The United States men’s national team’s long summer is now over with three friendlies, three World Cup qualifiers and the CONCACAF Gold Cup in the books. With World Cup qualification looking secure and the “B” team winning the Gold Cup, the arguments have already begun as to who should be a part of the U.S. squad next summer in Brazil.
Here are the 23 names that should fill out the U.S. roster for the 2014 World Cup.
The easiest job U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann will have when picking his roster is making selections at the goalkeeping position, with a clear pecking order already established. Tim Howard is still clearly the team’s No. 1, with Brad Guzan ready to step in should Howard get injured or his form slip.
At No. 3 is Nick Rimando, who put in a solid performance with the “B” team in this summer’s Gold Cup to solidify his spot on the roster. Should any of the top three fall to injury, Sean Johnson looks to be the team’s No. 4, especially after a solid performance for the U.S. in the final Gold Cup group-stage game against Costa Rica.
On the outside looking in are Bill Hamid, Tally Hall and potentially Steve Clark.
Final selections: Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Nick Rimando
It seems pretty obvious to most observers that Matt Besler’s fine run of form for both club and country over the past year has put him in the driver’s seat among American center-backs. A battle seems to have emerged between Omar Gonzalez and Clarence Goodson for who will partner Besler, with Gonzalez preferred in the World Cup qualifiers but Goodson preferred over Gonzalez in the Gold Cup.
Picking a fourth center-back gets tricky. Geoff Cameron is probably the default selection to round out the roster here, but he may be needed as an outside back or holding midfielder. His versatility only increases the likelihood he is included but makes one wonder if Klinsmann should add another pure center-back.
Should any of the top four suffer from injury or a lack of form, there is no clear consensus backup. Klinsmann used Michael Orozco Fiscal in the group stages of the Gold Cup but benched Orozco once he called up Besler and Gonzalez for the knockout rounds. John Anthony Brooks, at 6'4" and following a monster season in Bundesliga 2, is an exciting prospect and looks like he will be joining the team for the August friendly against Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Carlos Bocanegra is still among the minutes leaders in the Jurgen Klinsmann era, but his exclusion from the roster in recent months and especially the Gold Cup roster is indicative that he has fallen down the depth chart in Klinsmann’s mind.
Finally, a wild-card choice may be Maurice Edu. Because of his versatility, Edu can play as a holding or box-to-box midfielder or a center-back, as he did last August in the 1-0 win over Mexico at Estadio Azteca.
Final selections: Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez, Clarence Goodson, Geoff Cameron
No position on the U.S. roster is more up in the air right now than right-back. Steve Cherundolo was the team’s No. 1 through early World Cup qualifying, but has had two knee surgeries in 2013, and his age appears to finally be catching up with him.
Timmy Chandler has loads of potential, but his commitment to the team has come into question, as he always seems to be injured when national team duty comes along despite often playing for his club the week before and week after national team camps.
Brad Evans performed admirably at right-back during recent World Cup qualifying and should win a place on the roster should he continue to perform well going forward. Geoff Cameron can play wide as he does with his club, although he struggled there against Belgium in May.
Michael Parkhurst was solid, if unimpressive, during the Gold Cup, but he should be given credit for keeping a slew of speedy wingers and forwards in check—something more than a few U.S. backs have struggled with over the years. Michael Orozco Fiscal can play wide, but Klinsmann did not play him there in the Gold Cup, indicating that Parkhurst is ahead of him in the pecking order.
Long shots to make the roster include Seattle Sounders and U.S. U-20 star DeAndre Yedlin, new Nottingham Forest signing Eric Lichaj and Birmingham City back Jonathan Spector.
Final selections: Steve Cherundolo, Brad Evans
DaMarcus Beasley completed his remarkable national team resurrection as he built on his March comeback with a number of solid performances in the June World Cup qualifiers and captaining the squad at the Gold Cup.
Fabian Johnson may end up being used as a left midfielder but is likely still the best choice for the U.S. at left-back.
Edgar Castillo’s poor performances in June and in the Gold Cup may have played him right off the roster.
Corey Ashe and Greg Garza are possibilities as well if Beasley or Johnson get hurt with depth at left-back still shallow.
One of the positives for the U.S. in terms of left-back depth is that should Geoff Cameron, Steve Cherundolo, Timmy Chandler, Michael Parkhurst or Eric Lichaj make the roster at another position, they all have experience playing on the left.
Final selections: DaMarcus Beasley, Fabian Johnson
Michael Bradley is the undisputed No. 1 at center mid and has the added bonus of being able to play as either a No. 6 or a No. 8 in Jurgen Klinsmann’s midfield. Jermaine Jones, although controversial among some U.S. fans, remains Klinsmann’s obvious No. 2 choice and can also play as either a No. 6 or a No. 8 in the midfield.
Geoff Cameron deputized admirably for Jones as the defensive midfielder this June and proved he can contribute there (as well as set Bradley free to go forward), but he will likely be counted as a defender on the roster.
Mix Diskerud performed extremely well in the Gold Cup, looking smooth and composed on the ball, while helping the team to the championship. Diskerud’s performance puts him in a straight competition with Sacha Kljestan, who, despite playing in the Champions League, was underwhelming with the U.S. this summer.
Stuart Holden is likely out of competition after re-injuring his ACL in the Gold Cup, but Kyle Beckerman, who many USMNT fans left for dead, had the tournament of his life and put himself back in the mix.
Danny Williams, who looked to have locked down the No. 6 position last September before a dreadful run of form, is still in the mix, as is the versatile Maurice Edu, who struggled against Mexico in March.
Jose Torres may be able to make a roster push as a center midfielder, but competition will be tight.
A long shot to make the squad is Nordsjaelland’s Conor O’Brien, who has been making a name for himself in Denmark.
Final selections: Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Mix Diskerud, Kyle Beckerman
The U.S. has an enormously large pool of players capable of playing in the wide midfield positions, so competition here will be fierce.
Graham Zusi, after his performances with the USMNT over the past few months, is at or near the top of the pack.
As Jurgen Klinsmann showed in the June games, Fabian Johnson can be used as a left midfielder, instead of a left-back, with great effectiveness. The re-emergence of Landon Donovan on the team, even though he primarily played as a forward in the Gold Cup, also adds to wide midfield depth.
Clint Dempsey, who has been used almost exclusively as a forward by Klinsmann, proved in the Bob Bradley era and with his club play at Fulham and Tottenham that he can also play wide with great effectiveness.
Furthermore, both Herculez Gomez and Eddie Johnson, while traditional forwards, have played wide with the U.S. over the past few months.
Joe Corona and Alejandro Bedoya both put in strong cases for themselves in the United States' Gold Cup championship run. While he might not be a good choice over 90 minutes, Brek Shea proved he can be a blunt-force instrument off the bench when a goal is needed.
Jose Torres was used on the left side for the U.S. through much of the Gold Cup to varying success, and Klinsmann has also showed a preference toward Brad Davis many times over the past year.
Long shots for the team include Josh Gatt, who is recovering from ACL surgery, and Joe Gyau, who was called up for the team’s friendly last November against Russia.
Final selections: Graham Zusi, Joe Corona, Brek Shea
Because of the versatility of players like Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan and Eddie Johnson, it is tough to know how Jurgen Klinsmann will use them or categorize them on the U.S. roster.
However, all three have proved through their play over the summer that they are must-include selections.
Jozy Altidore is also a near guarantee as the team’s only pure striker.
Herculez Gomez, who struggled throughout the summer with knee problems, will be in a battle to make the roster, as will Terrence Boyd, who has played well with Austrian side Rapid Vienna but has yet to make an impact on the international level.
Should they get hot or the first-choice forwards get injured, Juan Agudelo or Jack McInerney may be able to make a late push for the roster.
Icelandic-American Aron Johannsson could also prove a wild-card choice, as he has decided to represent the U.S. internationally.
Final selections: Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Eddie Johnson
The list in the previous slides includes 22 names, but the U.S. will be able to name a 23-man roster next year. The fifth selection could be John Anthony Brooks if Jurgen Klinsmann feels that Geoff Cameron’s versatility also means there needs to be another center-back on the roster.
Sacha Kljestan, Maurice Edu and Danny Williams could battle for an additional midfield selection, and their abilities to play multiple positions could help all three.
Terrence Boyd and Herculez Gomez could also battle for an additional spot as a forward, considering that Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan and Eddie Johnson’s versatility to play as midfielders may convince Klinsmann he needs one more No. 9 on the roster.
Final selection: John Anthony Brooks
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