10 Things You Need to Know About the USA's 2014 World Cup Team

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10 Things You Need to Know About the USA's 2014 World Cup Team
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

A day after defeating Nigeria 2-1 in its last World Cup warm-up game, the United States men's national team packed its bags and boarded a flight to Brazil.

Once they arrive, they will set up camp and start making final preparations. In the group stage, the U.S. will face three formidable opponents in Ghana, Portugal and Germany. And the U.S. will be led in their pursuit of advancing to the Round of 16 by their head coach, Jurgen Klinsmann.

Here are 10 things you need to know about Klinsmann's U.S.A. team.

 

The Dual Nationals

Julio Cortez/Associated Press

One of Klinsmann's greatest successes as head coach of the USMNT has been his recruitment of a number of key dual nationals. Among those who Klinsmann recruited that are now on the World Cup team are Fabian Johnson, Aron Johannsson, John Anthony Brooks and Julian Green. 

Klinsmann has also cap-tied several other dual nationals who were first part of the program under Bob Bradley, including Timmy Chandler, Mix Diskerud and Omar Gonzalez. 

And finally, he has made Jermaine Jones (who switched national team affiliations in 2010) a key part of the U.S. squad.

 

Klinsmann is Flexible

Throughout his tenure, Klinsmann has used all sorts of personnel, tactics and formations.

In the early going, he tinkered with a 4-3-3 and then used a 4-1-3-2 in the semifinal round of World Cup qualifying. He used a 4-2-3-1 in the final qualifying round, and now, in the U.S.'s last four games, has played with both a 4-4-2 (with a diamond midfield) and a 4-3-2-1 Christmas Tree formation. And he's done it all while regularly changing his starting XI.

It's going to be difficult for Ghana, Portugal and Germany to prepare for the U.S. simply because they'll have no idea what personnel or in what setup the U.S. will be in come gameday.

 

This is Klinsmann's Team Now

Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

When the final 23-man World Cup roster was released, the talking point for days, and even weeks, was the exclusion of USMNT stalwart Landon Donovan.

It was a bold move, and one that Klinsmann surely knew would blow up in his face had results in the U.S.'s World Cup warm-up games not gone his way.

Of course, the U.S.'s recent three wins will mean nothing if the team fails to perform to Brazil, but there's no doubt as to who's making the decisions, and they are clearly based on Klinsmann's vision of the squad and not anyone else's.

 

The U.S. is Hot Right Now

In its three warm-up games for the World Cup against Azerbaijan, Turkey and Nigeria, the U.S. is undefeated.

While they looked tired coming out of their initial camp against Azerbaijan, the U.S. picked up quality wins against Turkey and Nigeria in the past 10 days. In its last game against Nigeria, it was particularly impressive in its attacking flair and defensive stoutness.

Turkey and Nigeria, ranked 35th and 44th respectively by FIFA, sandwich the U.S.'s first group-stage opponent Ghana, who is ranked 37th, and those wins should give fans some perspective as to the U.S.'s progress.

As the U.S. heads to Brazil, the team is brimming with confidence. And it certainly doesn't hurt that its main man up top, Jozy Altidore, broke his recent scoring slump with a brace against Nigeria.

“Obviously it’s a wonderful message to see that Jozy put the thing in the net," Klinsmann said after the Nigeria match, per USSoccer.com. "It gives him a big smile at the right time now. It will give him a lot of confidence. It’s always a tough period when you don’t score for striker.”

 

The U.S. is Injury Free...Knock on Wood

Throughout the world, the injury bug has begun to bite as teams make their final preparations for Brazil. Most recently joined by Marco Reus, the World Cup will be missing stars Radamel Falcao, Franck Ribery, Theo Walcott, Kevin Strootman and Rafael van der Vaart, just to name a few.

By contrast, the U.S. is relatively healthy at this point with no major injuries to its key players.

 

The Key Players Have High-Level Experience

While the U.S. team does have 10 players from Major League Soccer, its stars also have plenty of high-level experience. Of the U.S.'s 11 starters against Nigeria, nine of them have been successful in Europe.

The engine of the U.S. midfield, Michael Bradley, has played in the Netherlands, Germany and Italy—where he most recently played for European powerhouse AS Roma.

Clint Dempsey was a star for years at Fulham and the U.S.'s goalkeeper, Tim Howard, has been Everton's main man for nearly a decade. DaMarcus Beasley played in Europe for a long time and will be playing in his fourth World Cup.  

Jermaine Jones has Champions League experience and played for years in the Bundesliga, the same league where Fabian Johnson has been a regular for the past few seasons. Geoff Cameron and Jozy Altidore both play in the English Premier League and Alejandro Bedoya just finished a successful campaign in Ligue 1.

While the U.S. still doesn't have a bona-fide European superstar, the current U.S. team has far more talent than its previous incarnations.

             

The U.S. Team is Older Than You Think

When the final World Cup roster was released, much was made about the U.S.'s youth and lack of World Cup experience. Five players on the team are under 25 years old, including Brooks, Diskerud, Green, Johannsson and DeAndre Yedlin.

But the U.S. has plenty of experienced professionals as well and many will be playing in their last World Cup—a powerful motivator.

The tournament in Brazil will likely be the last go-round for Beasley, Kyle Beckerman, Brad Davis, Dempsey, Howard, Jones, Nick Rimando and Chris Wondolowski and all will be hungry for success.

Geoff Cameron and Graham Zusi are both probably in their first and only World Cup, as Cameron will be 32 years old in 2018 and Zusi will be 31.

 

The U.S. Has Flair on the Bench

USA TODAY Sports

If the U.S. gets in trouble and needs a goal late—not an improbable scenario considering their group-stage opponents—there are a number of players who can provide a spark of creativity off the bench when needed.

While most people tend not to think of creativity when considering Zusi, he's one of the best players the U.S. has in terms of service and playmaking. Diskerud is another player for the U.S. who can provide a midfield spark when needed and Johannsson can bang in a late goal—he's also coming off a 26-goal season in the Netherlands.

           

Klinsmann Himself is an Odd Mix of European and American Philosophies

USA TODAY Sports

Two articles that came out last week illustrated the complexity of Klinsmann's coaching philosophies. On the one hand, his efforts to integrate new, American philosophies toward training got him into trouble when he managed in Germany. And on the other hand, he's trying to integrate more European-style philosophies into American soccer.

That odd dichotomy has made fans and players alike uncomfortable with his decisions at times, but on repeated occasions, Klinsmann has proved his doubters wrong.

 

Barring a Disaster, Klinsmann Will Stay on as Coach

With a contract that runs through 2018, barring a complete disaster in Brazil, Klinsmann will stay on as head coach and likely be on the sidelines when the U.S. takes the field in Russia in 2018.

In his two-and-a-half-year tenure as coach of the USMNT, Klinsmann hasn't shied away from controversial decisions, but as of right now, they appear to be working.

 

Follow me on Twitter @JohnDHalloran

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