Austria vs. USA: USMNT Players to Watch in Final Match of 2013

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistNovember 19, 2013

SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA - SEPTEMBER 05:  Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann of the United States converses with United States Men's National Team during the United States Training Session at Estadio Nacional on September 5, 2013 in San Jose, Costa Rica.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The United States has enjoyed a successful 2013 regardless of the outcome in a year-ending friendly with Austria. The Americans qualified for the World Cup, won the Gold Cup and put together a 12-match winning streak.

Germany and Bosnia and Herzegovina were among the teams the United States knocked off during that impressive run. The improved form and positive results allowed the U.S. to rise up the FIFA rankings, reaching No. 13 in the latest release.

The squad is coming off a lackluster draw with Scotland last week, however, which should lead to a more-inspired performance against Austria as the side tries to end the year on a high note. Let's check out some players to watch in the road friendly.

 

 

Aron Johannsson

KANSAS CITY, KS - OCTOBER 11:  Aron Johannsson #9 of the U.S. Men's National Soccer Team defends against Ryan Johnson #9 of Jamaica in the first half at Sporting Park on October 11, 2013 in Kansas City, Kansas.  (Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images)
Kyle Rivas/Getty Images

One problem the United States continues to deal with, especially when Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan don't play, is finding somebody to take some pressure off Jozy Altidore. At times, he's based out on an island up front, and that makes it difficult for him to make an impact.

The emergence of Johannsson, who took over Altidore's role at AZ Alkmaar after he left for the Premier League, could solve the issue. He's only made a handful of appearances for the U.S., but he's constantly making plays moving forward when given the opportunity.

Against Scotland, the Americans were struggling to produce anything of substance in the final third. Johannsson came on after the hour mark and created several chances, including one where a nice run set him up for a clear look that went wide.

Giving him a bigger role against Austria, either as a second striker with Altidore or on the outside of the midfielder where he can push forward, should help the American attack.

 

Eric Lichaj

HOUSTON - JUNE 22:  Eric Lichaj #14 of the U.S.A. fends off  Armando Cooper #11 of Panama as he rushes the ball up the field at Reliant Stadium on June 22, 2011 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

The right-back position remains wide open for the United States. Jurgen Klinsmann has tried a wide variety of options since taking over as manager, but none have been able to lock down the job with consistent play like DaMarcus Beasley has done on the opposite side.

Lichaj is the latest player to get a chance. The Nottingham Forest defender got about 20 minutes of action against Scotland. That's not nearly enough to make any type of assessment about his status, though. He should get more playing time in 2013 finale.

The other option right now is Brad Evans. A natural midfielder, Evans is an example that shows not everybody can make a smooth transition to the back like Beasley did. While he hasn't been terrible, he hasn't done anything to secure the spot, either.

It opens the door for Lichaj. Good form in the remaining friendlies and at the club level could allow him to become the starter heading into the World Cup.

 

Mix Diskerud

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 10: Mix Diskerud #14 of the United States Men's National Team in action against Mexico at Columbus Crew Stadium on September 10, 2013 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Diskerud will be an interesting player to watch leading up to next summer. Klinsmann has a midfield logjam to sort through, especially if the plan is to have Altidore operate as a lone striker, leaving Donovan and Dempsey to attacking midfield spots.

The 23-year-old rising star's best way of cracking the starting lineup might be putting his versatility on display, making him an alternative to Jermaine Jones alongside Michael Bradley in the holding midfield roles. Otherwise, there's a chance he gets lost in the shuffle.

If he's deployed in his more natural central role against Austria, he needs to make a major impression. The best way to do that is attacking with pace to create chances for Altidore and Johannsson, something other midfielders have struggled to do.

Should Diskerud carve out a niche for himself in the coming months, he has the potential to become a major asset for the United States in Brazil. Whether that will happen is very much up in the air.