The big guns are back, to no one's surprise. The focus now, as the United States men's national team prepares to begin the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, involves finding the right mix and producing the necessary results.
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann has called 24 players into training camp ahead of Wednesday's trip to face Honduras in World Cup qualifying. Not surprisingly, the roster includes few holdovers from the team's recent training camp in California, which led up to last week's 0-0 draw in a friendly against Canada in Houston.
Instead, the team relies heavily on European-based players
The full roster, via USSoccer.com appears below:
Defenders (9): Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Carlos Bocanegra (Racing Santander), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), Timmy Chandler, Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Omar Gonzalez (L.A. Galaxy), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Michael Parkhurst (Augsburg)
Midfielders (8): Michael Bradley (Roma), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Maurice Edu (Bursaspor), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Jose Torres (Tigres), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
While the surprises were few, some of the selections might cause mild surprise.
Midfielder Jose Torres has struggled in recent appearances with the U.S., but he seems to be a favorite of Klinsmann's. On the other hand, Anderlecht midfielder Sacha Kljestan has struggled to receive playing time under Klinsmann but makes the squad for a key qualifier.
Maurice Edu earns a spot in holding midfield, perhaps ahead of Kyle Beckerman. Beckerman's selection had seemed likely after he performed well in the draw against Canada.
The front line is without a true target man, though Jozy Altidore should give the U.S. physical superiority against Honduras. In the back, Timmy Chandler, who has a German mother, will be cap-tied to the U.S. if he appears in a World Cup qualifier.
The squad is scheduled to train in Miami on Monday before traveling to Honduras ahead of Wednesday's match. As for team selection, Klinsmann hinted at what could be an aggressive approach in the Americans' first final-round qualifier.
“We want to have a sense of urgency right from the start of the final round," Klinsmann said (via USSoccer.com. “We have a lot of respect for Honduras, but our message to the team is that we are going there to get three points.”
Six teams remain alive in CONCACAF qualifying, with each playing the others both home and away. The top three teams qualify automatically for the 2014 World Cup, which will be held in Brazil. The fourth-placed team will enter a playoff for another berth.
Just to speculate on Klinsmann's team selection, here are my thoughts.
Tim Howard is an automatic selection in goal. I would opt for Chandler (right) and Fabian Johnson (left) as full-backs, with the experience of Carlos Bocanegra and Geoff Cameron in the middle.
In midfield, the situation is complicated. Much depends on Klinsmann's strategy and thus his formation. Will he opt for two holding midfielders ahead of three attacking players in a 4-2-3-1 setup? Or will he play with a 4-1-3-2, 4-4-2 or even a 4-3-3?
How will the U.S. fare against Honduras?
Based on his comments about playing for three points, Klinsmann could pick an attack-friendly team. Michael Bradley should be an automatic selection, and Klinsmann seems highly attached to Jermaine Jones in the holding role. Graham Zusi could give the midfield width on the right and stretch the Honduras defense, while Kljestan and Torres offer creative options.
Clint Dempsey's presence in the squad as a striker could mean he plays as a withdrawn forward, just behind the bigger, stronger Altidore. We won't know, of course, until Klinsmann names his team.
What do you think, readers? Who will Klinsmann select? Who was snubbed? Let us know in the comments.