Predicting the USMNT Squad 60 Days from the 2014 World Cup
With two months to go before the United States men's national team heads to Brazil and the 2014 World Cup, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has some difficult decisions to make in narrowing down his squad to a 23-man roster.
There are still plenty of questions, especially along the fringes of the squad, but here's how it's likely to shake out.
Goalkeeper: Tim Howard
One of the few positions on the field that seems 100% locked down is Tim Howard in the net. He's put in another solid year for Everton in the British Premier League and has shown no sign of giving up his place as the U.S.'s No. 1.
Goalkeeper: Brad Guzan
Firmly ensconced as the U.S.'s No. 2 goalkeeper is Brad Guzan. Guzan saw his stock rise considerably last season with Aston Villa and even deputized on a number of occasions for Howard during World Cup qualifying.
Goalkeeper: Nick Rimando
If there was anyone still not convinced that Nick Rimando is the U.S.'s third-choice goalkeeper, his performance in a friendly against Mexico two weeks ago certainly sealed the deal. In fact, if not for Rimando's excellence, the U.S. would certainly have lost the match.
Defender: Matt Besler
Matt Besler is still relatively inexperienced with only 14 international caps, but over the past year he's become the most consistent player in the U.S. back line. Not only is he a cinch to make the roster, but he's an odds-on favorite to be starting this summer.
Defender: Omar Gonzalez
Omar Gonzalez has had a rough start to 2014 with some high-profile errors for the LA Galaxy and a shaky performance against Mexico in the U.S.'s last friendly, in which he was at least partially culpable for both of El Tri's goals. He's been a favorite of Klinsmann over the past year, and while his recent form may have put in doubt his place in the starting XI, he's a lock to make the roster.
Defender: Clarence Goodson
Clarence Goodson is one of those players that no one's excited about because they know exactly what they're going to get from him—consistent, yet unspectacular play. When considering the drop in form of Omar Gonzalez, John Anthony Brooks and others, Goodson may not just make it onto the World Cup roster, but may even get him into the starting lineup. His lack of speed is still a concern, especially considering who the U.S. will be defending against in Brazil, but no one else has stepped up to take the spot away from him.
Defender: Geoff Cameron
No one seems to be quite sure what to do with Geoff Cameron—whether to play him at right-back, center-back or even as the team's holding midfielder. But one thing's for certain, Cameron will be in the squad and most likely in the starting XI. He's been one of the most consistent Yanks in Europe over the past two seasons and his possession-oriented skills are a must for the U.S. squad in Brazil.
Defender: Fabian Johnson
Like Cameron, Fabian Johnson is another player whose versatility makes it hard to pin down were he'll play for the U.S. However, there's little doubt that he'll be on the squad. Klinsmann has shown a preference to playing him in the midfield, but he also has vast experience playing full-back at club level. With the U.S.'s recent struggles to find a consistent player on the right side of their defense, that may end up being the best place for Johnson to make an impact for the U.S. in Brazil.
Defender: DaMarcus Beasley
When Jurgen Klinsmann not only recalled DaMarcus Beasley to the U.S. squad, but began playing him as the team's starting left-back, many fans (myself included) bemoaned the revival of the "Beasley as a left-back" experiment that had begun under former manager Bob Bradley. But Beasley, buoyed by consistent playing time in Liga MX, showed that he had finally returned to form after a devastating knee injury several years ago. Beasley's pace, willingness to battle, ability to get forward and his left foot will not only get him on the roster, but could see him getting significant playing time this summer.
Defender: Michael Parkhurst
After sitting on the bench in the Bundesliga for a year and a half after a disastrous transfer move, Michael Parkhurst has finally put himself back in the USMNT picture. A transfer back to MLS with the Columbus Crew, a decent Gold Cup, and his versatility in being able to play on either the left or right side and even at center-back for his club make him a valuable asset to have on the roster. He's not flashy, but he's savvy, solid and consistent.
Defender: Brad Evans
Brad Evans still hasn't convinced many fans that he's a capable international right-back, but Jurgen Klinsmann has shown a lot of faith in the Seattle Sounders midfielder. With Cameron, Johnson and Parkhurst all able to play on the right, Evans may seem surplus to requirements and someone like Michael Orozco is probably a better choice. But Klinsmann has his favorites and Evans appears to be one of them. That's more than enough to get him on the roster.
Midfielder: Michael Bradley
Michael Bradley put on a virtuoso performance in the friendly against Mexico two weeks ago, scoring a goal and assisting another. He's not only going to make the roster, but—barring injury—he'll start and play every minute in Brazil. The only question is, who will his midfield partner be?
Midfielder: Jermaine Jones
Jermaine Jones is still a divisive figure among U.S. fans, but Klinsmann has an affinity for the German-American midfielder. The question isn't whether Jones will be on the roster, it's whether he can deliver consistent performances for the U.S.—which often range between inspiring and downright abysmal. There are also questions as to whether Jones being paired with Bradley limits Bradley's effectiveness in contributing to the U.S. attack.
Midfielder: Mix Diskerud
Gone are the days in which Jurgen Klinsmann said Mix Diskered was too soft, and over the past year he has proved himself to be a valuable commodity for the U.S. How much he'll play in Brazil, if at all, is still a question because of concerns about him being out of form due to inconsistent playing time at club level. Still, he's a valuable player and could be someone used late in games to bring a spark into the U.S. midfield.
Midfielder: Kyle Beckerman
Kyle Beckerman's lack of pace is still a concern at the international level, but he's been a very consistent player both for the U.S. and his club, Real Salt Lake, over the past year. His ability and willingness to sit in front of the center-backs could be useful in setting Michael Bradley free to roam forward, as it was against Mexico two weeks ago. Whether Beckerman could handle the job against the likes of Ghana, Portugal and Germany, though, is a major doubt. Maurice Edu would be a more athletic option, but with only two months to go until the team leaves for Brazil, he'd have to displace Beckerman—an unlikely scenario.
Midfielder: Graham Zusi
Graham Zusi is another U.S. player who isn't flashy, but puts in consistent performances every time he's on the pitch. His defensive work rate is a major plus and his service from the right flank is spectacular. He'll not only be on the roster, but will likely be in the starting XI. His performances in Brazil will have a lot to do with how successful the USMNT is.
Midfielder: Alejandro Bedoya
After initially struggling to get even a call-up from Jurgen Klinsmann, Alejandro Bedoya has worked his way into the squad as one of Klinsmann's regulars, and he's started most of the U.S.'s recent games—albeit in the absence of key injured players. Bedoya's performances for the U.S., however, have lacked much in terms of production. Joe Corona is probably the better choice, but Klinsmann is more likely to take Bedoya.
Midfielder: Landon Donovan
U.S. legend Landon Donovan will be in the squad. The only question is, in what role? He could play as the attacking midfielder in Klinsmann's 4-2-3-1, or out wide in the same formation or a 4-1-3-2. He could even play up top, a scenario more likely if Klinsmann decides to stick with a two-striker set.
The other major question regarding Donovan is will he start? The relationship between Klinsmann and Donovan has never seemed completely at ease, and Donovan's omission from the starting XI against Mexico—later said to be due to tendinitis in Donovan's knee—once again reinforced the idea that Donovan is not an automatic selection under Klinsmann.
Forward: Clint Dempsey
Clint Dempsey's form over the past six months is surely a concern, but with a solid start this spring for the Seattle Sounders, the worst may finally be behind him. Where Dempsey plays—as an attacking midfielder, out wide or up top—is still a question mark, but he's sure to be part of the squad and, more likely than not, a starter for the U.S. this summer in Brazil.
Forward: Eddie Johnson
Eddie Johnson won't be in the starting XI for the U.S. at the World Cup, but it's a fair guess he'll make the roster. His pace and ability in the air on set pieces make him a dangerous goalscorer, especially off the bench late in games. He was unlucky not to score against Mexico when his goal was incorrectly disallowed as offside.
Forward: Jozy Altidore
Jozy Altidore's form, not to mention lack of playing time, with Sunderland is a major concern, but he still one of the best options the U.S. has. He's only one year off his 31-goal season for AZ Alkmaar and was prolific last summer for the U.S. Hopefully he can use the few weeks in U.S. training camp prior to the World Cup to rediscover that form.
Forward: Aron Johannsson
Aron Johannsson is one of the U.S.'s most technical players and has had a breakout season this year in the Netherlands. If Klinsmann sticks with the 4-2-3-1 he used during much of qualifying, Johannsson likely won't play much. But if the U.S. switches to the 4-1-3-2 that was used during the semi-final round of qualifying and, most recently, against Mexico, Johannsson could see significant playing time for the U.S. in Brazil.
Wildcard: Julian Green
Julian Green is a wildcard pick not only to make the roster, but also in terms of where he might play. Klinsmann is going to likely be in the difficult position of picking between Green, Brek Shea, Chris Wondolowski and Terrence Boyd for the final U.S. roster spot. Green's recent shoulder injury certainly won't help his form headed into the U.S. camp, but Shea is seeing no playing time with Stoke and Boyd, while often called up by Klinsmann, almost never gets into the games.
Picking Green over Wondolowski will be difficult, but Klinsmann will want at least one firecracker off the bench, and Green seems the most likely choice.
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