Who will U.S. soccer start?

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?

9 comments Add your comment

Mat

May 13th, 2014
4:45 pm

While there is certainly a trade off between now and the future, there is no reason that we have to choose to be on either one end or the other. JK should be putting out what he thinks is the team that gives us the best chance of winning. While some of those players on the second roster are close, others are a decided step down. Advancing from the group is a tall task, it almost certainly requires a win over Ghana, another point somewhere, and a little luck. It isn’t impossible. Maybe if we get to game three and can’t advance, trot out some more youthful players for the experience, but while there is a chance to advance we need to try and seize it, US soccer fans as a whole will be turned off if they don’t think the team is trying to win today. Basketball teams can undergo a “rebuilding year” because they start playing again in a few months, casual soccer fans won’t accept a “rebuilding world cup” where they have to wait another 4 years to see the results on the biggest stage.

GG

May 13th, 2014
5:46 pm

There is no way that Beckerman, Jones, and Bradley all start at midfield. If Beckerman is in the lineup, Jones is on the bench (unless Bradley is hurt). Also, I’d be shocked if Johnson doesn’t start, but that could be at LB, RB, or left mid.

Doug Roberson

May 13th, 2014
7:36 pm

GG: I think you could see Jones and Beckerman in defensive midfielder roles with Bradley playing in a slightly advanced playmaking role similar to what he used to do in Holland.

Doug Roberson

May 13th, 2014
7:37 pm

Mat: I don’t disagree with your comments. I think adding Dempsey in place of one of those forwards would still result in a strong team.

John

May 13th, 2014
10:58 pm

I agree with GG. I really can’t imagine not having Johnson start. Why wouldn’t he make the cut? Is is simply that the alternatives are better?
Would Johnson be starting if you could chose the roster?

Doug Roberson

May 14th, 2014
9:06 am

I have Johnson starting in the lineup I would like to see.
I’m guessing that Klinsmann will fall back on the roster that he seems to pick more often than not, which would include Beasley.

Dan McMillan

May 14th, 2014
12:24 pm

Chandler being called in really makes the defense selection interesting. He’s arguable a better pure right back than Cameron, If he meshes well, that allows you to possible put Cameron with Besler at CB to replace the erratic Gonzales. Omar is still dominant in the air, but he is prone to shutting off and can get shredded by speed.

I agree with Yedlin and Brooks being cut, but Yedlin will be important to training, as he will be used to try to torch the back line in practice.

the only way I can see Beckerman and Jones on the field at the same time would be in the 2 of a 4-2-3-1 That might give Jones the cover needed to deal with the effects of him bombing forward, but at the expense of Donovan (who might be best used as a sub anyway given his declining fitness due to age). and playing Dempsey out of position.

So Beckerman as a backup. Edu and Corona won’t make the cut. I know it’s easy to put Davis on the outside as well, but Brad has some tools that no one else has on this team. I think he makes it as the 23rd guy.

Forwards, I think this comes down to Wondo or Boyd, and really Wondo. If Wondo looks like he’s hot, he’s in. Wondo is like Davis in that he has a specific set of skills. In this case, when he is on, he is a stone cold top level finisher. No one on this team has that, apart from maybe Clint Dempsey.

So let’s say Boyd. That’s five, two left Hard to say, but i Think the last two cut are Parkhurst(smart, but size and speed issues are going to put him a shade behind IMO) and Green. (he’s got an awful lot to prove, and I think he’ll get every chance, but I think he sits this one out).

Bill

May 14th, 2014
12:26 pm

Howard
Cameron, Bessler, Gonzalez & Beasely
Beckerman
Bedoy, Bradley Zusi
Dempsey, Johanson

gary levitt

May 15th, 2014
11:32 am

All the comments above are worth a look. Experimenting with youth at a WC is not on JK’s agenda. Though he is solidified with his new contract, he has a WC bonus structure in place that could yield him $millions……with a huge number to get out of their group and into the quarters. So my take is that he will work through the ‘youth’ movement after the WC and into the build up for Copa America 2016. Player pool: if Fabian Johnson is 100% fit he is in the starting 11.