It's that time of the month again, and boy am I excited!
On November 7th, the United States men's national team, led by head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, will begin gathering in Paris to train for a pair of international friendlies.
In what will be the first meeting for the two teams since 1979, the U.S. will travel to the Stade de France to play 1998 World Cup champions France. Ranked 12th in the world and winning Group D in the preliminary rounds of Euro 2012, Les Blues will be the best opponent Klinsmann has faced since taking over for Bob Bradley.
Then just four days later, the U.S. will travel to face Slovenia in a World Cup rematch. Slovenia is a team in transition, firing their coach and hiring Slavisa Stojanovic on October 24th. They're still a formidable team, currently ranked 27th in the world.
It'll be really, really great to see the U.S. play some European teams. No offense to CONCACAF, but even second- and third-tier teams in Europe are better than the top teams in North and Central America.
Just a little while ago, Klinsmann released the roster of the 22 men he'll be taking to France and Slovenia. Will Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan finally share the field? Did MLS-standout Kyle Beckerman impress enough to earn some more international duty?
Let's find out.
Bill Hamid (D.C. United)
Tim Howard (Everton/England)
I like that Klinsmann is only taking two keepers, instead of the three he had on the roster against Ecuador and Honduras. That means there's room for one more outfield player who can make a late-game appearance and get a good 25 or 30 minutes of play and (hopefully) impress Klinsmann and the U.S. audience watching back at home.
Carlos Bocanegra (Rangers/Scotland)
Timmy Chandler (Nürnberg/Germany)
Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96/Germany)
Clarence Goodson (Brondby/Denmark)
Alfredo Morales (Hertha Berlin/Germany)
Michael Orozco Fiscal (San Luis/Mexico)
Oguchi Onyewu (Sporting Lisbon/Portugal)
Big changes on defense and I couldn't be happier!
There's still seven defenders, same as the amount Klinsmann brought on board against Ecuador and Honduras, and five have remained on the roster from a month ago—Bocanegra, Chandler, Cherundolo, Orozco and Onyewu.
I think Onyewu did great in his pair of games in October, nearly getting a goal against Honduras and running down stray attackers against Ecuador. He only helped tighten things up in the back when he was in and neither of the goals were anything close to his fault.
The only thing that surprises me is the Cherundolo selection. He was effective against Honduras but showed his lack of speed against Ecuador, getting torched on several possessions by streaking forwards.
Alfredo Morales is a surprising addition. He has dual citizenship in Peru and the U.S., but I guess Klinsmann and company were able to persuade him to at least give being a Yankee a try. He's still eligible to play for Peru since friendlies aren't FIFA sanctioned matches, but the chances are slim, especially if he has a decent outing. He's a versatile player for Hertha Berlin, switching between defensive midfielder and right back.
Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake)
Michael Bradley (Chievo Verona/Italy)
Clint Dempsey (Fulham/England)
Maurice Edu (Rangers/Scotland)
Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim/Germany)
Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04/Germany)
Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew)
Brek Shea (FC Dallas)
Danny Williams (Hoffenheim/Germany)
Only seven midfielders were used for last month's friendlies, but we have nine on this roster.
I'm most excited that Kyle Beckerman is back! He didn't have the most impressive of outings against Honduras and Ecuador, but he's an overachieving player that has the potential to do what Stephen Hunt does for the Ireland squad—energize the club and get the fans absolutely howling.
I'm also interested in seeing how Michael Bradley develops. He was just a hair above average in October and I've never been too keen on the son of the former head coach. But I'll eat a slice or two of humble pie if it means a better midfield.
Fabian Johnson and Jermaine Jones are both defensive midfielders for their respective German clubs. Could Klinsmann be tinkering with the idea of a more conservative approach to this month's games, after losing a combined 2-0 on the heels of a wide-open, attack-heavy game plan?
Clint Dempsey's on the roster. Will Klinsmann finally have the Fulham star and Landon Donovan on the pitch at the same time?
Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar/Netherlands)
DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla/Mexico)
Edson Buddle (Ingolstadt/Germany)
Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy)
Of all the spots on the roster, the forwards are the ones I'm most excited about seeing.
First, Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey are finally on the pitch together. It'll be good to see just what Klinsmann does with our two best players (excluding the illustrious Tim Howard, of course). I think fans will quickly forget about our shutouts against Honduras and Ecuador once Donovan and Dempsey connect for a goal or two.
Jozy Altidore was a mixed bag in October. He had a couple of great shots and kept cool and stood his ground in the penalty box, showing he has learned patience in front of the net. But he had a couple of awkward passes too and some misses so wide you'd think a U-13 player had stolen his jersey and snuck onto the pitch.
Edson Buddle, Donovan's former teammate at LA Galaxy, has been playing for Ingolstadt in Second Bundesliga (the second-highest level of competition in German soccer). He signed in January and has scored five goals in seven league matches this season. Klinsmann only played Buddle against Ecuador last month and even then it was only as a late substitute.