Neil W. Blackmon
The United States will look to continue its federation best and current world best twelve game winning streak beginning next week with a match against Costa Rica at the new national stadium in San Jose. Following that match, the Yanks will fly back to the United States and play Mexico in Columbus, where they have defeated El Tri 2-0 in each of the last three qualifying cycles.
It comes as a bit of a surprise that Klinsmann, who has been notoriously late with his roster selections during his tenure, is early this time around, but no one is complaining. Perhaps that is a sign of his growing confidence with the unit he has assembled, indicating that he did not need to see the US players in their weekend fixtures to make final decisions. Alternatively, perhaps the longer summer and extended evaluations of the entire pool are just easier now, and Klinsmann had less “details” work to do to assemble this group. Whatever the reason, the 23 man team list is below, with a few “short corner” type observations about the roster selected in the paragraphs that follow.
GOALKEEPERS: Tim Howard (Everton), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS: DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Michael Orozco-Fiscal (Puebla)
MIDFIELDERS: Michael Bradley (Roma), Jermaine Jones (Schalke), Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg, Norway), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes, France), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
FORWARDS: Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar, Holland), Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders)
– I would expect John Brooks to be cap tied at some point. A start seems highly unlikely in a World Cup qualifier after only one “run out” but Klinsmann often just plays the “best 11”, as he puts it, so who knows. More likely is Brooks appears late in a match the US are winning (Columbus?).
– Wouldn’t mind seeing the US test the Mexican backline with two forwards. Aron Johannsson doesn’t have to be a late game substitute. EJ can do that. Why not pair him up with Jozy Altidore and see what you got, even if it is in a World Cup qualifier against your archrival…
– Mix Diskerud’s selection is about Klinsmann wanting to know who is going to be the reserve to spell Clint Dempsey next summer should he be tired or heaven-forbid, injured. Diskerud offers more getting forward as a CAM than Sacha Kljestan, although Kljestan is a better free kick taker and a far better defender. The question there is whether Kljestan is now in a grouping with Edu, Williams and Kyle Beckerman, and if so, how many of those guys make the team? I don’t think Diskerud has out-paced all of those guys just yet, but his inclusion here and not Kljestan’s is at least worth the discussion. For everyone who thinks Diskerud “absolutely” should be there above Kljestan- remember that Kljestan plays in the champions league, has actually started World Cup qualifiers (Diskerud has never even played in one), and Diskerud is still a below-average (being kind) defender. Thanks.
– The two teams the United States are playing, Costa Rica and Mexico, are the two best teams in CONCACAF outside of the United States, and they have talented attackers who can test the offside trap. This probably explains the omission of Clarence Goodson, who has played fine in MLS so far but hasn’t really had a dominant outing. And remember that Goodson is still Klinsmann’s “blankie” against a big, brutish physical “we are going to beat you on a set piece” World Cup group side like Hungary, Greece, Croatia. He’s not out of the mix just because he is out of this match. But Brooks could make that so.
– Saint Landon Donovan, prodigal son of Cambodia and Gold Cup Maradona is back. Now about where he will play. (THE LEFT!!! THE LEFT!!! THE LEFT!!!)
– Graham Zusi is still on the team, despite just returning from an injury. That’s a pretty large statement from Jurgen Klinsmann about where this guy is on the depth chart. It doesn’t mean he’s starting over Saint Landon Donovan, but he is at zero-risk of being left off the roster next summer if fit.
– Jermaine Jones will start against Costa Rica on the road and should– they’ll play higher pressure against the US at home than anyone in the HEX has as of yet, and Jones is still one of three US players who can deliver a good ball with a man on his hip in traffic. That’s why you need him in a road match. What? You knew that already? Okay. Stop clamoring for Geoff Cameron to steal his gig then.
— Finally, Kyle Beckerman might get tasked with dealing with the Gio Dos Santos “incut” tracking role that Mo Edu played in the Azteca qualifier. If he does, how he performs will speak volumes about whether he has a role next summer.