U.S. Men's National Team: Thoughts on Qualifying Roster
Matt Stamey-US PRESSWIRE
The United States Men's National Team has quite an important week ahead of them
Starting Friday, September 7th, Jurgen Klinsmann's squad will embark on a two-game series against Jamaica. These aren't just regular friendlies with little importance.
These are 2014 World Cup qualifying matches.
To add to the plot, neither Landon Donovan nor Michael Bradley will take part due to injury. Clint Dempsey—the most high profile member of the squad—hasn't played in a competitive game since June.
The United States will take on Jamaica in Kingston on Friday at 8 p.m. ET before heading back to Columbus, Ohio on September 11th at 8 p.m. ET for the second leg.
Here's a look at some thoughts on the roster introduced by Klinsmann and his staff...
Injuries Impact the Roster
Michael Bradley is out with an injury
Matt Stamey-US PRESSWIRE
Injuries to key players have somewhat marred the roster heading into their World Cup qualifying matches against the Reggae Boyz.
Landon Donovan will not be available due to a hamstring injury suffered in the United States' last friendly against Mexico.
The exclusion of Donovan is significant due to his experience on the international stage. A lack of relative pace on the roster is also magnified with the absence of Donovan.
Speaking of pace, the long awaited arrival of Josh Gatt to the national team will have to wait.
The 21-year-old was called up by Klinsmann for the first time. Unfortunately for Gatt, he suffered a hamstring injury during a weekend fixture and was deemed unfit for the tilts against Jamaica.
It's a shame for both player and country, because Gatt brings sublime pace to the table. He would have added a dynamic element to a roster lacking in that department.
It is a bit concerning that Gatt is starting to get the reputation of being "brittle". He's suffered an inordinate amount of hamstring and muscle injuries during the past couple seasons.
Outside-back Edgar Castillo was forced to be left off the roster due to a foot injury. Castillo played very well against Mexico in the last friendly, and does represent the elusive left-footed defender on the roster. He'll be missed from a depth standpoint.
Perhaps the biggest loss comes in the form of Michael Bradley.
The Roma man suffered a quad strain in his right thigh during training. Losing Bradley is a big blow—plain and simple.
He's been one of, if not the most consistent performer across the pond of anyone in the national team pool. A tidy player, Bradley has developed into a fantastic distributor of the ball. He's also adept at playing the passing lanes and positioning himself in open pockets of space in order to receive the ball.
Most importantly, he's got an engine that's always revving. No one can question the amount of effort and heart that Bradley displays every time he laces up the boots. That type of drive and leadership will be sorely missed.
Can Altidore and Boyd Stay Hot?
Forward Jozy Altidore
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Some positive news for USMNT fans is that both Jozy Altidore and Terrence Boyd have been goal scoring machines lately.
Since making the move to Austria, Boyd has scored six goals in four matches—including bagging a brace this past Sunday. Boyd also helped his side Rapid Vienna advance to Europa League Group Stages with this strike.
Altidore has turned into a force for Dutch side AZ Alkmaar. Last season, he led the squad with 22 goals in all competitions. This season his torrid goal pace continued—as he netted a brace in the season opener. He followed that up with another goal the week after.
Altidore has yet to fully be comfortable in Klinsmann's desired style of play. For the United States, he's been inserted as a target forward—something that doesn't necessarily play to Altidore's strengths as a player.
During his time in Holland, he's shown a far greater willingness to go one-on-one with defenders. More than that, he's gained a far great comprehension of the game itself from a tactical standpoint. Altidore is positioning himself much better, and as a result he's getting far more opportunities at goal. That's ultimately translating into a more confident footballer.
The recent growth of the two young strikers is a significant development. The striking core hasn't been very productive over the years, so having two in-form strikers during world cup qualification is a boon for Klinsmann and his side.
We could finally see the 4-3-3 alignment that Klinsmann wants to eventually implement.
A Lack of Wing Players
Danny Williams is often employed as a winger
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One negative aspect of the current pool is the lack of true wingers. Without established and proven options wide, Klinsmann hasn't been truly able to play the way he wants.
Recently, midfielder Danny Williams has been employed out on the flank. The problem with Williams is that he's a defensive central midfielder. He naturally plays conservatively, and shows almost no willingness to make forays up the flanks.
As a result, the manager fields a midfield that's predominantly of the defensive variety. It stems the attack and makes the link-up play between the midfield and the striking core problematic.
With injuries to Landon Donovan and Josh Gatt, the options out wide include Brek Shea, Graham Zusi and Joe Corona. However, none of the aforementioned three are expected to start or see major play time.
It's plausible to think that Klinsmann might slot Clint Dempsey out wide initially.
He does like to have the ball at his feet, so most likely "Deuce" will float into the centre of pitch in order to receive possession. A possible tactic could have Dempsey transitioning towards the middle in the second half, while someone like Shea gets inserted on the wing.
Eric Lichaj has yet to impress Klinsmann
Mark Thompson/Getty Images
Perhaps the biggest omission to the roster is Aston Villa outside-back Eric Lichaj.
The speedy 23-year-old had been beset by injury and loan spells throughout his professional career, but recently he has begun to establish himself with the villains.
It is a bit puzzling that an outside-back starting in the EPL doesn't warrant a call-up. I guess Klinsmann has his reasons, and Lichaj's spot was presumably taken by both Michael Parkhurst and Jonathan Spector.
Midfielder Sacha Kljestan is another player that's yet to break through in the Klinsmann era. The Anderlecht product is a midfielder that likes to spray the ball around from a deep-lying position. He's also become a much better defensive midfielder during his time in Belgium.
With the glut of central defenders in the pool, Kljestan still hasn't done enough to warrant a serious look—despite playing well abroad. The role of a creative hub that likes to distribute wide is seemingly taken by Jose Torres.
Lastly, I think we can close the book on Timothy Chandler being a member of the USMNT.
After refusing call-ups to both the Gold Cup and other matches, it's safe to assume that Chandler isn't committed to the United States. He might be awaiting a call-up from Germany, or he might not like the long travel from Europe to the United States for friendlies.
Either way, he's out of the picture.
Here Is the Roster...
Klinsmann with his staff
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
Here is the roster that manager Jurgen Klinsmann will trot out against Jamaica this week...
Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Carlos Bocanegra (Racing Santander), Michael Parkhurst (Nordsjaelland), Michael Orozco (San Luis), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Fabian Johnson (TSG Hoffenheim), Jonathan Spector (Birmingham City), Maurice Edu (Stoke City)
Clint Dempsey (Tottenham Hotspur), Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Herculez Gomez (Santos Laguna)