The United States' World Cup roster is officially set.
Jurgen Klinsmann made the final touches to his World Cup squad Thursday, cutting seven more players to shave the roster down to 23.
U.S. Soccer tweeted out the final roster:
Yes, folks, Landon Donovan has been left out of the final 23 in a pretty surprising move. You can practically see the pitchforks and torches from here.
Klinsmann talked to his team on Friday, courtesy of ESPN:
Jimmy Conrad, who had a long, productive career in Major League Soccer and with the national team, was one of many who were critical of Klinsmann's decision to essentially take Julian Green over a player like Donovan:
Just double checking my math. 1 cap, no 1st team minutes with club team > 156 caps, 5 World Cup goals, best player in U.S. history. Got it.— Jimmy Conrad (@JimmyConrad) May 22, 2014
Former national team star and current ESPN analyst Alexi Lalas went with the more reasoned response:
Again, life isn't fair and soccer isn't fair. A WC roster isn't about form, merit or history. It's simply a coach's preference.— Alexi Lalas (@AlexiLalas) May 22, 2014
Howler Magazine saluted the U.S. Soccer legend, considering that his national team career appears all but over:
Donovan has been a servant of the #USMNT for such a long time. All the media, much of the pressure, lots and lots and lots of goals.— Howler Magazine (@whatahowler) May 22, 2014
The Americans have thrived under Klinsmann's leadership since he took over in 2011, but they haven't faced anything of the magnitude they will see in Brazil. After starting things off with a matchup against Ghana, who have eliminated the Red, White and Blue in the previous two installments of the World Cup, Team USA gets Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal side and then a tournament favorite in Germany.
Let's take a look at the 23 players who will represent the United States in the Group of Death, along with an early projection of the starting 11.
|GK||Brad Guzan||Aston Villa|
|GK||Nick Rimando||Real Salt Lake|
|DF||Matt Besler||Sporting Kansas City|
|DF||John Brooks||Hertha Berlin|
|DF||Geoff Cameron||Stoke City|
|DF||Omar Gonzalez||LA Galaxy|
|DF||DeAndre Yedlin||Seattle Sounders|
|MF||Kyle Beckerman||Real Salt Lake|
|MF||Michael Bradley||Toronto FC|
|MF||Brad Davis||Houston Dynamo|
|MF||Julian Green||Bayern Munich|
|MF||Graham Zusi||Sporting Kansas City|
|FW||Clint Dempsey||Seattle Sounders|
|FW||Aron Johannsson||AZ Alkmaar|
|FW||Chris Wondolowski||San Jose Earthquakes|
Starting 11 Projections
For now, Jozy Altidore gets the nod up front thanks to his performance with the national team last summer. Facing serious questions about his future in international soccer, Altidore scored in three consecutive World Cup qualifiers and followed that up with a magnificent hat trick during a friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina.
When it comes to the World Cup, the season is behind you. Everything that matters now is what you do going forward when [Klinsmann] picks that team. Nobody cares about what you did a year or two or three years ago. It’s what you do now.
New AZ Alkmaar star Aron Johannsson is nipping at the heels of the old AZ Alkmaar star Altidore, but Jozy's international experience will earn him the start against Ghana.
In the midfield, there is a little bit more clarity and certainty.
Michael Bradley, a maestro in the midfield, is the team's most important and best player. Captain Clint Dempsey has displayed transcendent form with the Seattle Sounders as of late. Jermaine Jones is a likely fixture, while Fabian Johnson seems the most likely to take Donovan's role on the wing.
Klinsmann, via ESPN's Jeff Carlisle, talked about the importance of Bradley and Jones, in particular:
Klinsmann says he's happy w/way Jermaine Jones move to Besiktas worked out. Calls Jones & Michael Bradley "the heart of our MF." #usmnt— Jeff Carlisle (@JeffreyCarlisle) January 31, 2014
On the back line is where the Americans' weaknesses reside, a highly unnerving thought considering the firepower of Germany and Portugal.
How far will the United States go in the 2014 World Cup?
Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler have provided Team USA with the steadiest center-back combination, but on the outside there are battles at both positions between Geoff Cameron and Brad Evans at right back, while DaMarcus Beasley seems likely to fill in at left back.
One of the most intriguing inclusions, of course, is Julian Green.
The 18-year-old German-American is short on experience, but with loads of talent, he makes for an enticing late sub on Klinsmann's bench.
The United States didn't receive any favors with the draw, but there is a sneaky amount of talent and depth surging through this 23-man roster.
If Altidore can come close to resembling his 2013 form, the back four can cut down on mistakes and the midfield creates like it's capable of, advancing to the knockout stage is a legitimate possibility.
Even if that doesn't happen, one thing is clear with this roster: The future of American soccer is bright.