The United States men’s national team and head coach Jurgen Klinsmann will kick off their 2014 calendar with a uniquely American soccer tradition—the USMNT January camp.
Often called “Camp Cupcake”—a reference to the fact that the camp involves many of the U.S.’ “B” and “C” team players—the January camp will offer Klinsmann a chance to look at many players who would not normally get an international call-up. Because many of the big European leagues are in full swing when the camp takes place, many roster spots that would normally be occupied by USMNT regulars are now open.
Here are 20 players Jurgen Klinsmann should consider looking at in the January camp.
Before discussing the 20 players Jurgen Klinsmann should consider calling in, it must be noted that based on his roster choices over the past year, there are a number of players who are virtual locks for a January call-up.
Major League Soccer’s Clarence Goodson, Brad Davis, Graham Zusi, Matt Besler, Landon Donovan, Nick Rimando, Sean Johnson, Bill Hamid, Tally Hall, Brad Evans, Kyle Beckerman, Eddie Johnson, Chris Wondolowski and Omar Gonzalez are all very likely call-ups as is Norwegian-based Mix Diskerud, whose Tippealigaen schedule does not resume until March 30.
At this point, Zusi, Besler, Donovan, Rimando, Evans, Eddie Johnson, Gonzalez and Diskerud all have the inside track to make the World Cup roster and Goodson and Beckerman have a very good chance as well.
The other goalkeepers, Sean Johnson, Hall and Hamid, have all received call-ups over the past year, but considering the abilities of Tim Howard, Brad Guzan and Rimando, it is very unlikely any of them will make the World Cup roster.
Davis and Wondolowski have all seen multiple call-ups over the past year and while they have contributed—Wondolowski in the Gold Cup and Davis recently with two assists against Panama—many fans would prefer to see some new faces called in.
While most European-based American players will be unavailable for the camp due to their club commitments, a few, besides Diskerud, could be called in.
Based on their lack of playing time and absent a January transfer, Brek Shea, Maurice Edu and Michael Parkhurst would all be good selections. None of the three see any regular time with their clubs.
Edu and Parkhurst have not played a single minute for their respective clubs this season, but could still have an outside chance at a World Cup roster spot due to the lack of depth at their respective positions. Although they have fallen off the USMNT depth chart in recent months, both Parkhurst and Edu received regular minutes in World Cup qualifying for the U.S.
Similarly, Shea has only played 31 league minutes for Stoke this season and has not even made the bench in recent weeks. Long a favorite of Klinsmann, Shea could make the U.S. World Cup roster due to his ability to break a game open as a late substitute.
One dark-horse candidate from Europe could also be Conor O’Brien, who has been a regular in the Danish Superliga for the past three seasons, most recently with OB.
Terrence Boyd could be called in as Rapid Vienna are on winter break, but his club has a game on February 8 and will likely want him training with the club.
Over the past year, there has been a large amount of turnover on the U.S. back line. Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler are assumed by many to be the starters at this point, but after that, the picture gets murky.
At center-back, the U.S. may have Geoff Cameron, but Cameron could also play on the left, right or in the midfield. John Anthony Brooks may also be with the squad, but has suffered from a spate of recent injuries as well as a drop in form, and he is still eligible to represent Germany internationally. Clarence Goodson will likely be called up, but Goodson is a short-term stopgap at best.
Although they would all be long shots to make the U.S. World Cup roster, Klinsmann should call in several center-backs including Shane O’Neil, Chris Schuler and Amobi Okugo.
O’Neill, who represented the U.S. at the U-20 World Cup this summer, had a strong MLS campaign in 2013 and is worth a look. Schuler may not be able to participate in the January camp due to a recent foot surgery, but his strong play for Real Salt Lake in 2013 was a major reason they played for the MLS Cup.
Okugo has also represented the U.S. at the youth levels and was one of the few bright spots for the Philadelpia Union this season.
One final player who Klinsmann could look at is former U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra. Bocanegra has been an outcast of the USMNT since February, but up until that point was the most reliable player on the U.S. back line. Klinsmann never fully explained why he dropped Bocanegra from the team and owes the former captain one last shot at proving he’s worth bringing to Brazil.
Who the U.S. will put on the field at right and left-back in Brazil remains a mystery. Steve Cherundolo is still working his way back from injury, Eric Lichaj’s club play has been sporadic and Jurgen Klinsmann has seemed reticent to use Geoff Cameron on the outside.
Brad Evans and DaMarcus Beasley have deputized admirably, but few believe they are long-term answers for the U.S.
With only five full months until Brazil, Klinsmann needs to bring in some fresh blood and should call in Andrew Farrell, Seth Sinovic, DeAndre Yedlin and Chris Klute.
Sinovic has been a major part of the best defense in Major League Soccer with Sporting KC the last two seasons. Klute, Yedlin and Farrell are all 23 years old or younger and are widely considered among the best outside backs in MLS. Even if they aren’t good enough to make the World Cup squad this time around, all three will be in the running going forward and Klinsmann should take the opportunity to bring them in now.
While the U.S. midfield is fairly deep, there are a number of players Jurgen Klinsmann should look at. Dax McCarty had another outstanding season for the New York Red Bulls and even though he is likely not on Klinsmann’s radar, his work should be rewarded.
Benny Feilhaber was one of Bob Bradley’s most heavily used substitutes in the 2010 World Cup and his outstanding play for Sporting KC in the Major League Soccer playoffs helped lead them to the title. The big question with Feilhaber is, can anyone get the best out of him consistently?
A number of youngsters also deserve a look, even if it is just for the future. Dillon Powers, Kelyn Rowe and Luis Gil all had strong seasons in MLS and could be the future of the U.S. midfield after 2014. Gil and Rowe, in particular, have the type of creative passing that the USMNT seems to suffer from a lack of.
The U.S. player pool at forward is pretty stacked right now with Jozy Altidore, Eddie Johnson and Aron Johannsson, but Klinsmann should use the January camp to take a look at Juan Agudelo and Mike Magee.
Agudelo had another strong season in Major League Soccer and showed off his quality with a number of jaw-dropping goals. If Agudelo can hit a consistent run of goal-scoring, his potential is limitless. Attendance at the January camp is also contingent on Agudelo not making a January move abroad.
Mike Magee, at 29 years old, is no spring chicken and this is surely his last shot at the USMNT. However, Magee showed in 2013 that he is among the elite MLS strikers with 21 goals and won the league MVP award. In 2011 and 2012, he helped lead the L.A. Galaxy to back-to-back titles and can play as both a striker and a wide midfielder. He has earned a call-up.
Finally, Klinsmann should call in goalkeeper Steve Clark. Clark was the Tippeligaen’s 2012 Goalkeeper of the Year and was recently acquired by the Columbus Crew. Clark was originally forced to go abroad as no one in MLS would sign him, but proved with Honefoss in Norway that he has USMNT potential.
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