych to flee his palace. The State Department warned American citizens to avoid traveling to Ukraine. So last Thursday the Ukrainian and United States soccer federations decided to move the game to Larnaca, Cyprus.
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Since then, Russian troops have landed in Ukraine as the stand-off between the pro-European East and pro-Russian West and Crimea intensifies. The Ukrainian league has already been halted while an UEFA Europa League game between Dynamo Kiev and Valencia was also moved to Cyprus.
On Friday, the car of the Cypriot referee reported to be assigned to the now-canceled game was bombed. Nobody was hurt.
On #USAvUKR: "We have been in contact with the FFU and are awaiting final confirmation that the team is still planning to travel to Cyprus"
On Monday, Anatoliy Konkov, the president of the Ukrainian soccer federation appeared to be calling the game off. “We cannot hold the national championship so what kind of football can we talk of at all?” he told the commercial Ukrainian ICTV channel, according to Reuters. “If we do not have an opportunity to play on home soil, why shall we go to Cyprus in those troubled times for your country? We play for our people and country. Our team do not fly to Cyprus and stay at home.”
Football.ua reported that head coach Mykhaylo Fomenko and veteran midfielder Ruslan Rotan confirmed to the same Freedom of Expression show on ICTV that they would not be leaving the country for the game.
The game represented the final opportunity for head coach Jurgen Klinsmann to try out his European-based players before convening his World Cup camp in mid-May, as it fell on the last international match date. He had called up a slew of players thought to be on the bubble or on the outside looking in.
A two-day training camp in Stuttgart, Germany was to precede the game. If the game is indeed canceled, the United States would probably have to make do with just practices, as it’s improbable that another opponent will be found at such short notice, since international friendlies are typically arranged months in advance.