USMNT's Loss to Ukraine Was Exactly What Klinsmann Needed for World Cup Prep

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMarch 5, 2014

Getty Images

For United States men's national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, losing is not a bad result with a major roster decision just two months away. 

In the United States' 2-0 loss to Ukraine, Klinsmann was able to cut a few players from his prospective World Cup squad thanks to some horrific performances on the pitch in Larnaca, Cyprus. 

Klinsmann once again learned that the defensive options behind Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler at center-back are slim and that he desperately needs a healthy, in-form Michael Bradley in Brazil. 

Center-back and defensive midfield were two of the biggest concerns for the Yanks Wednesday as Oguchi Onyewu, John Brooks and Sacha Kljestan looked hapless against a Ukrainian side that barely missed out on the World Cup.

Onyewu, who was ready to become the feel-good story of the World Cup roster after his long fight back to being a full-time first-team player, fell flat in almost every aspect of the game. 

LARNACA, CYPRUS - MARCH 05:  Oguchi Onyewu (R) of the USA in action during the Ukraine v USA International Friendly  at Antonis Papadopoulos stadium on March 5, 2014 in Larnaca, Cyprus.  (Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Getty Images)
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Getty Images

He lacked the presence to help out goalkeeper Tim Howard on both goals as he stood there and watched his opponents knock home two very meaningful rebounds.

The 31-year-old also failed to deliver some valuable leadership to his center-back partner, Brooks, who is still in the beginning phase of his national team career. 

Instead of Onyewu stepping up to the plate and showing Klinsmann he is worthy of being named to his third consecutive World Cup squad, he left many wondering if he will ever be called up again. 

Another player who could be facing the same national team abandonment is Kljestan, who was given a chance to shine yet again and failed to impress.

Kljestan's time should be up with the national team. The 28-year-old has been handed chance after chance, and he has not delivered anything worthy of praise lately.

Some may claim that Kljestan is on the squad because he plays in the UEFA Champions League for Belgian side Anderlecht, but that reasoning means much less than it did a few years ago.

Lest we forget the awful performance from left-back Edgar Castillo, who for some reason is still in the national team conversation.

With no true healthy replacement for DaMarcus Beasley at left-back, Castillo has stayed with the national team as a reserve and hasn't done much in games with the so-called "B" team.

As the World Cup nears, the time has come to ditch Castillo and let Fabian Johnson become the extra left-back that Klinsmann needs in Brazil. Johnson is just a better, more versatile player than Castillo, and Klinsmann will want his best 23 players on the plane to Brazil.  

Brooks also showed some deficiencies at the back, but he is still young and can learn from his mistakes. That said, the 21-year-old Hertha Berlin defender was never going to be a massive part of the defensive setup in Brazil, but he did have an outside chance of making the 23-man squad. 

With his performance against Ukraine, in which he showed plenty of indecision with the hapless Onyewu alongside him, Brooks made a statement that he is one for the future, not the present. 

Those three ugly performances helped Klinsmann determine who should be left home when the May 13 roster deadline comes. It also opened the door for some MLS-based players to make their mark in the next two months because there are a few fringe spots still left to be claimed. 

Klinsmann also got a look at who his real starters will be when the Yanks line up against Ghana for their first game in Natal on June 16. 

Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore were absolutely terrible during their time on the pitch Wednesday, and their time as starters could be dwindling down. Altidore's position in the United States lineup should have been given away earlier to Aron Johannsson, but now it looks like a certainty. 

LARNACA, CYPRUS - MARCH 05:  Yevhen Khachiridi (R) of Ukraine, Jozy Altidore (C) of the USA and Olexandr Kucher of Ukraine in action during the Ukraine v USA International Friendly  at Antonis Papadopoulos stadium on March 5, 2014 in Larnaca, Cyprus.  (Ph
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Getty Images

Johannsson had the best chance of the game in the 87th minute when his volley was deflected off the line by Oleg Gusev. 

The 23-year-old has found plenty of goal-scoring opportunities off the bench since his United States debut, and it's about time he gets rewarded with a start.  

Dempsey's case is a curious one because just 12 months ago he was arguably the best American player out there. Deuce's form can only be compared to a car falling off the steep slope of a cliff. Yes, watching Dempsey play has become that painful. 

With the likes of Landon Donovan, Graham Zusi, Eddie Johnson and Alejandro Bedoya ready and willing to fill the three attacking midfield roles in Brazil, Dempsey could be relegated to the bench.

Klinsmann certainly has plenty of other difficult decisions in front of him, but thanks to the ugly showing by some of his players against Ukraine, his job became a bit easier. 


Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.