The Home Guard: MLS and the Upcoming USMNT Qualifiers
Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports
Nine Major League Soccer players were called to play for the USMNT in the upcoming qualifiers. That number fell to eight after Brad Evans injured his calf over the weekend.
Jurgen Klinsmann's roster reflects his team's yellow card problem. With Costa Rica looking for revenge at home on Friday and the cage match against Mexico on Tuesday, Klinsmann had to make sure he had backup players to cover for his starters should they pick up a second yellow card against Costa Rica.
As reported by USSoccer.com, between yellow cards and injuries Klinsmann has several of the home guard on speed dial:
We know that the problem is we’ll be having nine players going into that game with yellow cards, so anything can happen after that game. We put everybody on notice to be in touch with us, and if there are changes to be made after that game we’ll make those changes.
A Jozy Altidore injury scare over the weekend had a few tongues wagging about who would replace the star American target man, but Jozy reported to USMNT camp and was declared fit to play.
Klinsmann chose FC Augsburg fullback Michael Parkhurst over less experienced MLS fullbacks to replace Brad Evans for the qualifiers. Parkhurst, who already knows the Nats' system, was a logical choice for these key qualifiers.
All of the MLS players on the roster will miss key league games because MLS does not suspend play during international dates. MLS teams will also miss players competing for other national teams and the league will need to reconsider it's scheduling going forward if they don't want key playoff races affected by the league's intransigence over the international schedule.
If the U.S. qualifies this week, expect the roster for the October qualifiers to look very different from this one. A few MLS players may get a last change to impress Klinsmann.
This week we're dropping several players from the Home Guard because they appear to no longer be on Klinsmann's radar. Corey Ashe, Brad Davis, Sean Johnson and Alan Gordon could be called back but for the moment are not a part of Klinsmann's plans for Brazil.
All metrics courtesy of MLSsoccer.com.
Columbus Crew 0, Seattle Sounders 1
Brad Evans, Klinsmann's first choice at right back, injured his calf in the 19th minute of the Sounders victory over the Crew. It will be interesting to see if Evans plays in either of the Sounders two games during the USMNT camp.
Clint Dempsey continues to play well even if he isn't scoring goals. USMNT fans are anxious to know if Duece's international game was affected by his move to MLS and we'll have some answers after rounds seven and eight of the Hex.
Eddie Johnson only played 61 minutes against the Crew but he scored the Sounders' game winner. Since Altidore is available for the qualifiers and Landon Donovan returns to World Cup qualification, it remains to be seen how Klinsmann will use his athletic forward.
Clint Dempsey (90 minutes, 75 touches, 4 shots, 86% passing 10 turnovers, 9 defensive plays)
Brad Evans (19 minutes, 20 touches, 88% passing, 3 turnovers, 3 defensive plays)
Eddie Johnson (61 minutes, 47 touches, 1 goal, 1 shot, 68% passing, 9 turnovers, 1 defensive play)
Sporting Kansas City
CD Olimpia 0, Sporting KC 2
Graham Zusi started and went the full 90 minutes in Sporting's away victory in the CONCACAF Champion's League tournament. He then put in a full 90 in their win over the Rapids.
After missing four games following an injury, Zusi had to show Klinsmann he was ready to return to national team duty. Whether or not he sees any playing time after Donovan's return and the rising stock of Alejandro Bedoya remains to be seen.
Besler continues his solid play for Sporting and at the moment he has to be No. 1 on the U.S. depth chart at center back. He will likely pair with Omar Gonzalez for the Costa Rican game.
Matt Besler (90 minutes, 112 touches, 1 shot, 79% passing, 14 turnovers, 14 defensive plays)
Graham Zusi (180 minutes, 203 touches, 1 goal, 1 assist, 1 shot, 76% passing, 38 turnovers, 9 defensive plays)
LA Galaxy 3, San Jose Earthquake 0
After a year's hiatus and exile, Landon Donovan returns to the full national team for a World Cup qualifier. As he has all along, Donovan continues to be humble about his place on the team:
So even if I’m not playing, I think there’s ways I can be impactful and help the group. In a perfect world I get to play, but at the end of the day I want us to qualify and I want us to do well in the World Cup regardless of how much I contribute on the field.
Not playing? Yeah, right.
Expect Donovan to start on one of the wings and keep your eye on him during the run of play as he pops up on the other side of the field as an inverted winger.
Omar Gonzalez continues his solid play and will most likely pair with Besler in the middle of the U.S. defense. Both Gonzalez's and Besler's metrics reveal players heavily involved in their team's passing games and active on defense.
Landon Donovan (90 minutes, 94 touches, 1 goal, 2 shots, 69% passing, 16 turnovers, 6 defensive plays)
Omar Gonzalez (90 minutes, 100 touches, 86% passing, 10 turnovers, 19 defensive plays)
San Jose Earthquake
What does Wondo have to do?
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
CD Heredia 1, San Jose Earthquakes0
LA Galaxy 3, San Jose Earthquakes 0
Neither of the Earthquake's home guard were called in for these qualifiers but both are on call.
Clarence Goodson appeared to resurrect his national team career with a steady job during last summer's Gold Cup championship run. But Klinsmann's latest dual national acquisition, John Brooks, has once again moved Goodson far enough down the depth chart that his services were not required.
Chris Wondolowski's five goals in the Gold Cup were quickly forgotten as he rode the bench in the last two rounds of the tournament. He was not included in the Bosnia-Herzegovina roster and will stay in San Jose for these qualifiers.
So why keep him in the home guard? Because injuries happen and there will be some matches later in the year for which he may get a call.
Chris Wondolowski (180 minutes, 130 touches, 5 shots, 2 on target, 80% passing, 14 turnovers, 11 defensive plays)
Clarence Goodson (90 minutes, 69 touches, 1 shot, 65% passing, 12 turnovers, 16 defensive plays)
Real Salt Lake
Kyle Beckerman's contribution to the Gold Cup run improved his stock going into the last four rounds of World Cup qualifying. Add to this the fact that his passing percentage in MLS hovers around 90 percent, throw in two goals and an assist in his last two games, and Beckerman's form was simply too good for Klinsmann to ignore.
If Bradley or Jones pick up a card in Friday's game, Beckerman could get the start against Mexico.
Nick Rimando will be the third keeper in the warm-up line, but first choice keeper Tim Howard is carrying a yellow card. Rimando is one card and one injury from playing in a World Cup qualifier.
Kyle Beckerman (90 minutes, 91 touches, 1 assist, 1 shot, 94% passing, 5 turnovers, 14 defensive plays.
Nick Rimando (2 goals against, 2 saves)
New England Revoluti0on
Juan Agudelo did not receive the call for this round of qualifying but he is still in the national team picture.
Klinsmann doesn't choose his final World Cup roster until May, at which time Agudelo will have half of an EPL season under his belt after he joins Stoke City in January.
Juan Agudelo (78 minutes, 45 touches, 80% passing, 6 turnovers, 1 defensive play)
Home Guard Surprises
Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports
Klinsmann said after releasing his roster that he is nowhere close to settling on a final World Cup roster and there will be more opportunities for players to earn a spot in Brazil.
The good part about all of our work over the last 6-8 months is we deepened our roster, we deepened our possibilities in selecting specific players and all the players not called into Costa Rica are still in the loop going forward.
With Aron Johannsson and John Brooks, Klinsmann added two new players in just the last month who are already called in for World Cup qualification.
Are there any MLS players not yet in the World Cup roster discussion who you think could surprise everyone by punching a ticket to Brazil?