USMNT Roundtable: September Squad Symposium
OTF’s USMNT roundtable reconvenes to assess the merits of the latest iteration of Die Klinsmannschaft…
The penultimate round of Hex matches kicks off for USMNT on September 6th in Costa Rica, and concludes September 10th in Columbus against El Tri. Jürgen Klinsmann has named the 23-man roster it is hoped will secure the points required to guarantee World Cup qualification and bring another dos-a-cero back from Ohio.
These are the men picked to get those jobs done:
Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Tijuana), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders) – injured, Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Michael Orozco (Puebla), Michael Parkhurst (Augsburg) – replacement for Evans
Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Roma), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Jermaine Jones (Schalke), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders)
The question to the roundtable: what do you think of this squad?
After looking at the roster Jürgen Klinsmann has put out, I must say that I am not surprised at all. I have read things here and there suggesting Chris Wondolowski should have been included, but I strongly disagree. He is a great MLS striker, much like Taylor Twellman, but what many saw in the Gold Cup is evidence Wondo can’t compete against stronger sides.
Though I have been very critical of Kyle Beckerman over the years, he has impressed me recently. He is a strong presence in the midfield and provides a good shield to the back four. However, unless there is a severe injury to Michael Bradley or Jermaine Jones, I don’t see him breaking into the starting eleven. Still, he is a great role player to bring in when we are leading to close the game down.
The two inclusions I am incredibly happy about are John Brooks and Aron Johannsson. Brooks proved against Bosnia he can compete with strong European sides, though it was no surprise he struggled with Edin Dzeko. He reminds me of a young Onyewu: strong in the air, and can tackle very well. But with more pace.
Johannsson, though he played only briefly against Bosnia, has loads of ability, and pace to go along with it. He played with Altidore at AZ Alkmaar, so the two have an understanding of each other — which poses a problem for Eddie Johnson.
Overall this is a strong side.
For my money, this is the best possible team the U.S. could have named. We obviously have the stand-out faces — Donovan, Dempsey, Altidore, and Bradley — but it is everyone else that makes this roster so special. Players like Besler, Beckerman, and Zusi have been so consistent over the past year that it gives the U.S. many more options.
In the Bruce Arena and Bob Bradley eras, USMNT was hurt by having a huge gap in talent amongst the starting lineup. Donovan, McBride, and Cobi Jones often operated on a different level than the rest of their team (read Bornstein, Findley). With the lineup that Klinsmann has just named, this isn’t the case.
A prime example of what I am talking about is Mix Diskerud. Mix is capable and comfortable playing in a number of different systems, most likely a product of his European upbringing. He is most comfortable going forward, playing incisive balls, and showing an impressive range of passing. Yet he brings enough bite to his game to justify playing in the center midfield, which requires significant defensive ability. Plus, he’s only 22 years old. I’m not sure the U.S. has had such a mature young player in the last decade (other than Altidore).
Be enthralled by the return of Donovan if you like, but pay close attention to the so-called “role players”, because they will be stealing some of the talisman’s spotlight when it comes to Costa Rica and Mexico.
Let’s go, Yanks!
This is a very strong and balanced roster; one I anticipate will be on the plane to Brazil when the US has finally qualified for the World Cup in 2014. If there are any surprises, it would have to be the second look rightfully earned by forward “Alabama Ice” Aron Johannson, and defender John Brooks from Hertha Berlin. Both of these players made a case for another USMNT selection with their performances in the Bosnia-Herzegovina friendly in August.
Personally, I thought Joe Corona did enough in the Gold Cup to be included on this roster but, barring injury to any of the outside midfielders, his dream of making a World Cup seems to be over.
I’m glad to see Kyle Beckerman has made the cut. I must confess to a penchant for the “water carriers”: the players who are about doing the little things perfectly (like ball distribution, tackling, passing with vision) and supplying the ammunition to the guys with flair, such as Donovan and Altidore.
Occasionally, I have heard this skill called “graft”. All soccer teams must have a balance between graft and flair to be successful, and Klinsmann has finally built his best balanced team.
At this point in the Hex, Klinsi’s picks for the next two qualifiers are far from shocking. They follow the strategy he has maintained from the day he took over the squad: one eye is on the games at hand, and the other looking at the big picture, Brazil 2014. This strategy almost knocked the USMNT out of World Cup qualifying in the previous round of this campaign, but now it is starting to pay dividends.
This roster is really no different than the others. It rewards those playing well with the Yanks, and also those who are getting minutes with their club side. When he first came aboard, Klinsmann was all about everyone getting to Europe, but somewhere during his time in charge, he has realized it’s more important to get playing time than it is to be in the top leagues. Consider Deuce heading to Seattle as the ultimate example.
Jürgen has said he wants 3 points out of Costa Rica, so here is how I think they will line up for the match ahead:
Howard, Beasley, Besler, Gonzalez, Cameron, Zusi, Jones, Bradley, Donovan, Dempsey, Eddie Johnson.
This lineup is under the presumption that Jozy cannot go. If he can, he will replace Eddie. I expect most will say Johannsson instead of Eddie, but I think EJ gets the nod for his form in league play.
For Mexico, however, I think Johannsson gets the start, along with Beckerman for Jones (who will be suspended after he gets his customary yellow card).
Follow OTF contributors @brendanc23, @calebjmorris, @roblthom66 and @TJZaremba. If you want to add your voice to OTF’s USMNT coverage, shoot Austin Fido an email at email@example.com, or tweet @canetop.