Featured, November 2013, USMNT

US Roster Analysis: Klinsmann Treating November Friendlies as World Cup Tuneups They Are

Michael Bradley returns to the US this week, which was just one sign Klinsmann is taking the November friendlies seriously.

Michael Bradley returns to the US this week, which was just one sign Klinsmann is taking the November friendlies seriously.

Garrett McInnis

Considering how inconsistent Jurgen Klinsmann’s roster choices were for the first year and a half of his time in charge of the national team, he’s become remarkably focused as the World Cup rapidly approaches.   The pool has shrunk drastically & the surprises have become fewer and fewer.  There was a time when he had mixed and matched so many defenders that I was practically begging for a back line of Timmy Chandler, Geoff Cameron, Carlos Bocanegra and Fabian Johnson. That thinking seems rather absurd at this point.

My first thought when I saw this roster was very simply, “Well, Jurgen hasn’t taken his foot off the pedal for these friendlies.  He’s making a statement that these are important matches.”  Basically he called up every number one player he possibly could for these two friendlies.  What this tells me is that Jurgen realizes the World Cup just isn’t that far away and he wants our first team to have every opportunity to develop that chemistry as we head for Brazil. 

These two matches are road matches & will be a nice test to see what sort of form our guys are in prior to the January camp that will likely consist of mostly younger, less tested players (Yes, history— see Bob’s camp in 2010– tells us Camp Cupcake is Camp Cupcake, even in a World Cup year).  Klinsmann recognizes this as one of the last 2 or 3 chances to see his options up close. As I’ll point out later, I don’t see a single player on this roster that will definitely be left at home next summer.  Some like Eric Lichaj and Bill Hamid are long shots, but injuries could change things in a hurry.  With all that said, let’s get to the roster.

Goalkeepers: Tim Howard’s Beard (Everton), Bill Hamid (DC United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire)

Let me be clear. It would have been egregious (and potentially a fire-able offense) for Jurgen to not call up Tim Howard’s Beard during ‘No Shave November.”

As for Johnson & Hamid, both have tremendous physical skill s and huge careers ahead of them.  Every chance to get them time around Timmy will pay dividends for the future of US soccer.  I’m sure that Howard will start both games so there really was no reason to drag a banged-up Brad Guzan away from Aston Villa for friendlies.

Prediction: Tim Howard’s beard will be stupendous.  His play will also be very good, though it will pale in comparison to his beard.

Omar Gonzalez may be the American with the most to gain or lose in the November friendlies.

Omar Gonzalez may be the American with the most to gain or lose in the November friendlies.

Defenders: Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest), John Anthony Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles Galaxy), Michael Orozco (Puebla), DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla)

Ok, so this is the most debatable and surprising group.  First, it’s obvious that Jurgen finally convinced Eric Lichaj to burn those embarrassing photos.   It’s really the only explanation for him finally getting the call.  Second, it’ll be good to get JAB another camp with the team as we continue to evaluate him and his preparedness to contribute over the next few months.  In fact, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him start one of the two matches next for Omar.  Obviously the most important missing piece is Matt Besler who is still playing in that MLS playoffs thingy (Silly Americans and their playoffs).  

As far as omissions, you could certainly make the argument that Clarence Goodson was given the cold shoulder and that Tim Ream warranted a spot over Brooks or Fiscal.  With respect to Goodson, I honestly think Klinsmann is comfortable enough with his play on a consistent basis that he felt the slot would be better used on training time with a future contributor.   Tim Ream would have been a fringe call up anyway and I have no problem with giving Brooks or Lichaj the opportunity. 

Prediction: Expect Cameron & Evans to man the right side, DMB the left and Gonzo to start both matches next to either Cameron or Brooks. ALSO: Omar Gonzalez is our “MAN OF THE CAMP”– of every player in this grouping, Gonzalez has the most to lose over the next week and a half. Should be interesting.

Midfielders: MB 90 (Roma), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg FC), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Jermaine Jones (Schalke), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Brek Shea (Stoke City)

This is, for all intents and purposes, as good of a midfield squad as we could possibly call up.  Sure you would probably exchange Brek Shea for Graham Zusi or Kyle Beckerman; both of course are also kinda busy with the whole MLS playoffs (see Matt Besler comment, supra).  Still, Shea provides a pacy left wing presence that is unique and has paid dividends for Klinsmann off the bench in past matches.  Also worth noting is the fact that Landon Donovan is recovering from an ankle knock. Big picture, there’s reason to believe every player on this list will either be on the plane to Brazil next summer or on the cusp of being so. 

Prediction: We’re gonna start our A-team of Jermaine & MB90 & they are gonna kick ass in the middle of the field.  Our core should be strong.  That’s all that matters. Oh, and Jermaine Jones is gonna get a yellow card.  And Brek Shea will do something mind-numbingly awesome and something mind-numbingly horrible. Duh.

Clint Dempsey disappointed in Seattle. Is a national team call-up a cure?

Clint Dempsey disappointed in Seattle. Is a national team call-up a cure?

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

You’re basically looking at our most probable World Cup forward pool sans Herculez Gomez and, in my opinion, Juan Agudelo.  Jozy will be on the team next summer, and Klinsmann showed good player personnel management praising his young forward ahead of the camp, despite his struggles at Sunderland. By the way, who hasn’t struggled at Sunderland?

 Same for Deuce, who will be on the team and will start. The interesting thing with Dempsey is the following: it used to be that we wondered if he could take his club form to the national team. Now we wonder if he can cure his club form with a national team call-up. My how times have changed.

I’d be shocked if Eddie “The CONCACAF Conqueror”  is left at home.  Aron Johannsson has looked awesome lately and is in form with Alkmaar & Boyd is scoring for Rapid Vienna. Like most of the other positions, Jurgen just went with the best options available to him.  Wondo gets a sympathy call up/ last chance to show out against reasonably good competition call-up (sorry, I just don’t see him making the the WC Roster). 

Prediction: We score a lot. I’m thinking 6 goals over two games. 

The matches against Scotland and Austria should be a fun couple of games where we get to test the form of our national team.  I expect Jurgen to push them hard to see exactly the extent of that form and to continue to build positive momentum for the program.  This is no time to be slowing down any progress that we’ve made over the past 8-10 months.  This is the time for the Yanks to kick it into another gear.  That sort of consistent performance will be what we need in Brazil to meet and exceed the growing expectations of a burgeoning soccer nation.

Garrett McInnis is a regular contributing writer for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached atgarrettmcinnis@gmail.com and you should follow him on Twitter at @captainmcinnis, where he tweets about soccer, the law, and how Ole Miss managed a top five recruiting class in college football without cheating. Really, read that again with a straight face. 

Garrett McGinnis