The United States heads into the final set of World Cup qualifiers with a ticket to Brazil already in hand. Although the team's performance in the first eight matches of the hex was enough to earn a berth, the last two fixtures are not throwaway matches.
Juergen Klinsmann still has plenty of roster decisions to make between now and next summer. Matches like the one against Jamaica are a chance to evaluate where players stand right now and which ones deserve more looks moving forward.
Whether it's players hoping to lock down a spot in the starting lineup or those fighting to secure a spot on the World Cup roster, there's no shortage of motivation on the American side. Knowing that, let's examine three players to monitor against Jamaica.
For most of the last couple World Cup cycles Howard has been the United States' No. 1 goalkeeper almost by default. He's put together a solid string of seasons with Everton in the Premier League, and nobody else stepped up to challenge him for the spot.
That's no longer the case. Brad Guzan is building a strong case that he should take over between the pipes. He's showcased often tremendous form with Aston Villa since the new campaign began and should get some looks with the American squad.
Make no mistake, Howard is still the incumbent and should remain the No. 1 keeper unless Guzan clearly does enough to push him out of the spot. That said, the longtime Toffees star is being seriously challenged for the first time in awhile.
Beckerman is one of the most polarizing players to play for the United States in recent years. Some fans see him as a reliable defensive midfielder who plays a sound, conservative style while others don't think he brings enough to the table to warrant a consistent roster spot.
The Real Salt Lake veteran has a handful of months to prove the doubters wrong and show Klinsmann he can be a useful asset. With Michael Bradley out due to an ankle injury, he should get a chance to keep building that case against Jamaica.
Although he doesn't possess a ton of attacking skill aside from the simplest of transition passes, it's important for him to show more confidence moving forward when called upon. His defending will take care of the rest.
Consistency has been a question that's followed Altidore around for a while now. He was terrific for AZ Alkmaar but struggled with the national team. Now that he's found his stride with the U.S., he's having a hard time making an impact with Sunderland.
While level of competition is a factor of course, his swings in productivity are worrisome. Sure, Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey will give the squad some attacking depth in Brazil, but there's no doubt the team is at its best when a confident, in-form Altidore is atop the formation.
Based purely on his combination of physical strength and offensive ability, he should be able to dominate the Jamaican back line. He showed what he's capable of with a hat trick in the second half of a friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina. American fans and coaches want to see that more often.
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