As soccer has continued to grow in America, the player pool for the United States men’s national team has continued to grow with it. With so many players to pick from, the job of USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann is not easy.
As American internationals play far more games with their club teams than with the U.S., club form has to be a factor when Klinsmann is evaluating players. But some players can never seem to replicate their fine club form when playing for the Red, White and Blue.
Here are seven of them.
Timmy Chandler has been a fixture in Nuremberg’s lineup in the German Bundesliga for three seasons, but in that time has only appeared for the USMNT 10 times. He made his first appearances for the U.S. in the spring of 2011, but then was left off the Gold Cup roster (which would have cap-tied Chandler to the U.S.) that summer due to a combination of “little injuries” and fatigue.
The U.S. struggled in the Gold Cup, particularly in the final at outside back (Chandler can play on either side) and head coach Bob Bradley was fired. Under new head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, Chandler returned to the roster in the fall of 2011 and made six straight starts for the U.S.
However, when World Cup qualifying began in the spring of 2012 (also games that would have cap-tied him), Chandler was again not part of the squad this time due to his need to “take a break.” And again in the fall of 2012, Chandler was not part of the squad citing his desire to “concentrate on Nurnberg right now.”
In fact, in 2012 and 2013 combined, Chandler has only appeared for the Nats twice—once in a friendly against Russia in November 2012 and against Honduras in February 2013. Ironically, the appearance against Honduras was in a World Cup qualifier, thus cap-tying Chandler, but he has not appeared for the U.S. since.
Against Honduras, Chandler was outright terrible and received a thorough and well-deserved lambasting in the player ratings from a variety of writers. Part of this was no doubt due to Jurgen Klinsmann’s poorly conceived off-balance formation for the game and part of it was likely due to Chandler’s lack of acclimation to the Honduras jungle after spending a winter playing in Germany.
However, that poor performance and his repeated lack of commitment to the team over the years have earned him an exile from Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad ever since.
Over the past two years, Edgar Castillo has enjoyed the best run of club form in his career. He has been a regular starter for Tijuana in Liga MX and received plaudits over and over again for his performances.
That club form has led Jurgen Klinsmann to call Castillo up to the USMNT on repeated occasions, but with the U.S., Castillo has struggled to prove himself.
Despite some bright attacking play at times, Castillo has been a major liability defensively. And, seeing that he plays left-back, that’s a pretty big liability.
Chris Wondolowski was the top scorer in Major League Soccer in 2010, 2011 and 2012. And considering he earned that honor over players like Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and Thierry Henry, it only makes sense that Wondolowski should be a top international player.
However, when playing for the USMNT, Wondolowski has been a bust. In fact, leading up to this summer’s Gold Cup, Wondo had never scored for the U.S. and his only international goals to date remain in those three blowout wins from this summer.
Kyle Beckerman largely falls into the same category as Wondolowski in that both have had outstanding MLS careers, but have never been impact players for the USMNT. Beckerman is widely regarded as one of the best players in MLS, but is also widely criticized for his performances with the U.S.
That’s not to say that Beckerman has not had some good moments with the U.S.—his play in this summer’s Gold Cup was solid as was his performance against Mexico in September with Michael Bradley out injured. But Beckerman has also had his nightmare performances—his play against Jamaica in September 2012 stands out as perhaps his all-time worst game.
Part of Beckerman’s problem is that he plays as a holding midfielder, a position at which the U.S. is stacked. Part of the problem is also that Beckerman does not seem to have the athleticism required to keep up with the forwards and attacking midfielders at the international level.
Alejandro Bedoya was one of the few bright spots for the USMNT at the 2011 Gold Cup, providing some solid attacking play. Then, under new manager Jurgen Klinsmann, Bedoya couldn’t manage to get a call-up.
Bedoya turned his national team fortunes around this summer, again at the Gold Cup, and has recently started the last five games for the USMNT.
However, while Bedoya has been playing well for his new club team Nantes and earned the faith of Klinsmann, his performances this fall were underwhelming. During this recent five-game stretch, with the U.S. at times missing regular attackers Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan and Graham Zusi, Bedoya failed to be an impact player for the U.S. when he was needed most.
His lone contribution over those five starts was one assist—which came on a botched pass in the game against Jamaica.
Sacha Kljestan has been a regular for Champions League side and Belgian powerhouse Anderlecht for the past four seasons. In the past, an American playing for a Champions League side would have virtually guaranteed that player a spot in the starting XI for the USMNT.
However, with Kljestan, that has rarely been the case. Part of that is due to Klinsmann’s bizarre love affair with Jermaine Jones. Part of it has been due to the U.S.’s unusual depth at the center-midfielder position, where Kljestan has had to compete with Michael Bradley, Jones, Beckerman, Danny Williams and Jose Torres, among others.
Kljestan is neither a prototypical No. 6 or No. 10 and Klinsmann has only used a No. 8 on a few occasions. Furthermore, Kljestan’s game is not flashy, it is based on simple, short passes. And when Kljestan has been given the chance to play, his performances have always been underwhelming. Against Belgium, Panama and Scotland—Kljestan’s three starts in 2013—he has produced few, if any, memorable moments.
To look at Jermaine Jones’ club resume, one would assume he is a superstar with the USMNT. Jones has been playing professionally in Germany for 14 years, has been a regular starter in the Bundesliga and has years of Champions League experience under his belt.
However, with the USMNT, Jones’ performances have always been schizophrenic, at best. Sometimes he appears to be the hard-working destroyer on which he has built his club career, covering loads of ground and protecting the U.S. back line. At other times, his performances have ranged from outright dirty, to sloppy to lazy—certainly not what one would expect out of a Champions League-quality midfielder.
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