U.S. men’s national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann released the 30-man preliminary roster on Monday for the World Cup in Brazil.
In yesterday’s AJC Soccer Insider, I wondered how Klinsmann would approach picking a starting lineup: would he stick with the familiar, even if some those established players aren’t playing well for their clubs, or will he give those up-and-comers who are playing well a chance and improve the team’s future?
It will be a difficult decision for several reasons, starting with IT’S THE WORLD CUP! It’s the biggest stage in sports and if you mess it up you don’t get another chance for four years and that’s not even a guarantee, even though the U.S. is in the CONCACAF that isn’t perceived as strong as others.
There is some pressure to perform. Klinsmann replaced Bob Bradley following his dismissal after the U.S. imploded against Mexico in the 2011 Gold Cup.
CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb added a bit more pressure on Tuesday after saying he expects the teams from his region to make it to the World Cup’s knockout stages.
Having said that, Klinsmann isn’t coaching for his job. He received a contract extension last year that will take him through the next World Cup in 2018. Plus, while naturally effervescent, Klinsmann also seems to pragmatic enough to realize two things: he likely has a pretty good idea of the ceiling for the core of this roster, and he knows that while the goal is to win, the goal is also to build long-term success. Sometimes those things don’t go hand-in-hand.
So here is the roster:
Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Timmy Chandler (Nürnberg), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Michael Parkhurst (Columbus Crew) and DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders FC).
Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Maurice Edu (Philadelphia Union), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Jermaine Jones (Besiktas) and Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City).
Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)
Let’s start with the seven who will be cut to get the roster down to 23 by June 2.
Among the defenders, Yedlin and Brooks will be cut. Yedlin is inexperienced. Brooks is inconsistent.
Among the midfielders, Diskerud, Edu, Davis and Corona will be cut. I like Diskerud, but …..
Among the forwards, Boyd will be cut.
Now we are down to the 23.
Here’s who I think Klinsmann will start in the three friendlies the team will play in its warm-up games:
GK: Howard. No complaint here.
Defenders: Cameron, Besler, Gonzalez, Beasley. For whatever reason, Klinsmann hasn’t wanted to play Cameron at right back, but of all the field players on the U.S. roster, Cameron has proven himself in England, the world’s toughest league. Besler and Gonzalez (assuming he’s healthy), will continue to be the starting pair in the middle. Left back will likely be Beasley, though that isn’t his natural position.
Midfielders: Beckerman, Jones, Bradley and Donovan. The same old, same old here. Seems odd, I know. I think Beckerman would play a defensive role with Bradley and Jones slight ahead of him and Donovan on top of a wide diamond. Cameron and Beasley could provide the width in attack.
Forwards: Dempsey and Altidore. Same old, same old. Dempsey is playing well. Altidore hasn’t.
Here’s who I wish he would start if the goal is long-term success. Some of those players are those who I think will be cut. The short-term pain will likely be great, but even if the veterans start in the World Cup I don’t think their chances of advancing out of a group that includes Portugal, Germany and Ghana are good. So, go with the promise of the future:
GK: Guzan. He’s arguably as good as Howard now.
Defenders: Cameron, Besler, Brooks and Johnson. It would be nice if Chris Klute made the 30-man roster, but he didn’t.
Midfielders: There really aren’t a lot of good young choices here. Bradley, Green, Bedoya and Diskerud. Donovan seems to be declining and he’s another player who you know what you are going to get.
Forwards: Johannsson and Boyd. I would say Altidore, who is still 24 years old, but this recent year at Sunderland has really tarnished his potential. He can come back, though, if he can get some service at his next club.
I’m not saying that this group is the future of U.S. soccer in the mold of Howard, Donovan and Dempsey, but I do think it’s time to put these guys on the biggest stage and see what happens. Including Dempsey at the expense of one of those players is possible. While this lineup is prepared for the future, I still think that it’s fairly strong.
So, what do you think?