Picking a World Cup Starting XI for Team USA Without Landon Donovan
The United States have advanced to The Hex and are one of the favorites to qualify for the 2014 World Cup from CONCACAF.
Landon Donovan is the face of American soccer and one of the biggest pieces to the U.S. puzzle on the pitch. What would the U.S. look like without him?
It is highly unlikely he will miss the World Cup, but there is still more than a year left before the U.S. will makes its final roster decisions. Injuries or unexpected events could still arise. Jurgen Klinsmann has a plethora of choices to pick from if such an event should occur.
This is how the U.S. could look at the 2014 World Cup without Donovan.
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Goalkeeper: Tim Howard
The starting keeper is almost a lock to be Howard. This is barring injury of course.
Howard routinely keeps the U.S. in matches with brilliant saves. As the defense is still a work in progress, he may be the most important member of the squad.
If there is a ripple effect from Donovan missing out on the World Cup squad, it will not go all the way to the keeper position. Howard will be there. He is the leader and rock of the team, and its most valuable member.
Howard will be between the posts in 2014.
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Defense: Carlos Bocanegra, Geoff Cameron, Timmy Chandler, Steve Cherundolo
The defense has been a point of focus for the team, and it is still a work in progress.
Steve Cherundolo and Geoff Cameron have become mainstays on the back line alongside captain Carlos Bocanegra. Others, such as Fabian Johnson, have played well when called upon.
Making his return to the U.S. lineup against Russia was Timmy Chandler, and it is safe to say he will be in the long-term plans of the squad. That would shore up the back line for the World Cup, but the unspoken issue will be Bocanegra's age. He will be 35 come time for the World Cup.
With the influx of youth and athleticism, it is possible he finds himself on the bench. 2013 will be a big year to watch for any changes along the back. I suspect Bocanegra will keep his position and still be in the starting XI in Rio.
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Midfielders: Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Jose Torres, Danny Williams
Klinsmann's choices are many in the midfield. Including whether or not Clint Dempsey will be a midfielder or forward in the wake of Donovan's absence. That's a question we have even with Donovan's presence.
One man who will be in the middle for sure is Michael Bradley. He is a lock. Only Howard is a bigger lock on the team.
Jermaine Jones, Jose Torres, Danny Williams and Graham Zusi have all seen significant time during Klinsmann's reign. And all have had their moments. If Dempsey plays in the midfield, that leaves two slots open for these four talents.
The midfield lineup depends on what formation Klinsmann will run. He has been creative in his choices, and that will effect who takes the pitch.
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Forwards: Herculez Gomez and Jozy Altidore
Gomez has had a stellar 2012, and if he keeps it up, he will be in the running for a starting role in Rio. Klinsmann will likely ride the hot foot in Donovan's absence.
Without Donovan it will be the perfect opportunity for Jozy Altidore to step up and become the next big thing for the U.S.
Altidore has been performing well at the club level, but has yet to fully translate that to the international stage. Altidore's maturation is a welcome sight for the U.S.
Terrence Boyd, Joshua Gatt and Dempsey are other options. Dempsey is the obvious choice should Klinsmann decide to use him up top instead of in the middle. Making the call before the calendar turns to 2013 is difficult, but Altidore and Gomez are good choices to lead the scoring charge.