Over the next week, the United States men's national team has international friendlies against Scotland and Austria. While the U.S. has already qualified for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the games will provide some important information to head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, as he begins to whittle down his list of names for the U.S.' 23-man roster.
Here's his predicted roster.
Brad Guzan's form over the past year for his club, Aston Villa, may have placed some doubt over which U.S. goalkeeper is starting next summer in Brazil, but there is no doubt at all that USMNT stalwart Tim Howard will be on the roster.
Howard has been the U.S.' No. 1 since 2007 and, barring injury, is as close to a lock to make the roster as they come.
It's as good a problem a coach can possibly have, as Jurgen Klinsmann has two goalkeepers playing well in the top-flight in England with Tim Howard and Brad Guzan.
Guzan was left off the U.S.' most recent roster with an injury, but there's little doubt he'll be on the squad in Brazil.
He's certainly not the biggest goalkeeper out there at only 5' 10" tall, but Nick Rimando is one of the best pure shot stoppers—bar none.
The three-time Major League Soccer All-Star has solidified his place as the U.S.' No. 3 over the past two years with outstanding club performances for Real Salt Lake and a good run this summer with the USMNT in the Gold Cup.
John Anthony Brooks, a dual national who is still eligible to represent Germany, saw his first taste of the USMNT against Bosnia in August. The towering 6' 4" center-back was instrumental to Hertha Berlin's promotion from Bundesliga 2 last season, and Brooks was a regular starter this season in the German top-flight before he dislocated his elbow and missed several weeks.
Brooks was part of the U.S.' September World Cup qualifying camp, but he did not play and, thus, was not cap-tied to the USMNT. In fact, the next time Brooks could be cap-tied to the U.S. will be at the 2014 World Cup.
His inclusion in the roster for the November friendlies is a promising sign, however, and if he commits to the U.S., not only will he likely make the roster, he could provide some stiff competition for a starting spot in the U.S.' lineup.
Geoff Cameron's ability to play left, right and center-back, as well as holding midfielder, make him a virtual lock for the roster. Cameron is also a regular starter for English Premier League side Stoke City.
Figuring out where he'll play for the U.S. is the only real decision Jurgen Klinsmann will have to make regarding Cameron.
Over the past year, Matt Besler has quietly become the most consistent center-back in the USMNT player pool. His performances are never flashy, but his positioning is excellent, and he possesses the ball well out of the back—a trait Jurgen Klinsmann is particularly high on.
Omar Gonzalez still has a bad habit of making mistakes in big moments, but his performance in September against Mexico was the best of his USMNT career. He appears to be getting more comfortable at the international level with each game and gives the U.S. a much-needed physical presence in the air.
Along with DaMarcus Beasley, a converted winger, Steve Cherundolo is the most experienced defender in the USMNT player pool. He missed the past year of international fixtures rehabbing two separate knee surgeries, but he made Hannover's game-day squad last week for the first time in months.
Assuming he continues to make progress in his recovery, he should be on the roster. The fact that no one has made an overwhelming claim at right-back in the year Dolo has been missing says more than enough.
Brad Evans being included on the World Cup roster is likely to excite no one outside the Evans family.
While he has deputized well in the abyss at right-back over the past year, there are still serious questions of his ability to handle top-flight wingers and forwards, and he lacks any sort of attacking flair.
Timmy Chandler looks to be permanently frozen out of the U.S. squad, so unless Eric Lichaj, Michael Orozco, Michael Parkhurst or DeAndre Yedlin state their case strongly and soon, Evans will be in Brazil.
Plenty of U.S. fans are still not excited about DaMarcus Beasley staking his claim at left-back, but like it or not, Beasley has done well enough to continue to earn call-ups.
His lack of height and strength are vulnerabilities, but there is no doubt as to his willingness to battle or his recovery speed. He gets forward well, and after years of having no viable left-back in the entire USMNT player pool, Beasley should be welcome as a solid, if unspectacular, option.
Jurgen Klinsmann continues to count Fabian Johnson as a midfielder, as he did again on the U.S. roster for the November friendlies, but at some point, Klinsmann will come to the realization that Johnson is needed in the back.
He's certainly a better option than Beasley at left-back, and the alternative to having Beasley and Johnson occupy the two left-back slots is not good. If Klinsmann decides to only bring Beasley as a left-back and still start Johnson in the midfield with both men playing at the same time, the U.S. could be left with neither if they both got injured or ran into yellow card trouble. The alternative to that is Klinsmann being forced to bring along Edgar Castillo for cover. Neither is an appealing option.
Jermaine Jones remains persona non grata with many USMNT fans due to his frustratingly inconsistent performances, but there is no doubt he is a favorite of Jurgen Klinsmann.
He'll be with the squad barring injury.
Michael Bradley is, quite simply, the USMNT's best and most important player. He is the engine of the midfield and contributes with his work rate, leadership, attitude, short-passing game, long-passing game, tackling and his ability to score.
Mix Diskerud can contribute as both a holding or attacking midfielder in the USMNT's 4-2-3-1. He has an ability on the ball few other than Michael Bradley can match and is as calm in traffic as they come. Over the past few months, he has proven himself to be an indispensable part of the squad.
How Jurgen Klinsmann rounds out his center midfield choices should get interesting. He could, of course, go with Kyle Beckerman, who he has shown a strong preference towards over the years. He could even not call up a fourth center midfielder and rely on Geoff Cameron's versatility to use the roster spot at another position.
But on current form, it's tough to argue that Sacha Kljestan doesn't deserve that fourth spot in the center midfielder pool.
Graham Zusi has never been big among USMNT fans, but they have to respect his ability to produce. Since becoming a regular with the squad in 2012, Zusi has provided important assist after important assist and done as much as any other attacking player over the past year to guarantee his spot on the World Cup roster.
In the right form, Zusi could even push Landon Donovan out of the starting XI.
Jurgen Klinsmann and Landon Donovan have never seemed to have the most harmonious relationship, but Donovan's experience, leadership and legendary status are too much to leave out of the team. Donovan proved this summer that he can still be a difference maker for the USMNT, and the coach and USMNT legend will have to put any potential personal disagreements aside.
Alejandro Bedoya couldn't get a serious look from Jurgen Klinsmann prior to this summer's Gold Cup, but since then, he has had a meteoric rise for club and country. Bedoya didn't endear himself to U.S. fans with his very average performances in the October qualifiers, but the Ligue 1 winger is in good club form, and Klinsmann seems to have taken a shine to him.
Bedoya's inclusion will likely push others, like Joe Corona, Brek Shea and Jose Torres, off the roster.
Since Clint Dempsey transferred to the Seattle Sounders this summer, he has appeared a shadow of his former goal-scoring self. However, after witnessing his play this summer against Germany when he was in form, one has to believe he will return to his former self sooner rather than later.
Dempsey was appointed captain of the team this summer and will more than likely be the starting attacking midfielder when the U.S. lines up in Brazil.
Jozy Altidore is another USMNT player whose club form leaves much to be desired, but Altidore's goalscoring form for the U.S. returned this summer, as he led the line in June and scored a hat trick against Bosnia in August.
He's the U.S.' starting No. 9 come Brazil.
Eddie Johnson has been a one-man wrecking crew for the USMNT of late, scoring five goals in his last eight games. He is an absolute weapon in the air on set pieces, and his speed is still something to be feared. Although he'll probably be a "super-sub" in Brazil, there's little doubt he'll be on the roster.
Already in in the 2013-14 season, AZ Alkmaar striker Aron Johannsson has 14 goals. He also scored his first goal for the USMNT against Panama last month. If Johannsson can prove that he can play out wide in Jurgen Klinsmann's 4-2-3-1, it will only increase his value to the team and make it even more likely he makes the final roster cut.
Picking the last spot on the U.S.' roster is going to be tough. If Jurgen Klinsmann plans on using Geoff Cameron at positions other than center-back, adding another central defender like Clarence Goodson makes sense.
If Klinsmann sees Mix Diskerud primarily as an attacking midfielder, room could be made for Kyle Beckerman, even if it is just to have him as a good "locker room" guy.
Klinsmann could opt for more depth at full-back with Edgar Castillo or even Michael Orozco, who can double as both a right-back and center-back.
Or Klinsmann could look to lock down one more "super-sub" like Joe Corona or Brek Shea.
Finally, there could be a wildcard coming from a resurgence in form for Herculez Gomez, a miraculous return from injury for Stuart Holden or a youngster like Paul Arriola or Julian Green pushing their way into the team.
In the end, though, on current form, the final spot goes to Terrence Boyd. Adding a fourth striker onto a team that usually only plays with one seems superfluous, and it probably is. But the Rapid Vienna forward has 10 goals already this season in the Austrian Bundesliga and deserves to make the trip.
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