With qualifying over, the debate about “Who’s in” and “Who’s Out” for Jurgen Klinsmann’s final 23 man roster in Brazil next summer gets more serious. Here at The Yanks Are Coming, we move on from our “depth chart” pieces to actual lists, voted on by all of our contributing writers. Consider this “November 23” to the be the first of a series of “final lists”, where we vote as a staff and decide who has earned the right to be on the plane to Brazil late next May.
Keep in mind- this list assumes total fitness, but also factors in things like “current form” and whether a player’s stock is rising or falling- so it isn’t really an “if the tournament started tomorrow” list but it isn’t by any means a list that lacks future change or flexibility. Below each position, we’ve provided a brief summary of the field of players and noted who the other players considered and receiving votes were. (NOTE: Our “total field/player pool” consisted of 44 names– by far more than Bob Bradley had at his disposal in 2010.)
Without further Freddy Adu, here is our November 23. For perspective or comparison, we’ve also linked recent lists from Soccer By Ives and Noah Davis over at Grantland. The differences between the lists, while minor, demonstrate the tough decisions Klinsmann will have to make moving forward.
1. Tim Howard (Everton)
2. Brad Guzan (Aston Villa)
3. Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
Others Receiving Votes: Sean Johnson (Chicago)
Summary: Nothing to see here. Johnson received a vote under the “take him and prepare him for 2018” theory, not because anyone on our staff thinks he’s better than legitimate MLS MVP candidate Nick Rimando. The theory there makes some sense– if you are down to goalkeeper three at a World Cup things are probably going terribly wrong– so why not bring a guy who will/could be integral to future qualifying campaigns. Howard is in great form at Everton after the Costa Rica debacle, and deserves all the praise Roberto Martinez is giving him. Maybe it’s the beard.
Guzan continues to be steady at Villa.
1. Geoff Cameron* (Stoke City)
2. DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla)
3. Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City)
4. Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles Galaxy)
5. Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes)
6. Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders)
7. Michael Parkhurst (FC Augsburg) – LAS T MAN ON PLANE
Others Receiving Votes: John Anthony Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Timothy Chandler (Nuremburg), Tim Ream (Bolton), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96)
Summary: If there is nothing to see in the goalkeepers section, there is plenty to see in the defenders group, where all manner of permutations are possible and in our view, only Beasley, Cameron (who receives a star because of his position flexibility) and Besler are “locks.” The rest were not unanimous choices, and Michael Parkhurst was The Yanks Are Coming’s “LAST MAN ON THE PLANE.”
Timothy Chandler and Steve Cherundolo are the toughest to figure out– one just started playing again but has had a promising early Autumn; the other wants badly to be considered by Klinsmann but is still injured. There’s a bit of Sinead O’Connor to Steve Cherundolo– if he’s fit– well, “nothing compares to him..” But we’ll see.
Brad Evans wasn’t great in the recent qualifiers but has earned a modicum of trust from Klinsmann. Parkhurst had a fine, if not well-documented, Gold Cup and earns the votes because he’s flexible, plays in a good league, has loads of experience and quite simply isn’t as mistake-prone as other options with perhaps brighter “upsides”, like Michael Orozco-Fiscal, Edgar Castillo or John Anthony Brooks, who remains an unknown internationally. The November friendlies will sort this position out more, but the reality is these are going to be the longest battles and the toughest choices, save perhaps telling Kyle Beckerman “NO”, that Klinsmann will make next May.
1. MB 90 (Roma)
2. Jermaine Jones (Schalke)
3. Clint Dempsey* (Seattle Sounders)
4. Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
5. Landon Donovan* (Los Angeles Galaxy)
6. Fabian Johnson* (Hoffenheim)
7. Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes)
8. Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht)
9. Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg FC)
Others Receiving Votes: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake) — LAST MAN OUT; Joe Corona (Club Tijuana); Brek Shea (Stoke City)
Summary: Diskerud and Kljestan were numbers 22 and 20 “on the plane”, respectively, which tells you the final choices here are difficult. Fabian Johnson, Clint Dempsey, and Landon Donovan each bring “positional flexibility” to Klinsmann’s side, which allows Klinsmann to bring 9 midfielders and 7 defenders instead of a balanced eight and eight. Geoff Cameron’s presence on the team makes Beckerman expendable, in our voters view, though he is our “LAST MAN OUT.” Danny Williams and Maurice Edu have each fallen very far behind and every argument for them seems to lack a compelling warrant– IE– think of a game scenario where they offer something one of Jones, Beckerman or Cameron don’t. We can’t. The exclusion of Beckerman was tough for us. He’s been steady and integral to qualification, and he’s far better a player than the skeptics would have you believe. Imagine how tough that conversation would be for Klinsmann…
Bedoya’s inclusion goes from long-shot pre-Gold Cup to relatively safe with our voters– his form at Nantes is terrific and his manager has called him “technically flawless”, which means he’s not likely to lose his grip this spring despite so-so performances in the October qualifiers.
Kljestan, for reasons that are hard to explain, hasn’t found a real “home” in Klinsmann’s system but he is in prolific form for Anderlecht, scoring in three straight league fixtures and delivering a Champions League assist this week, and he was key to the American victory over Jamaica last month. He deserves to be on the team more than Diskerud, who is still a bit of a defensive sieve and still learning when to be ambitious and when to be safe in his distributions. Brad Davis, who sparked the US comeback win over Panama, did not receive votes, but could in the future. Brek Shea and Joe Corona, two players whose talent excite, are also still very much in the mix.
1. Jozy Altidore (Sunderland)
2. Eddie Johnson* (Seattle Sounders)
3. Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar)
4. Herculez Gomez (Club Tijuana)
Others Receiving Votes: Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna)
Summary: The thinking is that despite position flexibility, Klinsmann will take four “forwards” (including sometimes advanced midfielder Eddie Johnson) to Brazil. The first two were unanimous selections, and yes, Jozy Altidore, perhaps more than any American player, is critical to the US success in Brazil. It would be nice to see him score a goal for his new club. Johannsson has shown his substantial talent of late both for AZ Alkmaar, where he studies the game under Earnie Stewart, and for the US, where he deftly finished against Panama to bury any lingering Caneleros dreams. He’s going to Brazil, even if not unanimously approved by our staff at this point. Terrence Boyd is missing something that he’s running out of time to find. Herculez Gomez is incredibly valuable, and while he was our 21st player in– his motor, ability as a substitute, and willingness to find games and yes, defend from a forward position, secured his spot in Brazil, for now.
Daniel Seco is Co-Founder and Co-Editor of The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow him on Twitter at @DanielJSeco. He lives in Los Angeles.