On Sunday, Jurgen Klinsmann announced his 20-man roster for the United States men’s national team’s final two World Cup qualifiers.
While the U.S. has already qualified for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Klinsmann has repeatedly said he will use these last two games as further preparation for the World Cup and not as an opportunity to scout new talent. As part of Sunday’s roster release, Klinsmann said, “We want to finish qualifying on a high note and prove a point in our region. We don’t view these games as the end of World Cup qualifying. For us, it’s the start of preparations for the World Cup, and therefore we have to continue to raise the bar.”
Here is a breakdown of the roster.
The Obvious Choices
The roster that Klinsmann and U.S. Soccer released on Sunday is arguably the least controversial roster ever put together in the Klinsmann era.
At goalkeeper, Klinsmann selected Brad Guzan, Tim Howard and Nick Rimando. In the back, the U.S. will bring in DaMarcus Beasley, Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron, Edgar Castillo, Brad Evans and Omar Gonzalez. In the midfield, Kyle Beckerman, Alejandro Bedoya, Mix Diskerud, Jermaine Jones, Sacha Kljestan and Graham Zusi were called in. At forward, Klinsmann selected Jozy Altidore, Terrence Boyd, Landon Donovan, Aron Johannsson and Eddie Johnson.
All 20 players called in by Klinsmann have been regular fixtures of the roster over the last six months.
The U.S. will likely be putting a piece-meal lineup on the field over the next two games, with many key players not called in due to injury. The obvious injury omissions are Clint Dempsey (hamstring), Fabian Johnson (ankle), Michael Bradley (ankle) and John Anthony Brooks (elbow).
The Question Marks
Even with a roster full of expected call-ups, there are still a few questions to be answered. First of all, Klinsmann only used 20 of his 23 roster spots, something very unusual for international matches. If the team picks up an injury or two during training, it may be forced to bring in emergency replacements. If those players happen to be coming from Europe, the timetable could get pretty tight.
If Klinsmann happens to use Geoff Cameron at center-back or holding mid, there is no backup right-back because Klinsmann only called in six defenders. Not called in were Eric Lichaj, who is enjoying a career season in the English Championship, Birmingham stalwart Jonathan Spector, Augsburg outcast Michael Parkhurst, Puebla regular Michael Orozco and Nuremberg defender Timmy Chandler.
If Klinsmann isn’t willing to call them up now, one has to wonder if they have any chance whatsoever of making the World Cup roster. And, with right-back such a question mark for the U.S., one has to question the wisdom of such a decision.
Clarence Goodson also wasn’t called up. The center-back position should be well attended to with Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez and Geoff Cameron, but again, if Cameron is used elsewhere, there is no backup at center-back.
Alejandro Bedoya was called up despite missing this weekend’s game for Nantes due to illness. Edgar Castillo was called in despite repeated performances that have been less than confidence-inspiring, while some thought his club teammate and fellow left-back Greg Garza was worth looking at this camp. Also omitted were Castillo’s Tijuana teammates Herculez Gomez, Joe Corona and youngster Paul Arriolla, who some thought was a dark-horse candidate for a call-up.
Sacha Kljestan was somewhat of a surprise call-up after being snubbed during the September qualifiers.
Against Panama and Jamaica, Klinsmann will have a number of important decisions to make. First and foremost, what midfield combination will he use with Michael Bradley out injured?
He will also need to decide whether or not to give Geoff Cameron another chance at right-back after a poor performance there this summer against Belgium and whether or not to give Aron Johannsson a start to see what he can do with a longer stretch of playing time.
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