Jurgen Klinsmann took some significant chances with his 23-man United States men's national soccer team roster. But he could have gone even bolder than he did.
Julian Green's inclusion in the team made the biggest headlines. Green is 19 years old and has only been a declared American international for a few months. But if Bayern Munich deems him worthy of investment, there is almost certainly special football in him.
Klinsmann also opened himself to second-guessing by taking 20-year-old DeAndre Yedlin over veteran Brad Evans, though Klinsmann did have a supporter in Fox Soccer's Eric Wynalda where that choice was concerned.
"We’re going to need speed at the right-back position,” Wynalda said according to Joshua Mayers of The Seattle Times. "Experience is one thing, but when Ronaldo is running at you, you need to have the athleticism to run with him."
The third prong of Klinsmann's long-term roster build is John Anthony Brooks, 21, a 6'4" man-child whose selection for Brazil almost certainly led directly to Clarence Goodson's omission.
Klinsmann's choice to take three young and largely untested players to Brazil was daring. You have to wonder, though, whether he considered throwing all caution away and loading up on even more future-minded roster selections.
After all, once Klinsmann decided that he was leaving Landon Donovan behind, he tacitly announced to the football world that the 2014 World Cup could end up being a series of glorified friendlies for an American squad that is at least four and maybe eight years away from contending for the trophy.
So Klinsmann might have considered taking a handful of other American prospects in hopes of accelerating their development and readying them for future World Cup appearances.
It is not as though the Americans' chances to win the tournament, or even survive Group G, would have been that much worse with a few more kids on the team.
Klinsmann's motley mix of youth and veterans like Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley presently have 15-1 odds to get out of Group G and at best are a 150-1 bet to win this World Cup, according to Oddschecker.
Presumably, Klinsmann did not take more young players than he did because he did not want the team to get embarrassed in Brazil. Experience is only useful if it is educational; losing 6-0 to Portugal could leave scars that never quite heal right.
Klinsmann's selection of the provisional 30-man roster back in January suggested that he might take bigger risks than he ultimately did.
"The squad for January's camp in Carson, Calif. and Sao Paulo also has nine uncapped players — including MLS MVP Mike Magee and U.S. U-20 World Cup veterans DeAndre Yedlin, Luis Gil and Shane O'Neill," the Sporting News reported then. "In addition to Magee, Yedlin, Gil and O'Neill, the uncapped players are Tally Hall, Michael Harrington, Chris Klute, Chance Myers and Seth Sinovic."
Since that writing, Gil earned his first cap against South Korea on February 1. Otherwise, he would have been on the top of this list.
Of those nine, the four (aside from Gil, now capped) who might have been most seriously considered for this 2014 World Cup side are O'Neill, Klute, Hall and Magee. Not that Klinsmann would have taken five more uncapped players on top of the three he did, just that if he did grab two or three more, that they might have come from this five.
Goalkeeper Hall is 29, which undercuts the idea that he could be developed for a long-term future. But someone has to back up Brad Guzan in 2018, and it is probably not going to be Tim Howard who is already talking retirement.
Magee is also 29. Admittedly, Magee would not be a forward-thinking choice. His inclusion would have been based on the enormous 2013 season he had in Major League Soccer and his continued solid form in 2014.
O'Neill and Klute would have been pure stashes—i.e., very young players named to the roster mainly for the purpose of getting them more used to international play.
And going off the board, Klinsmann might have given more consideration to Montreal Impact striker Jack McInerney. The 21-year-old forward brings the experience of having been the Philadelphia Union's offensive focal point last season and is already in his fifth professional season.
Klinsmann deserves credit for courageously selecting Green, Yedlin and Brooks. But one or two (or even three) more uncapped players on this roster might have served him well in 2018 and beyond.