Jurgen Klinsmann and Andi Herzog both announced their rosters early this week ahead of a critical week of matches; Klinsmann’s senior side with a home and home World Cup qualifying series against Guatemala, and Herzog’s against a U-23 Colombian side in a home-and-home playoff that will decide who suits up in Rio this Summer for the 2016 Olympics. Both series have massive implications; while choosing the lineup on gameday may be difficult due to increased competition on both levels, what is even more interesting is how Klinsmann plans to manage his Olympic age-eligible players that also feature on the senior team. Just to bring you up to speed, here are both squads in their entirety:
U.S. ROSTER BY POSITION (Club; WCQ Caps/Goals)
GOALKEEPERS (4): David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes; 0/0), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa; 9/0), Tim Howard (Everton FC; 30/0), William Yarbrough (Club Leon; 0/0)
DEFENDERS (9): Ventura Alvarado (Club America; 0/0), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City; 8/0), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United; 0/0), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin; 0/0), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City; 15/1), Edgar Castillo (Monterrey; 4/0), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca; 8/0), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana; 4/1), DeAndre Yedlin (Sunderland; 0/0)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake; 6/0), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes FC; 3/0), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC; 26/5), Mix Diskerud (New York City FC; 3/0), Ethan Finlay (Columbus Crew SC; 0/0), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Monchengladbach; 11/1), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers FC; 2/0), Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution; 0/0)
FORWARDS (5): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC; 28/12), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC; 34/13), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes; 0/0), Bobby Wood (Union Berlin; 2/1), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy; 2/1)
Olympic U.S. Roster by Position:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Cody Cropper (Milton Keynes Dons), Ethan Horvath (Molde KJ), Tyler Miller (Seattle Sounders FC)
DEFENDERS (8): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Matt Miazga (Chelsea FC), Eric Miller (Colorado Rapids), Tim Parker (Vancouver Whitecaps FC), Desevio Payne (FC Groningen), Shane O’Neill (Cambridge United), Brandon Vincent (Chicago Fire), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas)
MIDFIELDERS (9): Fatai Alashe (San Jose Earthquakes), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Luis Gil (Queretaro), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Emerson Hyndman (Fulham FC), Jerome Kiesewetter (VfB Stuttgart), Matt Polster (Chicago Fire), Dillon Serna (Colorado Rapids), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC)
FORWARDS (3): Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Mario Rodriguez (Borussia Monchengladbach), Khiry Shelton (New York City FC)
John Brooks was called to the Senior Team rather than the U-23 side, which makes you wonder if Klinsmann is considering starting the young centerback on a consistent basis at the senior level. With defenders such as Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler, Ventura Alvarado, Geoff Cameron, and Steve Birnbaum all at Jurgen’s disposal, one might wonder why the manager didn’t elect to send Brooks to the Olympic squad. You figure the U-23s would be much better off with Brooks anchoring the defense (Who featured as a captain in recent outings with the Olympic team) than without him in a do-or-die scenario vs. Los Cafeteros. That being said, if he is on the senior team this go-around, it must be for a reason. Surely Jurgen wouldn’t just call him as an insurance policy.
However, it could also be a preview of a struggle the USMNT coach will have to endure this year should the U-23s beat Colombia: IF the Olympic team manages to qualify for Rio this Summer, will Klinsmann give Andi Herzog a full selection of players to choose from, or are a few of his young stalwarts in the senior side going to have the “hands-off” tag slapped on them? Will they be able to feature in more than one competition? John Brooks, as mentioned earlier, is definitely someone who comes to mind.
Deandre Yedlin is another who has had a prominent role with the senior team but is also age-eligible for the Olympics this summer. Jordan Morris also has experience on both levels. How does Klinsmann plan on using all of these players and others in between three major competitions (World Cup Qualifying, Copa America Centenario, 2016 Summer Olympics) that will take place in the coming months? Will they all be used with no break in between tournaments? Will there be a limitation on games? According to Jurgen in an interview with ESPN during January’s Camp Cupcake, there are other factors that need to be considered:
“We will definitely keep all our options open, but the tricky part is they don’t need to be released [by their clubs]. So [coach Andi Herzog] didn’t get the players that he needed in the qualifiers. If clubs say no, then no chance. I can definitely bring John Brooks with me and Yedlin and Jordan Morris, but theoretically if the clubs say: ‘Senior team is OK, but the Olympics, we don’t want the kids to fly down to Colombia,’ then there’s nothing you can do. But looking into 2016, it’s definitely exciting because there is so much on the table.
Then there is the curious case of Christian Pulisic, the 17 year American enjoying a meteoric rise with German power Borussia Dortmund. Pulisic, a fixture with the U20 US team, is certainly the type of playmaker who could influence and aid the fortunes of the U23 team, which lacks a dynamic playmaker in the center of the pitch to compliment the steady holder Emerson Hyndman. Many American fans hoped Gedion Zelalem would be that guy, but as he struggles to find his form and games in Scotland, where he is on loan with Rangers, the in-form Pulisic becomes an attractive option.
The fact the U23’s could certainly use him, despite potential chemistry concerns, made the news out of US camp this week that Pulisic would be called directly into the senior side once fit surprising. Sure, Pulisic has appeared in six matches for Dortmund in 2016, including the club’s rout of Tottenham Hotspur in the Europa League this month. But is Klinsmann calling him in too soon? Is he calling him simply to cap tie him to the US? And if he does call him in– doesn’t he have to at least play him in order to cap tie him? Otherwise, isn’t a senior side call up a waste, given how badly the U23s need him? These are complicated questions, with no clear answers.
Klinsmann also hinted on how he planned on balancing the power via his most recent interview via ussoccer.com, when he stated, “It’s going to be a big, big ten days for us. The senior team wants badly the six points in these two games, but also our Olympic team is playing in the playoffs for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro with Colombia. What influence does it have for our rosters? At the end of the day, priority always is the senior team. Priority is World Cup Qualifying, so there are no compromises made like sending the players that are age-eligible for the Olympic team to the Olympic team already. We are convinced our Olympic team will do really well in Colombia and get a decent result there, and then we hope for big support in Dallas for the return game. We are convinced they will get the job done.”
Hopefully for US fans, there are enough cards in the deck to draw a good hand in all competitions. Only time will tell.
Andrei Days is a new contributor to The Yanks Are Coming. He is a founder of American Outlaws- Gainesville in Florida and a journalist.