Some Thoughts on the USMNT’s Preliminary Roster
- Will the snub of Eddie Johnson come back to haunt coach Jurgen Klinsmann? Johnson has been held scoreless since his trade from Seattle to D.C. United and he has also come under fire for his public comments suggesting that his teammates back in Seattle were better technically on the ball than his new teammates. Johnson was crucial in helping the U.S. national team’s qualifying success and his dynamic ability both on the wing and as a striker made him a very likely candidate to make the preliminary roster. It seems as though Johnson’s lack of recent form and the in-form Chris Wondolowski and Terrence Boyd made him the odd man out. Johnson’s flexibility to play those two aforementioned positions and his exceptional dribbling at players were able to create some unique scoring opportunities for Klinsmann’s team in the past and someone will need to step up to take over that role or Klinsmann may regret leaving Johnson at home.
- Who will play right back? Klinsmann invited Brad Evans, Timmy Chandler, Michael Parkhurst and DeAndre Yedlin to camp and that suggests that this positions is seemingly wide open at the moment. Evans has been the right back of choice for Klinsmann lately, but he does not play the position for Seattle and he is still relatively inexperienced with this team. Chandler’s saga with the national team is well documented for its ups and downs and his lack of desire to commit fully to the program at times, but he may be the most talented player for the position. Parkhurst has improved his standing with the national team in recent contests and his versatility allows him to play either wing-back spot in a pinch. Yedlin is the true unknown at the moment, but his potential has many salivating. While he is incredibly fast and seems to be the right back of the future, he is only 20 years old and is very inexperienced at this level. In some cases, his youth and athletic ability could be a tremendous asset to this team, but we will need to see how he performs in these upcoming friendlies to figure out if Klinsmann is willing to take a chance on him in Brazil.
- Who will emerge as the top center back pairing? As of right now, it would stand to reason that Matt Besler is entrenched as Klinsmann’s number one selection at the position, but his counterpart is unclear at this point. Omar Gonzalez had been Klinsmann’s choice for quite some time, but his penchant for a couple big mistakes per game caught up with him and has led to some questioning whether he is really the man for the job. Geoff Cameron has shown the flexibility to play as a wing back, as a defensive midfielder and in this much talked about center back position. He may be the top choice for the position, but he does not play this position for Stoke City, his club team, and that is something Klinsmann has wanted for sometime. We must not forget Clarence Goodson who has done well, but has not stood out in the role lately. He is good in the air and capable positionally, but he does not pass very well out of the back and is not the fleetest of defenders. John Anthony Brooks is the dark horse in this group. He is very young, but plays in the Bundesliga for Hertha Berlin and has loads of potential. His inexperience and up-and-down club season puts him at a disadvantage and he will need an excellent camp and showing in the friendlies to overtake the others in contention for the spot.
- What are the chances a dark horse player makes the 23-man squad? The dark horse, in my opinion, are as follows: Joe Corona, Julian Green, John Anthony Brooks, Brad Davis and DeAndre Yedlin. There are several others that belong in this category, but they are battling each other and I will address them next. Corona has recently been on the outs and does not seem like a good bet to make the team. He is behind Graham Zusi and Alejandro Bedoya for his preferred right midfield position and the rest of the midfield spots seem to be clogged as well. Barring a tremendous camp and games, Corona will not make it to Brazil. Green is very intriguing and there have been rumors that his one-time nationality switch from Germany to the United States came with a promise of a roster spot in Brazil. He is the most hyped (and possibly talented) prospect the U.S. national team has ever had and has impressed in Bayern Munich’s youth academy and reserve team. He has game-changing ability on the wing with his pace and creative dribbling as we saw in the game against Mexico. I would venture to say he makes the team, but may not see the field. Brooks will need a big camp, but he is a talented German-American player that Klinsmann does like. I am a big believer in Brooks and his potential, but I don’t think he will make the squad. Davis is an excellent dead-ball specialist and great crosser of the ball, but he does not do much else. He lacks the speed to keep up with better teams and I doubt he makes the squad. Yedlin, like Brooks, will need a very good camp to justify a spot on the plane to Brazil. He also oozes potential, but he is competing for a position that is up the air which works in his favor. If he gets a fair look in camp and these friendlies, we may be pleasantly surprised at what he can do. I’d like to see him make the team, but he is slightly behind the eight ball right now and I’d lean towards no. I do feel that he is our right back for the long haul going forward, though.
- Which players are in positional battles for the final spots? There seems to be a battle at just about every spot except for left back. At forward, it’s very clear that Wondolowski and Boyd seem to be fighting for the final forward spot. Boyd has been a man on fire lately and Wondolowski has shown a penchant for finding the perfect spots to be in for a tap-in goal. The edge right now probably lies with Boyd, whose form for Rapid Vienna has been wonderful lately. However, that does not mean he is going to Brazil; whoever has the better camp will almost definitely be going to Brazil. In the center of midfield, there seems to be a trio of players fighting for one or two spots: Mix Diskerud, Maurice Edu and Kyle Beckerman. Beckerman has been a revelation for the U.S. national team of late as he has excelled in a deep-lying role. Diskerud’s creativity and improved defensive skills set him apart from the other two as neither Beckerman nor Edu has shown much on the offensive end. Edu provides a sturdy defensive midfield presence with good tackling and limited mistakes, as well as the versatility to play on the back line in a pinch also. Beckerman would be my first choice after Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones, potentially in front of Jones in my eyes, and Diskerud would be the next choice. One thing to consider is if Klinsmann opts to bring another winger or forward and drops Diskerud entirely. Brooks and Goodson will fight it out for the fourth center back spot as either Cameron or Gonzalez will be the first reserve there.
As camp progresses further and the team begins to play some friendlies, I will get some reactions up. The forward situation involving Jozy Altidore will also be something to keep an eye on, whether they play him as an isolated forward or with Clint Dempsey or Landon Donovan next to him or withdrawn. The formation the U.S. national team plays should vary from game-to-game as well and could be a preview of how they play tactically in Brazil. Ghana plays a very different style than Germany and Portugal do so the formation and personnel could also change there from game-to-game. The most important thing I would like to see, aside from the areas mentioning already, is Klinsmann maximizing Michael Bradley’s talent in his system. Bradley is the team’s best and most consistent player right now and he is the key to our attack. Bradley might be better off playing in a more advanced role instead of beside Jermaine Jones in a partnership. As Bradley goes, so goes the U.S. national team.
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