5 USMNT Players Who Will Be Unsung Heroes at the World Cup
It is easy to predict who the stars of the 2014 FIFA World Cup will be for the United States, but it is much more difficult to guess who the unsung heroes of the tournament will be.
With three tough group games against Ghana, Portugal and Germany ahead for the Yanks in Brazil, there are sure to be a few performances by players that get lost in the discussion of star performances.
Here is a look at five players who could fill the role of unsung hero for the United States this summer.
Before you get to criticizing the choice of Jermaine Jones for this list, which I honestly would if I saw this, think about it for a second.
Jones will most likely play alongside Michael Bradley in the defensive midfield of the 4-2-3-1 formation employed by Jurgen Klinsmann, and he will most likely receive no attention from anyone if he plays well.
The 32-year-old always finds his name in criticism from United States fans because of his propensity to pick up yellow cards.
If he can play a full match without picking up a booking and provide a few key passes in midfield, Jones will begin to gain some respect throughout the fanbase, but not gain any headlines because that is what a normal defensive midfielder is supposed to do.
However, if Jones picks up a card in the game following that potentially strong performance, all will be quickly forgotten.
Matt Besler has been one-half of the reason why the play at the center-back position has improved in the last year for the United States.
The Sporting Kansas City player has paired well with Omar Gonzalez in the back to form a formidable center-back duo, but the contributions of the 26-year-old have gone somewhat unnoticed.
Gonzalez is the more recognizable of the pair, and he is more likely to venture forward in attack as well, but while the L.A. Galaxy man is doing that, Besler is holding the back line together in case of a counterattack.
With plenty of attacking talent ready to challenge him in Brazil, Besler must be ready to step up when called upon, and he should be up to the task presented to him.
In the best situation possible in Brazil, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan and Graham Zusi will start in the attacking part of the 4-2-3-1 midfield.
Zusi has had a rise in the national team camp similar to Besler's, but when it comes time for the World Cup, he will not receive much attention because of Dempsey and Donovan.
All of the pressure in the American attack will be on the two most experienced offensive-minded players on the roster, and whatever that duo does on the pitch will be analyzed.
That leaves room for Zusi to become a pleasant surprise to those who do not follow the national team on a consistent basis.
If all three midfielders have a spectacular game in Brazil, Zusi's name will most likely be the last one mentioned. Yet he could be the most important name in the midfield, especially if he continues to play like he did on Saturday against South Korea.
Experience is a wonderful thing to have at the World Cup—and that is exactly what DaMarcus Beasley brings to the table.
The holder of 114 caps for the Yanks has a plethora of experience at the club and international level that he could use to help mentor some of the younger players in the squad.
There is no guarantee that Beasley will start at left-back in Brazil, but there is a high probability that he will be one of the 23 players heading to Brazil.
If he is on the bench, which he could be due to the speed of the United States' group opponents, he could provide advice to the players involved in their first World Cup.
One player who could benefit greatly from Beasley's experience is Fabian Johnson, who could take over the job at left-back, if he is healthy, due to his quickness.
Whoever Starts at Right-Back
The right-back position is one that concerns every American fan, and they are more than willing to admit that.
No one has any idea who will start at the position when June rolls around, but there are a few solid candidates including Brad Evans, Steve Cherundolo, Timothy Chandler, Geoff Cameron and Michael Parkhurst.
Whoever starts at right-back will be under a massive amount of scrutiny, and if the player at the position fails to play well, he will hear about it forever.
However, if the starter at right-back plays well enough to shut down a powerful attack like the ones of Ghana, Portugal and Germany, he will not receive that much attention—and that is a good thing for a defender.
If the United States' right-back does play well for the duration of the tournament, we will not fully realize his contributions until the tournament is over.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.