As the U.S. men’s national team finalizes preparations for next week’s friendly against Canada, all eyes are on which players will impress enough to make the far more important rosters for the U.S.’ World Cup qualifiers which start in February.
The friendly against Canada will wrap up the three-week January camp, and the roster for the camp is made up primarily of MLS-based players.
U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has said that he expects somewhere between six and nine players from the January camp to make the roster for the U.S.’ first hexagonal qualifier against Costa Rica next month in Denver.
Here is a list of 25 players—some were included in the January camp and some weren’t—who have a chance at making the USMNT roster for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Several players who were not included on the U.S.’ January camp roster this time around might have a shot 18 months from now if they put together stellar performances with their respective clubs in 2013 or early 2014.
Nick DeLeon, as a rookie for DC United, had a very strong 2012 campaign and showed flashes of absolute brilliance. With the U.S. situation on the wing still largely unsettled, DeLeon may be able to sneak in if he can put together an even better 2013 campaign.
Dax McCarty is widely lauded as one of, if not the top holding midfielder in MLS. With an international contingent of holding midfielders including Maurice Edu, Danny Williams, Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley and, perhaps, even Conor O’Brien, McCarty is certainly a long shot. However, several of the aforementioned players have not been in good form of late, and Klinsmann may end up looking elsewhere.
The top trio at goalkeeper over the past few months has been Tim Howard, Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando. However, if one of those players were to go down, the highly regarded Dan Kennedy could sneak onto the roster.
The U.S.’ problems at center-back over the past few years have been well-documented. That being said, if Omar Gonzalez or Matt Besler do not work out as many USMNT fans hope, George John or Ryan Miller (recently acquired by the Portland Timbers) may get a shot.
The U.S. has gained a great deal of depth at right-back over the past two years with Michael Parkhurst and Timmy Chandler being added to long-time veteran Steve Cherundolo at the position. However, should Klinsmann look at Timmy Chandler or Michael Parkhurst as the backup left-back and one of the other full-backs get injured, Sean Franklin might be able to work his way into the conversation.
Several players brought into the January camp have, at the least, proven to Jurgen Klinsmann that they are in the top 21 MLS players to currently be considered (four of the 25 rostered players at the January camp are based overseas).
Brad Davis has been on the fringes of the USMNT for years and has been a consistent member of the U.S.’ “B” team. He showed in the MLS playoffs that he can still produce moments of magic, and the U.S. depth chart on the wing is still up in the air.
Benny Feilhaber has not been a regular part of the U.S. setup since the Bob Bradley era, and he has not put in the type of performances with the New England Revolution to earn his way back in. Still, Klinsmann recognizes Feilhaber’s talent and gave him a January camp call-up regardless.
It’s tough to see Chris Wondolowski passing up Clint Dempsey, Herculez Gomez, Terrence Boyd or Jozy Altidore on the USMNT depth chart, regardless of Wondo’s amazing 27-goal season with the San Jose Earthquakes this past year.
Wondolowski is no doubt a goal scorer, but has not stood out in his previous USMNT appearances. He would need a multi-goal effort against Canada, or a standout performance in this summer’s Gold Cup (the U.S. is projected to use its “B” team in the tournament), to work his way into the discussion.
A.J. DeLaGarza, Matt Besler and Jeff Parke find themselves currently in the mix for positions on the back line, and all three could turn a solid January camp performance into a February call-up. Last year, Geoff Cameron, Michael Parkhurst and Graham Zusi all used positive performances in the January camp to vault themselves onto the roster with the “A” team. DeLaGarza, Parke and Besler, all of whom could start the friendly against Canada, are in position to do the same.
Chris Pontius was a favorite to make the January camp roster and had a solid 2012 with DC United but was unavailable for selection this time around due to the same groin injury that knocked him out of the MLS playoffs. In full form, Pontius may be able to work his way into the conversation as a wide midfielder.
Sean Johnson, Bill Hamid or Tally Hall could make the roster if Tim Howard, Brad Guzan or Nick Rimando were injured or otherwise unavailable for selection.
Will Bruin has seen his stock rise as much as any other MLS-based player over the past few months. Bruin was a big part of Houston’s success in the 2012 MLS playoffs, has drawn praise from Klinsmann recently and apparently scored two goals for the U.S. in their closed-door scrimmage against Club Tijuana on Tuesday.
Kyle Beckerman has been a favorite of Klinsmann’s since the German took over as USMNT head coach in August of 2011. Since then, Beckerman has earned 11 caps and been called into nearly every U.S. camp.
Brek Shea is another player who Klinsmann has shown a lot of interest in, even when Shea’s form, for both club and country, dipped. Despite some subpar performances with the Nats and a rough 2012 with FC Dallas, there is little doubt that Shea still has an inside track to one of the 23 roster spots for 2014.
Juan Agudelo, another player whose club form was less than excellent in 2012, received call-ups from Klinsmann for both the Russia friendly last November and the January camp. The talented striker could push his way into the forward pool, especially if Klinsmann continues to believe Jozy Altidore does not have the requisite work ethic for the national team.
Terrence Boyd, another talented young striker, was inexplicably left off the October qualifying roster by Klinsmann and then only played three minutes of the Russia friendly—a good sign that Klinsmann rates Agudelo higher than Boyd.
Of the following players, only an injury, a blowup with Klinsmann or a dreadful turn in form should keep them off the 2014 World Cup roster.
Omar Gonzalez is in pole position to not only win a spot on the World Cup roster, but, coming off a 2012 MLS Cup MVP performance, is a favorite to be one of the starting center-backs for the “A” team in 2013.
Landon Donovan, who apparently will return to the L.A. Galaxy for the 2013 season, is a valued asset both on and off the field for his experience and leadership.
Eddie Johnson, who can play up top or on the wing, has enjoyed a fine run of form for both club and country in 2012 and seems to finally be fulfilling the potential so many saw in him five years ago.
Graham Zusi, who earned his way into the national team fold partially as a result of his January camp performances in 2012, could easily become the engrained starter on the wing after three solid World Cup qualifying performances this past fall.
And finally, Nick Rimando, who is missing the January camp due to injury, was in top form in 2012 and could even challenge Brad Guzan for the starting job in the net should Tim Howard not be able to play.
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