Featured, January 2014, USMNT

Camp Cupcake: 2014 – Klinsmann Names Nice Blend of Youth and Vets to Camp

Shane O'Neill is one player we're excited to see at Camp Cupcake...

Shane O’Neill is one player we’re excited to see at Camp Cupcake…

Neil W. Blackmon

Jurgen Klinsmann named 26 players today to the annual January USMNT training camp, affectionately known as “Camp Cupcake.” The camp will open Monday morning in California, head to Sao Paulo briefly and then return to the land of the Galaxy and what is now the Stubhub Center  in time for a friendly vs. The Korea Republic (South) on February 1st.

As tends to be the case, the camp is almost entirely made up of MLS players– the only exception being Mix Diskerud (more on that in a moment)– and includes all manner of MLS age-groups, from youngsters like Shane O’Neill, DeAndre Yedlin, Bill Hamid and Luis Gil to savvy vets of both MLS and “Camp Cupcake” alike in Kyle Beckerman and Chris Wondolowski.

Because this is a World Cup year (that felt awesome to type), Klinsmann has also brought in the types of heavy-hitters you don’t typically see in a “Camp Cupcake”, with USMNT regulars and likely Brazil 23 man roster selections Landon Donovan, Graham Zusi, Eddie Johnson, Matt Besler, Brad Evans and Omar Gonzalez also involved in proceedings. Those selections probably had a great deal to do with the exclusion of young talents like New England’s Kelyn Rowe, Philadelphia’s Amobi Okugo and New England’s Lee Nguyen. Klinsmann did manage, despite including several USMNT regulars, to invite Benny Feilhaber, who played well for Sporting Kansas City in the postseason title run, and MLS MVP Mike Magee, who is uncapped with the national team but earned every ounce of this invite with 21 goals in MLS this year. After eleven years in MLS, Magee gets his chance– and it’s a meaningful one in a World Cup year.

Here’s the roster, followed by some brief thoughts:

Goalkeepers: Tally Hall (Houston Dynamo), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

Defenders: Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes), Michael Harrington (Portland Timbers), Chris Klute (Colorado Rapids), Chance Myers (Sporting Kansas City), Shane O’Neill (Colorado Rapids), Seth Sinovic (Sporting Kansas City), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders FC)

Midfielders: Eric Alexander (New York Red Bulls), Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City), Luis Gil (Real Salt Lake), Dax McCarty (New York Red Bulls), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Forwards: Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Eddie Johnson (D.C. United), Mike Magee (Chicago Fire), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

Other brief thoughts:

— As noted, World Cup “Camp Cupcakes” are different and it is not unprecedented to impress in this camp and end up on the World Cup roster. There are two reasons Robbie Findley made the 2010 World Cup team: 1) Bob Bradley saw the group and knew without Charlie Davies he needed pace to keep aggressive back lines from Slovenia and England honest; 2) Findley had the best Camp Cupcake of anyone who fit that mold.

This is just one example, but it demonstrates why this is such a critical camp for a player like Shane O’Neill, who had a brilliant year with both his national team group (U-20’s) and the Colorado Rapids. The Americans are still searching for answers at fullback, and while O’Neill may be a CB long-term, he can provide service, pace and enough defensive smarts in the short-term to where it isn’t inconceivable he could find himself in Brazil. Of course, performing well in this camp would start that process and discussion.

Mix Diskerud has a month to define his role for Jurgen Klinsmann this month.

Mix Diskerud has a month to define his role for Jurgen Klinsmann this month.

— Big camp for Brad Davis. The US is short of players who can deliver passes with a defender draped on the shoulder– something Portugual’s lousy fullbacks won’t make the US do much of but Germany and Ghana’s great and good ones will. Davis can deliver those passes. Davis is also a capable defender, a capable set piece taker (though his service on corners in a US shirt has been short of ordinary), and a guy who can play in about four different positions. In 2010, German coach Jogi Low said that “part of selecting a World Cup roster is about finding substitutes who fill multiple roles at once, if you can”– Davis fits that bill.

— I don’t think DeAndre Yedlin is ready for international football but this camp invite shows me two things: 1) Klinsmann knows he needs better fullbacks, particularly ones that at least feign threat going forward, and 2) Yedlin made great strides late in the year with the Sounders after not improving a great deal the first half of the year. Can he compete with O’Neill in this camp? We’ll see.

— Mike Magee would need a phenomenal camp to get in the discussion at forward. The thinking here is Herculez Gomez and Terrence Boyd are still way ahead of Wondolowski, who has an edge on Magee for the obvious reason that Klinsmann has seen Wondolowski- both good and bad versions. Magee earned this call-up, but breaking into a roster that already features hybrid midfielder/forward types like Eddie Johnson, Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey will be tough. There just aren’t enough spots.

— Finally, Mix Diskerud will be here and it’s  an important camp, but not for the reasons it’s important to fellow USMNT roster toss-up Brad Davis. Diskerud is likely on the team, and this selection proves that, in my view. The thinking at the TYAC home office is that Diskerud is here to cement his role next summer. Is he the first midfield substitution off the bench? Can he defend well enough to start a match like the Ghana one, where traversing the Black Stars ball pressure in the midfield zone will be question A in who wins the day? Where is the best spot to play him? Is he worth a look on the wing, if the FB situation gets desperate and Klinsmann moves Fab Johnson back as a security blanket? This camp gives Klinsmann a month to make those choices. 

Your thoughts welcome below.

Neil W. Blackmon is Co-Founder and Co-Editor of The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at nwblackmon@gmail.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @nwb_usmnt. 

Neil W. Blackmon