5 Surprises in Klinsmann's Friendlies Roster, and My Starting XI vs. Costa Rica
On Thursday, August 25, Jurgen Klinsmann called up 24 players for the upcoming U.S. soccer friendlies against Costa Rica and Belgium.
In a previous article that was posted a week before Klinsmann's announcement, I predicted who would be on that roster.
In today's article, I will tell you where I was right, where I was wrong, and what surprised me about the roster. After that, I will give my prediction for the starting lineup against Costa Rica.
Right: Michael Bradley out of the Mix for Now
As I said, I thought there was a chance that Michael Bradley would get a rest here, and indeed Klinsmann has left him off the roster.
Bradley is in a unsettled club situation in Europe. He is not getting much playing time, and again he has been the subject of trade rumors (the latest has him going somewhere in Italy's Serie A).
I do not think that this is the end of international appearances for Bradley. Rather I think Klinsmann, after experimenting with Bradley in an attacking role in the Mexican friendly, has sized up and accepted Bradley's skill set.
He is a disruptive midfielder with a high work rate that distributes efficiently, but he lacks both the touch and the creativity to consistently join the attack. Klinsmann now wants to see who else might be out there.
Right: Youth from the Mexican Friendly Is Served
The three super-subs from the Mexican friendly definitely earned another look, and just as I predicted, Klinsmann has given it to them. Brek Shea (age 21), Juan Agudelo (18, pictured above) and Robbie Rogers (24) have all been recalled.
Although it is unlikely that all three will start, I believe Klinsmann will give them ample time in the two friendlies to prove that they are not flukes.
Right: The Vets Were an Easy Call
I'm not taking any credit for this. Anyone who even casually watches U.S. soccer knows that Bocanegra (in red above), Cherundolo, Howard, Dempsey and Donovan are the heart of the team.
Barring injury—or in the case of 'Dolo and Bocanegra, age limitations—all five will be on the next World Cup team.
Right: Experimentation Continues on the Back Line
Edgar Castillo joins Timmy Chandler and Michael Orozco Fiscal as potential starters at outside back. Clarence Goodson and Tim Ream will re-join the team as well.
Restructuring the back line is Job #1 for Klinsmann, and I expect to see a lot of play from this group in the next two games.
Surprise: How Big the Experiment Is in Defense
I thought Orozco looked over-matched against Mexico, and he needs more seasoning before getting a second look.
Obviously Klinsmann disagreed, and Orozco has been recalled.
I also did not expect that Zach Lloyd or Heath Pearce, both MLS players, would get another look.
The player pool is broadening in the back even more than I expected.
Surprise: Larentowicz? Bunbury? Klijstan Again?
Jeff Larentowicz, a midfielder for the Colorado Rapids, never crossed my mind when predicting the roster. He has one cap.
Teal Bunbury of Kansas City has two. He has been called up as a striker.
And while Sacha Klijstan did briefly cross my mind, I dismissed him quickly because I figured we had seen all enough from him to know that he wasn't integral to the future.
Again Klinsmann has impressed me with his willingness to give the younger players a full look, and to also give a few select vets like Klijstan, and possibly DeMarcus Beasley, a second chance.
Surprise: Fabian Who?
The selection of Fabian Johnson was a shock because, I have to admit, I've never even heard of this guy.
Here is what I have learned since the pick:
1) Johnson has dual German/American citizenship and has been playing in Germany since he was a kid.
2) He started for the U-21 UEFA team from Germany that went to the finals in 2009, losing 4-0 to Sweden.
3) He plays mostly in the midfield for Hoffenheim and has also been used in defense during his career.
Surprise: No Eric Lichaj?
I presumed Lichaj, who plays for Aston Villa in England, would be a starter at one of the outside back positions. But he was not called up for these friendlies.
This may again be a case of Klinsmann knowing what he has in Lichaj, and wanting to see what some others might bring. Or it could be something as simple as trouble with his club.
Surprise: Lots of Last Minute Cancellations
As I stated in a previous article, there have been a lot of last minute changes to the lineup.
For various reasons Cherundolo, Dempsey, Johnson, Lloyd and Pearce will not be on the field for the friendlies, although Johnson's issue is related to FIFA paperwork. But he has joined the team and is practicing.
Jonathan Spector, a familiar name to fans, and uncapped Chris Pontius of the MLS have been called up instead. So the team will go into the two friendlies with only 21 players.
My Starting XI vs. Costa Rica
Here is my view on starters. I think Klinsmann sticks with the 4-2-3-1.
GK: Howard. I would like to see Hamid get at least a half somewhere in these two friendlies.
Defense: Bocanegra and Goodson in the middle, Chandler at left back and Castillo on the right.
Defensive Midfielders: Beckerman and Edu.
Offensive Midfielders: Agudelo in the middle, Donovan on the right and Shea on the left
I think we'll see Orozco get some playing time in the back, and I would like another look at a Goodson/Ream central back pairing. I also think that Jose Torres will get some time in the midfield. Spector can play the right back spot pretty well, and surely, Bunbury and the other newer names will get their chances.
I expect a US win, 2-1.