USMNT World Cup Roster Hands Youth Unexpected Vote of Confidence

Joe TanseyFeatured ColumnistMay 22, 2014

GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 02:  Julian Green #9 of USA during the International Friendly against Mexico at University of Phoenix Stadium on April 2, 2014 in Glendale, Arizona. Mexico and USA played to a 2-2 tie.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Let's all be honest here, the exclusion of Landon Donovan was the biggest story when the United States 23-man World Cup roster was released on Thursday.

However, the bigger story in the long term is who is actually on the roster, as manager Jurgen Klinsmann has opted to go with a youth movement heading into the biggest tournament yet in American soccer history.

Of the 23 players heading to South America, eight of them are under the age of 25, and four of them have played in less than 10 games for the Yanks. 

We all knew that 23-year-old forward Aron Johannsson, 24-year-old Jozy Altidore and 25-year-old Omar Gonzalez were locks to head to Brazil, but no one expected the inclusion of defenders John Brooks, 21, and DeAndre Yedlin, 20.

And yes of course there is 18-year-old wonderkid Julian Green, who has played on a consistent basis in the fourth division in Germany. If you didn't know that by now, you will hear that line said about one million more times before the June 16th opener against Ghana.

The other two young players in the squad are midfielder Mix Diskerud, 23, and defender Timothy Chandler, 24, both of whom were considered on the fringe of the 23-man squad when camp opened at Stanford University last week. 

NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 29:  Timothy Chandler #21 of the United States controls the ball during an international friendly match against Paraguay at LP Field on March 29, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

By naming this young core to his roster, Klinsmann has made a bold statement that he sees the 2014 World Cup as another step in the development of the game in the United States, instead of it being the tournament where the Yanks make a massive statement. 

The 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup and 2016 Copa America Centenario, both tournaments being played on American soil, were supposed to be the big tournaments for players like Yedlin, Brooks and Green, but Klinsmann has seen enough to ignite that process a year early. 

This development came as a massive shock to American fans because not only will these players make the trip to Brazil, but they all have a serious chance of playing a good amount of minutes in Group G against Ghana, Portugal and Germany.

Gonzalez is the closest thing to a lock out of this group to be included in Klinsmann's first starting 11, while Altidore and Johannsson should battle it out for the starting forward position. 

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 02:  Omar Gonzalez #3 of the United States Men's National Team goes up for a header against Max Kruse #20 of the Germany Men's National Team in an international friendly at RFK Stadium on June 2, 2013  in Washington, DC.  (Photo by G
Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Chandler and Yedlin are the two best pure right-backs in the squad, but they will face competition from the versatile Geoff Cameron, who has been in the form of his life for Stoke City in the English Premier League. 

Brooks should be a solid backup option to Gonzalez and Matt Besler at center-back, but the chances of him seeing the pitch in Brazil are slim. Of course, after Thursday's announcement, we really don't know what Klinsmann has brewing in his mind. 

With the exclusion of the best American player of all-time in Donovan, Diskerud and Green both have real opportunities in front of them in Brazil.

Green has been heralded as a hot young prospect since he committed to the United States over Germany, and as a player on the left wing, he could see some serious playing time in Brazil now that Donovan is out. 

Diskerud could also play a big role at the World Cup in the center of the midfield since he is a versatile player that can play in either an attacking or defending role. His attacking prowess is better than his defending, and he may get a legitimate chance to shine off the bench. 

VIENNA, AUSTRIA - NOVEMBER 19: Mix Diskerud of USA controls the ball during the International friendly match between Austria and USA at the Ernst-Happel Stadium on November 19, 2013 in Vienna, Austria. (Photo by Christian Hofer/Getty Images)
Christian Hofer/Getty Images

Banking on the contributions of this young core, who for the most part did not play a big part in qualifying sans Gonzalez and Altidore, is a big risk for Klinsmann to take, but it is clear he wanted to take his team into a new direction now, not in a year's time at the Gold Cup.

If this small pool of young players makes a massive impact in Brazil, which one or two of them should do, Klinsmann will look like a genius that took a major risk that paid off.

If this young core ends up making a few costly mistakes, which is highly possible given the quality they will face in the group stage, it could mark a step back in progress for United States soccer, which is something the team cannot afford with two major tournaments ahead on home soil in the next two years. 

Those were supposed to be the tournaments where growing pains were to be had, but Klinsmann has decided to take his lumps now to make sure that by the time 2018 rolls around, there will be no doubt the United States will have a battle-tested core that will show no mercy during a long World Cup run. 


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