It's that time of year again folks, and the USMNT January roster features plenty of much-anticipated new faces. An MLS dominated group is looking to double Jurgen Klinsmann's win total against Latin American sides Venezuela and Panama in the next couple of weeks. While these games may not feature some of the USMNT's stars that are so entertaining and effective, there is still plenty of determined young talents to watch for this January.
Here is how I'm seeing Jurgen Klinsmann's lineup on Jan. 21 in Phoenix. Enjoy!
Geoff Cameron, Houston Dynamo, One Cap
AJ DeLaGarza, Los Angeles Galaxy, Uncapped
Zach Loyd, FC Dallas, One Cap
Jeff Parke, Seattle Sounders, Uncapped
Michael Parkhurst, FC Nordsjaelland (Denmark), Nine Caps
Heath Pearce, Chivas USA, 33 Caps
Sean Johnson, Chicago Fire, One Cap
Nick Rimando, Real Salt Lake, Five Caps
Bill Hamid, DC United, Uncapped
Clearly Klinsmann is using these friendlies to scout out some of what the MLS has to offer in terms of defense. A lot of these defenders have been on the cusp of National Team call-ups for a few years now and have finally been given the shot to prove their national team worth.
While it would have been fun to see Omar Gonzalez and George John out there (Both were permitted to pursue club matters instead of attend camp), this defense still has some interesting characters.
As for Goalkeeper, the lack of Tim Howard and Brad Guzan mean that young stoppers Sean Johnson and Bill Hamid may get the chance to earn the start. While Rimando is bound to be in front of goal for at least one game, I expect at least one of these keepers to get a cap this January.
Here is how I see the back five looking on Saturday night:
Goalkeeper: Nick Rimando- With such a young and inexperienced defense, Klinsmann is going to need all the leadership he can get and Rimando is the best keeper in that department. Don't be surprised however if Hamid or Johnson get a tryout against Panama.
Left Back: Heath Pearce: The second most capped player on the January roster and an absolute lock at Left Back for the Yanks against Venezuela. Klinsmann has to have his leadership and experience on the field.
Center Back: Geoff Cameron: Jurgen Klinsmann has proven that he does have a soft spot for great distributing defenders like Tim Ream since he took over. Cameron is a stronger, more disciplined Ream and will fill this role beautifully.
Center Back: Zach Loyd: Loyd’s first USMNT cap was against Chile last January when he won Man of the Match honors. Considering the other defending options Klinsmann has, he will have the opportunity to keep that streak going.
Right Back: AJ DeLaGarza: The obvious choice at Right Back is the Los Angeles Galaxy star defender. He has the speed to push up the flanks like Timothy Chandler, but is also very disciplined in the defending third. He will get the nod.
Ricardo Clark, Eintracht Frankfurt, 32 Caps
Kyle Beckerman, Real Salt Lake, 18 Caps
Brad Evans, Seattle Sounders, Four Caps
Benny Feilhaber, New England Revolution, 38 Caps
Jeff Larentowicz, Colorado Rapids, Two Caps
Brek Shea, FC Dallas, Nine Caps
Graham Zusi- Sporting Kansas City, Uncapped
Apart from Clark, this midfield is entirely MLS filled, as you can see. We will get to see the inevitable return of Benny Feilhaber, as well as hopefully view the debut of up-and-coming Sporting Kansas City star Graham Zusi in a USMNT uniform. While Klinsmann has seven options, I can only see him picking these four in his first XI.
Left Midfield: Brek Shea: No question here. Shea is one of Klinsmann’s leading offensive contributors when the A team is out on the pitch, so there would be no reason why he doesn’t get the start against Venezuela.
Central Defending Midfield: Kyle Beckerman: Klinsmann is very fond of the RSL captain and has refused to look at anyone else in this position since he took over. Beckerman will get the nod once again and the captain’s armband.
Central Attacking Midfield: Benny Feilhaber: Feilhaber played some of his best soccer at the 2010 World Cup, so it is a wonder why it has taken this long for him to be relevant once again in the National Team picture. With more caps than anyone else on the roster, Klinsmann can’t afford to choose anyone else.
Right Midfield: Graham Zusi: While the wing might not be his preferred position, I can see Zusi being very effective on the right side on Saturday night. With his curve and precision on long balls, Zusi could be very dangerous swinging in crosses to a plethora of target forwards. It may be the most radical of the selections, but it just might work.
No Jozy, Dempsey or Donovan means that some of the new kids get a chance to take the spotlight against Venezuela. Of course, Sporting Kansas City forwards Teal Bunbury and CJ Sapong have plenty of experience playing together, but that is not the duo I see Klinsmann picking on Saturday. My prediction is:
Forward: Juan Agudelo: You know it’s a young team when Juan Agudelo is the veteran striker. He has more National Team experience than any of his forward teammates and always brings with him that “Stunning Goal” potential. Can his third USMNT goal be just as dramatic?
Forward: Chris Wondolowski: Many USMNT fans are not too fond of Wondo, but his off-the-ball movement would do wonders for young Agudelo up top. His soccer IQ is probably the best on the roster, and he will bring out the best in his fellow forward partner if given the chance. He will be.
Shea Feilhaber Zusi
Pearce Cameron Loyd DeLaGarza
Do you guys see the team shaping up differently on the 21st? Comment below!