The sad truth is that it’s not very much fun to be a fan of the United States Men’s National Team right now.
After a disappointing Gold Cup and a loss to Mexico in the CONCACAF Cup, the U.S. has once again failed to qualify for the Confederations Cup. To add insult to injury, the team lost to Costa Rica just three days after their defeat to Mexico.
Nonetheless, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann and company don’t have time to lick their wounds with World Cup qualifying only a few weeks away. On November 13, the U.S. will host Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in St. Louis before traveling to Trinidad and Tobago for their second qualifier four days later.
Getting out of the semifinal round of World Cup qualifying in CONCACAF may seem like a foregone conclusion, but it’s not. Beyond the issues with the team’s recent form—which includes four home losses in a row to CONCACAF opponents—both Guatemala and Trinidad and Tobago are in the U.S.’s group and finding points away against either of those teams is going to be a challenge.
There’s also precedent for struggling in the semifinal round of qualifying under Klinsmann, as the USMNT nearly saw their 2014 World Cup qualification hopes dashed at the same stage, requiring come-from-behind wins against both Antigua and Barbuda and Guatemala to advance to the hex.
At this point, the path forward for the U.S. seems to be an infusion of new blood, as the team’s current—and aging—veterans have proved they can no longer be relied upon to get results. But Klinsmann’s recent failures have also put him in a precarious position, needing results for the first time in his tenure.
That pressure is likely to stunt any experimentation by Klinsmann with new personnel and probably lead to U.S. fans seeing largely the same group of players that has struggled in recent months.
With that in mind, here are the 23 players Klinsmann is likely to call up for next month’s qualifiers.
The goalkeeper position may be the only one on the U.S. squad right now where there’s not drama, but that’s not necessarily a good thing.
Well before October’s CONCACAF Cup loss to Mexico, Klinsmann announced that Guzan would be his No. 1 even with Tim Howard ending his international sabbatical and returning to the fold. The decision was not controversial in most quarters, as both Guzan and Howard are starters in the English Premier League. They are both capable and Guzan proved in the 2014 qualifiers against Costa Rica and Mexico that he was up to the task.
Still, it’s hard not to wonder whether Howard might have done better on Mexico’s third goal in last week’s CONCACAF Cup, the tally which gave El Tri the lead with only two minutes to play in extra-time.
On the play, Paul Aguilar fired home on a full volley from 12 yards out. At first glance, it appeared there was nothing Guzan could have done. But replays from behind the goal showed that Guzan’s feet weren’t set on the play and Guzan also made a crucial error in the Gold Cup semifinal this summer.
Returning to his club this weekend, Guzan made another mistake and cost Aston Villa a goal.
After the October games, Klinsmann said he would probably rotate his two top keepers in the future, but that also seems like a poor decision. With the hopes of playing in the Confederations Cup gone, it is time to look to the future, and that is one that shouldn’t include Howard or Nick Rimando—who will both be 39 years old by the time the 2018 World Cup in Russia rolls around.
Second-guessing aside, Guzan should remain the team’s No. 1 keeper going forward with Bill Hamid and Sean Johnson (who is currently out injured) filling out the roster and earning minutes whenever possible.
Two others to keep an eye on are William Yarbrough and Ethan Horvath. Yarbrough, who started 64 games in Liga MX for Leon over the past two seasons, has lost his job and not played a single league minute this season. Still, he was good enough in Klinsmann’s eyes to make the Gold Cup roster this past summer.
The 20-year-old Horvath, for his part, has been drawing some rave reviews for his performances for Molde this season and should be brought into the fold sooner rather than later.
Locks: Howard, Guzan
On the roster: Rimando
In the hunt: Hamid, Yarbrough
Misses the cut: Horvath
Switch I’d make: Hamid and Horvath for Howard and Rimando
The center back pool didn’t exactly cover itself in glory in October, but neither did it embarrass itself. Against Mexico, the midfield was overrun and the American defenders did the best they could. Geoff Cameron is finally getting consistent starts at center back for Stoke and Matt Besler has finally recovered from his post-World Cup hangover. Both are cemented onto the roster for November and will probably start both qualifiers.
Cameron and Besler have been immense tonight. Easily the two best #USMNT players on the field
The best of the rest has been, surprisingly, Tim Ream. After a small cameo at center back in the Gold Cup, where he performed admirably, Klinsmann has not given Ream another shot in the middle, instead playing him out wide. However, on the outside, Ream’s lack of pace does him no favors. While Klinsmann won’t likely give Ream a shot in the middle in November, it needs to stay on the short list of experiments for the near future.
The Gold Cup center back duo of John Brooks and Ventura Alvarado will also be solidly in the mix for November’s qualifiers, despite struggling this summer. Brooks recently returned to club action after an injury, while Alvarado has fallen to the bench for America and not started a league match in over a month.
Omar Gonzalez was left off the October rosters and may be out of the national team picture for the time being, while Michael Orozco did not take advantage of his opportunity against Costa Rica, making several key errors.
MLS standouts Steve Birnbaum, Matt Hedges and Matt Miazga should all be in line for a call-up, but Klinsmann doesn’t seem particular high on any of them at the moment.
Locks: Cameron, Besler,
On the roster: Ream, Orozco, Brooks
In the hunt: Alvarado, Gonzalez
Misses the cut: Birnbaum, Hedges
The real fireworks in November will come when Klinsmann makes his choices at outside back.
Sending Fabian Johnson home before the Costa Rica match earlier this month, Klinsmann then went on to publicly criticize Johnson—who had removed himself late in the match against Mexico.
Johnson said he left the match because he felt an injury coming on and his club backed Johnson up. However, Johnson then started for Borussia Monchengladbach on the weekend and went all 90 minutes.
Fabian Johnson plays 90 minutes in Borussia Moenchengladbach's 5-1 win. Somewhere, Jurgen Klinsmann is thinking…. pic.twitter.com/ODGhD5NVLW
If Klinsmann decides to further exile Johnson, he has few good options to replace him. DaMarcus Beasley’s national career should be finished, but the player pool at outside back is perilously thin right now. Brek Shea, his technical deficiencies aside, is still an option and despite a relatively poor performance against Costa Rica, Shea did show some promise at left back earlier this year.
Greg Garza is still out injured and Timmy Chandler has never been able to replicate his club form with the U.S.
DeAndre Yedlin is a given to make the roster, but Klinsmann, maddeningly, continues to play him out of position in the midfield where he contributes little to the attack.
Bizarrely enough, the team’s best fullback right now—outside of an exiled Johnson—is Brad Evans. While Evans has never been anyone’s favorite for the U.S., he has shown himself to be a capable stopgap at right back and there’s no sign that anyone will surpass him for next month’s games.
Eric Lichaj was Nottingham Forrest’s Player of the Month for September, but is not rated by Klinsmann. In fact, when the team needed cover at outside back for the October matches, the coach instead called in Birmingham’s Jonathan Spector.
Robbie Rogers is another interesting idea, but, once again, Klinsmann has shown no signs of interest in the LA Galaxy man.
On the roster: Chandler, Shea, Evans
In the hunt: Johnson, Beasley, Spector
Misses the cut: Lichaj, Rogers
Change I’d make: Johnson for Chandler
The easiest way to fix the U.S.’s disastrous midfield issues over the past few months would be to pull Michael Bradley back into the No. 6 position. But this is one of the issues that Klinsmann has been most stubborn on over the past year and has insisted that Bradley play in the hybrid No. 8/No. 10 role in a diamond midfield.
The team has suffered as it has continued to rely on Kyle Beckerman in the holding role, but Klinsmann has largely refused to look at new candidates for the position. That is, of course, unless you consider Mix Diskerud a holding midfielder, but that is only something Klinsmann appears to see.
Jermaine Jones will still be firmly in Klinsmann’s plans, despite the fact that the midfielder will be 36 years old by the 2018 World Cup. Jones should be dropped to make way for some fresh blood like Wil Trapp or Dax McCarty, but it won’t happen.
Danny Williams looked to be the heir apparent to Beckerman—and he still might be—but he was nothing short of a disaster against Costa Rica in October. Getting a rare start and chance to impress, Williams repeatedly coughed the ball up resulting in dangerous counterattacks and was lazy in his recovery on multiple occasions. It was not an impressive performance from the Reading man.
A final, interesting choice would be Emerson Hyndman, but with limited club minutes, he isn’t likely to force himself into Klinsmann’s plans at the moment.
Locks: Jones, Williams
On the roster: Diskerud
In the hunt: Beckerman
Misses the cut: McCarty, Trapp, Hyndman
Change I’d make: McCarty for Jones
Attack Midfielders/Outside Midfielders
As much as it makes many U.S. fans want to pull their hair out, Michael Bradley will almost certainly be lining up as the team’s attacking midfielder come November. He’ll be joined by regulars Alejandro Bedoya and Gyasi Zardes.
Bedoya missed the October matches due to illness; Zardes played and was thoroughly unimpressive.
After that, it’s anyone’s guess. Klinsmann used the October match against Mexico to reminisce about the 2014 World Cup and call in Graham Zusi. And although the coach is low on options, particularly in the wide positions, he can still rely on Johnson, Shea and Yedlin to fill in as necessary.
One interesting choice could be Alfredo Morales, who frequently plays in a narrow “wide” midfield position for Ingolstadt in a role similar to the ones in Klinsmann’s diamond midfield.
Considering the U.S.’s recent results and, more importantly, the team’s utter lack of midfield possession and creativity, it seems time to make some necessary changes.
But with Klinsmann needing results, he’s likely to continue ignoring MLS products Sebastian Lletget, Darlington Nagbe, Harry Shipp, Kelyn Rowe and Ethan Finlay—who have all showed potential of late.
The October friendlies also showed definitively that Klinsmann should make the move to using a true No. 10 in the mold of Lee Nguyen or Benny Feilhaber, or give Mix the keys to the offense with two holding midfielders behind him.
Lee Nguyen must wonder why he bothers answers his cell sometimes.
But again, Klinsmann doesn’t rate Feilhaber and view’s Diskerud as a holding midfielder. Most confounding was that when he finally did use Nguyen, in the match against Costa Rica, he played Nguyen wide on the left and not underneath the forwards where he would have been more effective.
Locks: Bradley, Bedoya, Zardes
On the roster: Morales
Misses the cut: Zusi, Lletget, Nagbe, Shipp, Rowe, Finlay, Feilhaber
Change I’d make: Nguyen for Zardes
Up top, Klinsmann’s recent results are also likely to play a factor. While it should be time to move on from stalwart Clint Dempsey—who will be 35 years old when the 2018 World Cup kicks off—the coach can’t take the risk of leaving his most consistent striker out of the mix.
Of course, with long-term injuries to Terrence Boyd and Rubio Rubin, as well as Aron Johannsson out for an indefinite term with a nerve issue, Klinsmann doesn’t really have an abundance of options at the moment.
Jozy Altidore is currently enduring a bad stretch of form and has been the target of a fair amount of anger from U.S. fans in recent months. But Klinsmann has stuck with the streaky forward during rough patches before and likely won’t leave Altidore at home this time either.
Bobby Wood is one of the few Americans who made the most of their opportunities in October, scoring late against Mexico and producing a hard-fought, if goalless, performance against Costa Rica. After some poor matches for the U.S. in the fall, Wood has picked up tallies in three out of his last four matches, including goals against Germany, the Netherlands and Mexico. He needs to continue to be given minutes for the U.S. in these upcoming games.
One wonders if Jordan Morris would have been able to give the U.S. a boost like Wood did in the October matches, but Morris was otherwise occupied with the U-23’s in Olympic qualifying.
Andrew Wooten is another player who deserves a continued look, but it wouldn’t be entirely unlike Klinsmann to leave Wooten at home and give Chris Wondolowski the call-up—much to the chagrin of the majority of U.S. fans.
Any United States men’s national team fan worth their salt knows that trying to predict a Jurgen Klinsmann roster is akin to picking the correct seven numbers for the Powerball Lottery.
However, with Klinsmann forced to narrow his choices for this summer down to a provisional 35-man roster, as was released last week, some of the sorcery—at least this time around—has been removed from the process.
With victory in the 2015 Gold Cup, the USMNT would qualify for the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia, so Klinsmann will be putting together the most competitive squad he can.
Here are the 23 players most likely to make the team and the 12 that will miss the cut.
As has been true since the first edition of this piece last August, the position with the least amount of mystery on the USMNT is goalkeeper.
Klinsmann named four goalkeepers to the team’s provisional Gold Cup squad, and they are exactly who anyone would expect—Brad Guzan, Nick Rimando, Bill Hamid and William Yarbrough.
Perhaps there was a little surprise that Sean Johnson wasn’t on the list, but his only minutes in the cycle between last summer’s World Cup and now were in the second half of the second January camp friendly against Panama.
Guzan is still the U.S.’s No. 1 despite his troubles late in the year at Aston Villa with Rimando right behind him. The only mystery for the Gold Cup is who Klinsmann will tap to be the No. 3.
At the moment, that seems most likely to be Yarbrough, as Hamid’s last game for the Nats was in the team’s disastrous 4-1 shellacking at the hands of Ireland in November. Furthermore, Yarbrough has been the one to get minutes in several recent matches, including the second halves against Switzerland in March and Mexico in April.
On the team: Brad Guzan, Nick Rimando, William Yarbrough
Misses the cut: Bill Hamid
The biggest surprise on the provisional roster—at any position—was DaMarcus Beasley. After a successful World Cup, Beasley announced his retirement from international football. However, Klinsmann has talked him into coming back to the squad this summer, a further indication that Klinsmann realizes how important the Gold Cup is for the U.S.
If nothing else, Beasley will add depth to the left side of the defense, but in truth, he may be much more than that. Greg Garza, who performed well last fall for the U.S., struggled in recent outings this spring against Denmark and Mexico. And Brek Shea, who is enjoying a solid career revival at Orlando City SC and with the national team, may not be completely ready to be the U.S.’s No. 1 at left back in such a big tournament.
One wildcard on both the left and the right is Fabian Johnson. While Johnson is listed as a midfielder—and has gotten considerable playing time in the midfield for his club this season—he is more than capable of playing either left or right back.
If he’s needed on the right, it will be because neither DeAndre Yedlin nor Timmy Chandler has won the job in Klinsmann’s eyes. Nearly every USMNT fan has given up on Chandler—despite a few holdouts—but Klinsmann continues to show faith in the inconsistent defender.
Lalas calls Chandler a “lollygagger” at halftime. Ouch
Of course with Klinsmann, that faith has often been repaid—Bobby Wood and Brek Shea are just two of the more recent examples. Still, at this point, most U.S. fans would settle for just one mistake-free game from the Eintracht Frankfurt defender.
On the outside looking in are Brad Evans and Tim Ream. Evans played the second half of the U.S.’s recent win over Germany—and outplayed Chandler—but when push came to shove last summer, Chandler went to Brazil and Evans watched the tournament from his couch. And there’s little to indicate Klinsmann will change his mind this time around.
Ream has continued to enjoy success at the club level in the English Championship, but to continue to keep him on the fringes of the team with no real intention of using him is just cruel. Bolton manager Neil Lennon expressed a similar dissatisfaction after Ream was left off the roster for the March friendlies, only to be brought in between games, and then only used by Klinsmann as an 89th-minute substitute against Switzerland.
On the team: DaMarcus Beasley, Greg Garza, Brek Shea, DeAndre Yedlin, Timmy Chandler
Misses the cut: Brad Evans, Tim Ream
The battle for spots at center back, just two months ago, looked as if it would be the most competitive on the U.S. roster. Now, who gets the roster spots looks almost like a foregone conclusion.
With Geoff Cameron being left off the provisional roster reportedly at the request of his club, Stoke City, to rest, Jermaine Jones requiring another surgery to repair a sports hernia (Jones’ merits as a center back notwithstanding) and Steve Birnbaum—who looked bright against Chile in January—just returning from injury, the player pool at center back has narrowed quite a bit.
On the 35-man roster is Ventura Alvarado, John Brooks, Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez and Michael Orozco—of which Klinsmann will likely bring four.
Alvarado and Brooks both had their fair share of bad defensive moments in the U.S.’s recent European trip, but Brooks has proven in the past he can take his game up a notch when needed—and did so at times against both the Netherlands and Germany. Alvarado looked particularly vulnerable in the air in the recent European matches and one has to wonder if at 6’ 0” he can handle center back at the international level.
Interestingly enough, Alvarado is actually an inch taller than Orozco and the same height as Besler. However, Orozco was one of the U.S.’s best defenders in the March European friendlies and is normally very good in the air—his lost battle against Klaas Hunterlaar in the U.S.’s recent win over the Netherlands a seeming anomaly. However, in the U.S.’s most recent games, Alvarado was clearly the preferred option ahead of Orozco.
The last two in the group are Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler. Besler has struggled on numerous occasions since his monster performance in last summer’s World Cup and seems the most likely—Orozco is a close second—to missing out on the roster. Gonzalez, for his part, might be the best center back in the U.S. pool, but bizarrely still hasn’t convinced a host of American fans that he is even international quality.
On the team: Omar Gonzales, John Brooks, Ventura Alvarado, Michael Orozco
Misses the cut: Matt Besler
The pool at center mid is just as much about who didn’t make the provisional roster as who did. Danny Williams was reportedly left off to rest lingering issues with his knee and Jones, as mentioned in the center back discussion, is out after surgery. Wil Trapp is still suffering from concussion symptoms sustained earlier this spring and Klinsmann, not surprisingly, has continued his long omission of Benny Feilhaber from the U.S. roster.
Gedion Zelalem and Emerson Hyndman, who both recently represented the U.S. U-20’s in New Zealand, also didn’t make the initial cut.
The locks, at this point, seem to be Michael Bradley, Alejandro Bedoya, Kyle Beckerman and Mix Diskerud. Bradley might finally get his chance to captain the squad with Clint Dempsey’s status in doubt (more on that below) and Bedoya will be in assuming his recent knee injury is cleared up by tournament time.
The rest of the center midfielder pool, including Joe Corona, Perry Kitchen, Alfredo Morales and Lee Nguyen, will likely miss the final cut. None has excelled at the international level yet—some have only had limited opportunities—and this summer’s tournament is not the time to experiment.
Nguyen will probably be the most missed by fans, especially among the contingent that thinks his midfield creativity is missed when the U.S. plays. However, with Bradley finally proving he can play the No. 10 role (or at least a more advanced No. 8 role), Nguyen will be surplus to requirements.
On the team: Michael Bradley, Alejandro Bedoya, Kyle Beckerman, Mix Diskerud
Misses the cut: Joe Corona, Perry Kitchen, Alfredo Morales, Lee Nguyen
With Klinsmann continuing to find success in a diamond midfield and a dearth of good wing options for the U.S., the coach will be able to go light on roster spots with this group of players.
And despite the desire of many fans, Harry Shipp and Miguel Ibarra missed the provisional roster with Julian Green left off ostensibly to get his club situation settled.
Johnson (discussed above) is one of Klinsmann’s mainstays out wide and Yedlin (also discussed above) can get the job done on the flank, if needed. Zardes will make the team because of his work rate—his poor touch aside—and because he can also play up top.
World Cup mainstay Graham Zusi has been on the outs since last summer—he’s only made one appearance in the last year for the U.S.—and will likely miss the cut. He’ll be joined at home by fellow World Cup veteran Brad Davis.
On the team: Fabian Johnson, Gyasi Zardes
Misses the cut: Graham Zusi, Brad Davis
Up top, Klinsmann will have some difficult choices. Jozy Altidore looks to have recovered from a hamstring injury much earlier than expected, but there is doubt about whether strike partner and team captain Clint Dempsey will be eligible to play after an ugly incident with a referee in the U.S. Open Cup this week.
The pool is also a bit thinner than expected with Rubio Rubin and Bobby Wood not on the provisional roster—Rubin because he was just with the U-20’s at their World Cup and Wood because he is being given time to work on his club situation.
Aron Johannsson and Jordan Morris look like shoe-ins and the final spot should go to Juan Agudelo, who is enjoying a resurgence with the national team of late. Missing the cut will be Alan Gordon and Chris Wondolowski—if not, expect the usual hot takes from the USMNT faithful on Twitter.
On the team: Juan Agudelo, Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey (if not suspended), Aron Johannsson, Jordan Morris
Following a string of disappointing results—and largely uninspiring performances—in a spate of recent friendlies, the United States men’s national team now finds itself only three months away from this summer’s all-important Gold Cup, where victory assures the U.S. of a spot in the 2017 Confederations Cup.
Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has spent the eight months since last summer’s World Cup experimenting with new lineups and new formations, but when push comes to shove this summer, he knows he will need to eschew his tinkering and implement a more pragmatic, results-driven approach.
Here are the 23 players he’s likely to call in this summer.
Brad Guzan missed the U.S.’s recent friendlies against Denmark and Switzerland, but is still the team’s No. 1 in the net. Nick Rimando deputized admirably in both friendlies—despite being hung out to dry repeatedly by his defense—and is still the American’s No. 2.
The only real decision for Klinsmann is: Who gets the last goalkeeper spot on the roster?
Bill Hamid still appears to be the man to fill that spot, even after giving up four goals against Ireland in his last U.S. start. Sean Johnson is another candidate, and played the second half against Panama in February, but has been battling a number of bizarre injuries this season in Major League Soccer.
On the outside looking in are Southampton youngster Cody Cropper and recent call-up William Yarbrough.
Locks: Guzan, Rimando
On the Roster: Hamid
In the Hunt: Johnson, Cropper, Yarbrough
Surprisingly enough, the Americans are remarkably deep at outside back right now—even if there is no clear pecking order.
On the left, Greg Garza appeared to be cementing his spot in the starting XI last fall before a disastrous performance against Denmark two weeks ago. Against Switzerland, Garza was replaced by Brek Shea, who then put on his best performance yet in a U.S. jersey.
On the right, a battle is brewing between Fabian Johnson, Timmy Chandler and DeAndre Yedlin. While Johnson has recently been used in the midfield for club and country, he is still a candidate to play in the back for the Americans, especially after Chandler continued his tendency towards game-changing mistakes in the March friendlies.
No matter what he does going forward, Chandler will give #USMNT at least 1/2 gaffes a game that leave you shaking your head. #SUIvUSA
Yedlin still hasn’t broke in for Tottenham in England, but remains a key player to the U.S., whether in the back, or in the midfield.
Long shots for the team include Tim Ream and Robbie Rogers. Ream has played often on the left for Bolton this season, but rarely plays when called into the U.S. squad and does not appear to be a serious contender for a roster spot at the moment. Rogers looked like a lock for a January camp call-up, but was passed over and has—even by his own admission—not had a great start to his 2015 MLS campaign.
Locks: Garza, Shea, Johnson, Chandler, Yedlin
In the Hunt: Ream
No position on the U.S. Gold Cup roster is likely to have as much intrigue as center back. Klinsmann’s attempt to convert Jermaine Jones to the position has shown some promise, but also revealed some glaring weaknesses—especially in January against Chile.
Matt Besler, who was a hero at last summer’s World Cup, has been a shell of his former self since Brazil and could miss the roster entirely this time around. Many fans also still don’t seem to fully trust Omar Gonzalez, but Gonzalez played well against both Germany and Belgium in the World Cup and has proved his worth to the U.S. squad.
Geoff Cameron has gotten over a rough start to his Premier League season, but, shockingly, was not called into the U.S. camp for the March friendlies. However, despite consistent playing time in England, Cameron does have a tendency to give up early on plays and give up “soft” goals—not an endearing quality for a center back and one, unfortunately, shared by U.S. teammate John Anthony Brooks.
Likewise, the U.S. defense seemed to fall apart in the second half of both games in March, both times after recent call-up Ventura Alvarado was introduced into the match.
With every center back in the U.S. pool having a downside, Klinsmann could very well look for some new blood this summer.
Arguably, no player did more to boost their stock in March than Michael Orozco, who put forth two solid performances against Denmark and Switzerland and appeared, at times, to be the only U.S. defender not overwhelmed by the circumstances at hand. Ian Darke also reported during the Denmark game that Klinsmann said Orozco probably would have made the World Cup roster if not for an injury late last spring.
I think Michael Orozco had a very nice week for the #USMNT. I can’t say I was expecting that — Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) March 31, 2015
Finally, two MLS products, Steve Birnbaum and Matt Hedges, could sneak onto the roster. Birnbaum was particularly impressive against Chile in January, the only U.S. center back who didn’t struggle in that match. Hedges, however, appears a bit further off the pace, as he was a late call-up to the January camp and played only sparingly.
Locks: Jones, Gonzalez, Orozco
On the Roster: Cameron, Brooks
In the Hunt: Alvarado, Besler, Birnbaum, Hedges
The U.S. has plenty of depth in the center of the park, led by Michael Bradley and Mix Diskerud. The troubling part, however, is that Klinsmann—despite all available evidence to the contrary—still sees Bradley as an attacking midfielder.
Klinsmann: “To be that connector I need [Michael Bradley] higher up the field. #USMNT
With players like Cameron, Jones and Bedoya all capable of playing in the middle if needed, Bradley and Diskerud are the only two locks. If Klinsmann brings an additional center midfielder, however, there are plenty of available options.
Kyle Beckerman certainly isn’t a long-term option for the team, but with this summer’s Gold Cup being so important, the Real Salt Lake man could still have a role to play for the Americans. Danny Williams and Alfredo Morales are also solidly in the mix and both started against Switzerland last week. Joe Corona, who was beginning to earn serious time in the fall before being sidelined with a foot injury, is now just starting to work his way back to club form.
Finally, youngsters Wil Trapp and Emerson Hyndman could sneak into the picture—but Hyndman will likely be playing with the U-20 team this summer in their World Cup.
Locks: Bradley, Diskerud
On the Roster: Beckerman
In the Hunt: Corona, Williams, Morales, Trapp, Hyndman
Picking which attacking midfielders or wingers might make the squad is tricky for a number of reasons. First, Yedlin, Johnson and Shea are all capable of playing on the wing. Second, Klinsmann has shown a clear preference towards playing either Bradley or Clint Dempsey in the No. 10 role. Finally, there are few players in the U.S. pool at those positions who have definitively proved their case for a roster spot.
At the top of the list is Alejandro Bedoya, who put in his best performance yet for the Nats against Switzerland last month. Lee Nguyen could also make the team, but doesn’t seem to have earned Klinsmann’s confidence just yet with limited minutes in his recent call-ups.
After that, it’s anyone’s guess. Joe Gyau looked promising before a knee injury in the fall sidelined him. Gedion Zelalem could certainly be in the mix if FIFA approves his paperwork in time.
Julian Green has endured nothing short of a nightmare season in the Bundesliga this year and Miguel Ibarra has yet to prove he can contribute at the international level. Graham Zusi is the U.S.’s forgotten man since his underwhelming performance in last summer’s World Cup and MLS youngsters Kelyn Rowe and Harry Shipp have yet to catch Klinsmann’s eye—despite some great play for their clubs.
On the Roster: Nguyen
In the Hunt: Zelalem, Green, Gyau, Ibarra, Zusi, Rowe, Shipp
Up top, Klinsmann will rely on veterans Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey to do the heavy lifting, but the U.S. still has a deep bench. Aron Johannsson has endured a 2014-15 campaign full of fits and starts and is still looking to fulfill the promise he demonstrated prior to last summer’s World Cup.
Terrence Boyd has begun jogging as he recovers from a knee injury, but it’s doubtful he makes it back for this summer. That will leave Klinsmann to choose from a batch of youngsters, including Rubio Rubin, Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris and Gyasi Zardes.
Wood is close to returning from a knee injury of his own, while Rubin will likely get pulled into the U-20 team for their World Cup.
Morris—who still hasn’t turned pro—certainly has Klinsmann’s eye, but seems a reach to make the final 23. Zardes, for his part, certainly has the work rate to compete at the international level, but his touch is still wanting far too often.
Finally, although few U.S. fans want to hear it, Chris Wondolowski is still solidly in the picture.
Another Camp Cupcake is in the books for the United States men’s national team and, as usual, the team’s annual January camp has resulted in some movement on the U.S. depth chart.
Following a 3-2 loss to Chile, the U.S. rebounded with a 2-0 win over Panama and attention will now begin to focus on the upcoming March friendlies against Denmark and Switzerland.
But the most important near-term goal remains the 2015 Gold Cup, as a U.S. victory in the tournament will secure passage to the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia.
Here’s how the player pool looks to be shaping up for this summer.
With Tim Howard’s self-imposed exile keeping him out at least until this fall, the No. 1 and No. 2 spots in the net are clearly occupied by Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando. The big battle in the goalkeeper pool will be for the No. 3 spot.
Bill Hamid looked to be the No. 3 this fall, and won 2014 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year honors, but was also in the net for the U.S.’s 4-1 shellacking at the hands of Ireland in November. Hamid missed the January camp this year with a shoulder injury, allowing Sean Johnson to keep his name firmly in the discussion.
Against Panama, Johnson picked up a shutout as a second-half substitute, although to be fair, he wasn’t really tested. Johnson had an underappreciated season for the Chicago Fire in 2014, and also picked up two shutouts for the U.S. in his two other most recent national team appearances—in 2013.
On the outside looking in is Cody Cropper, who earned a few call-ups this fall and is probably next in line among a talented pool of young American netminders.
Steve Clark, Bobby Shuttleworth and Luis Robles were all thought to be in the hunt for a January camp call-up, but none were selected and now look to be firmly out of the picture for the time being.
Locks: Brad Guzan, Nick Rimando
On the roster: Sean Johnson
In the hunt: Bill Hamid, Cody Cropper
Right now, there is no other position in the U.S. player pool that has more depth than center-back. Jermaine Jones, Omar Gonzalez, Geoff Cameron, John Anthony Brooks and Matt Besler are all firmly in the mix, and that’s to say nothing of the versatile Michael Orozco, or a host of youngsters working their way into the national team picture.
The “Jones as a center-back” experiment continued in the February friendlies and continued to show a mixture of promise and problems. Jones was surprisingly vulnerable in the air to whipped-in crosses against Chile and seemed to need a tether to keep him from bombing forward at every opportunity. Still, Klinsmann loves the New England Revolution man and thinks he’s best in the back.
For his part, Besler still looks to be punch drunk from the beating he received this summer at the hands of Romelu Lukaku, but played better against Chile and Panama than he did in his post-World Cup haze last fall.
Gonzalez missed the January camp with a minor injury, but, despite plenty of doubters, showed himself well last summer in the World Cup. Cameron and Brooks have both enjoyed up-and-down club seasons, but Cameron’s versatility and Brooks’ potential are both still desperately needed on the U.S. squad.
Orozco will probably miss the final roster, but a number of youngsters look to be pushing their way into the discussion. D.C. United defender Steve Birnbaum has done the most to raise his stock as of late, putting in an impressive showing against Chile. FC Dallas’ Matt Hedges also received a late call-up into the January camp and should continue to put pressure on the more established players.
The dark-horse of the center-back pool is Ventura Alvarado, the 22-year-old dual national who has begun working his way into America’s lineup in Liga MX. Alvarado is also versatile enough to play in the wide positions when needed.
Locks: Jermaine Jones, Omar Gonzalez, Geoff Cameron, John Anthony Brooks
On the roster: Matt Besler
In the hunt: Orozco, Birnbaum, Hedges
Dark-horse favorite: Alvarado
Against Chile, the U.S. tried out a 3-5-2, a system that would seem to fit players like Fabian Johnson and DeAndre Yedlin perfectly. But head coach Jurgen Klinsmann scrapped the project after only 45 minutes and went back to a 4-4-2 for the second half of that match, and the next game against Panama.
Johnson is still the U.S.’s undisputed No. 1 at the position and has finally started to get more regular minutes (albeit in the midfield) in this year’s Bundesliga campaign. Johnson was the U.S.’s starter at right-back in the World Cup, but also has extensive experience on the left. With the emergence of Greg Garza, who showed well in the fall friendlies and has continued to develop with regular starts for Club Tijuana, Klinsmann can either continue to use Johnson on the right side, or even push him higher up the pitch.
That decision will rely heavily on DeAndre Yedlin, and his continued development in England. Tottenham have stated that they intend to bring Yedlin along slowly, and his performance against Panama clearly demonstrated that the youngster still has work to do.
Rounding out the roster in the back will likely be Timmy Chandler. He still isn’t a favorite among U.S. fans, but Klinsmann clearly likes him and he has been earning regular time this season in the Bundesliga.
One wild card could be Brek Shea. After a nightmare outing against Chile, Shea actually looked serviceable at left-back in the Panama game and the early indication out of Orlando is that he will continue to play as a defender for his new club. His flaws in possession are obvious and the quality of his flank service is wildly inconsistent, but it’s also no secret that Klinsmann is a fan of Shea. The mercurial wide player has also shown an ability to create game-changing goals for the U.S. under Klinsmann, as he has done twice against Mexico, in the 2013 Gold Cup and in scoring the opener against Panama earlier this month.
Not making the roster at this time are Brad Evans (yes, his January camp call-up indicates that he is still in the player pool), Tim Ream and Robbie Rogers.
Ream has played well for the last several years at Bolton, but is still obviously a fringe player in the U.S. pool. The situation with Rogers may resolve itself, but the odd back-and-forth between Rogers and Klinsmann during this year’s January camp seems to indicate that Rogers isn’t in the coach’s immediate plans.
Locks: Fabian Johnson, Greg Garza, DeAndre Yedlin
On the roster: Timmy Chandler
In the hunt: Brek Shea
In the center of the pitch, Klinsmann has plenty of options. Michael Bradley and Mix Diskerud are firmly in the picture, and the coach can always use Jones, Cameron, or Alejandro Bedoya as center midfielders, if need be.
After that, question marks abound. Klinsmann will want to bring at least one more dedicated center midfielder, but making that decision will be brutal because of the sheer number of choices.
Kyle Beckerman pulled himself out of the January camp, but his World Cup performance should have erased all doubts about his ability to contribute on the international level. He’s not a long-term option at 32 years old, but he can help the team win the Gold Cup this summer—and that is the goal.
Joe Corona was becoming a regular for Klinsmann in the fall, but suffered a foot injury that he is just starting to recover from. Lee Nguyen is also in the picture, but despite a standout 2014 season for the New England Revolution, he hasn’t received much playing time when called into U.S. camps.
One wildcard will be Gedion Zelalem. The Arsenal starlet recently received U.S. citizenship, but due to a snag in his FIFA paperwork, he isn’t eligible quite yet. He also hasn’t made his senior team league debut in England, but that didn’t stop Klinsmann from putting Julian Green on the World Cup roster last summer. With Zelalem, Klinsmann will undoubtedly be eager to bring the youngster into the fold as soon as possible.
On the fringe, there are a plethora of names, including Wil Trapp, Alfredo Morales, Danny Williams, Luis Gil and Emerson Hyndman. All of them have made their case in one way or another, but it’s hard to see any of them cracking this very deep, and talented, roster.
Locks: Bradley, Diskerud
On the roster: Beckerman
In the hunt: Corona, Nguyen, Trapp, Morales, Williams, Gil, Hyndman
Dark-horse favorite: Zelalem
On the wings, Klinsmann will have a number of difficult choices. Alejandro Bedoya is a lock, but after that, no one has a clear stamp on a roster spot. Of course, Johnson and Yedlin can be used in the wide midfield roles and LA Galaxy forward Gyasi Zardes made quite an impression on the wing against Panama in the U.S.’s most recent match.
There’s also Green, who has found playing time hard to come by at Hamburg and recently found himself in fight with club management over whether he should be playing games with the squad’s U-23 team.
Forward Miguel Ibarra is also in the picture and recently earned his first national team start, playing on the wing, against Panama.
Graham Zusi missed the January camp due to an injury, but will certainly be in the hunt. However, the Sporting Kansas City midfielder will have to prove he can compete with the younger, and speedier, options that Klinsmann has at his disposal—especially after Zusi’s less-than-impressive World Cup performances.
Joe Gyau, the Dortmund winger who showed tremendous promise in the fall friendlies, has suffered a setback in his recovery from a knee injury and, for now, looks to be out of contention for a roster spot this summer.
On the roster: Zardes, Green
In the hunt: Ibarra, Zusi
Up top, Klinsmann will continue to look towards veterans Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey to lead the line for the U.S. Altidore should be in solid form with Toronto FC by the time the summer rolls around and finally, after two long years, back to his best.
Aron Johannsson is slowly working his way back to form with AZ Alkmaar after an injury and fellow Eredivisie product Rubio Rubin looked very promising in the U.S.’s fall friendlies.
The remainder of the forward pool includes Chris Wondolowski (sigh), Bobby Wood, Terrence Boyd, Jordan Morris and Tesho Akindele (who is still eligible to represent Canada) with Andrew Wooten still looking for his first call-up
Wondo and Wood are both Klinsmann favorites and Wood recently picked up a brace in only his second appearance for his new club, Bundesliga 2-side Aue.
While Wood hasn’t showed well for the U.S. in several national team appearances, Klinsmann clearly has an affinity for the youngster.
Boyd is recovering from another knee injury and likely won’t be available this summer, while Wooten can’t seem to get Klinsmann’s attention despite a decent run of form this season in Germany.
When the United States men’s national team kicks off the 2015 Gold Cup next July, it will not only be an opportunity to check the team’s progress in the year since the World Cup, but will also be the stage on which the USMNT can secure qualification for the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia.
In the four months since the U.S. was knocked out of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the landscape of the team has already begun to shift. Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has shown that he’s ready to bring new faces into the program and the team’s veterans will now be forced to prove they still deserve to be in the squad.
Here’s a look at 53 players who be looking to make the squad for next summer’s Gold Cup and the 23 who are in the driver’s seat to do so.
The one position where there will be relatively little controversy is goalkeeper. With Tim Howard out until at least the fall of 2015, Aston Villa’s Brad Guzan and Real Salt Lake’s Nick Rimando will be competing to the starting job. In the U.S.’s three friendlies since the World Cup, Guzan and Rimando have split the minutes in net. There’s no question that the two will make the roster—the only question is which one will start.
The other question at goalkeeper is who will back up Guzan and Rimando as the U.S.’s No. 3 in the net. Vying for the job will be D.C. United’s Bill Hamid, Chicago Fire’s Sean Johnson and Southampton’s Cody Cropper. Hamid has received plaudits for his efforts this season in Major League Soccer, while Johnson had an excellent, although underrated, season of his own.
Johnson is also the only American goalkeeper to receive a cap for the U.S. in the last two years other than Howard, Guzan, or Rimando.
Klinsmann’s selections in the three U.S. friendlies since the World Cup haven’t given much away, however. Both Hamid and Johnson were called in for the October friendlies, while Cropper got the nod as the backup in September.
A dark-horse candidate for the job might be the Columbus Crew’s Steve Clark, but with so much depth at the position already, it seems unlikely.
On the roster: Guzan, Rimando, Johnson
In the discussion: Hamid, Cropper
Dark-horse favorite: Clark
With Klinsmann turning to Jermaine Jones as a center-back option in the U.S.’s last friendly against Honduras, the competition at the position has only gotten tighter since Brazil. Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez seem likely to be locks for the U.S. at the moment, but both have struggled at times for their clubs since returning from the World Cup.
Geoff Cameron has also struggled this season at Stoke, having first been pushed out of his starting position at right back and then being sidelined with an injury. On the upside for Cameron, he has been in the starting lineup for his club the last two weeks, but neither appearance has been at center back (he started the first game as a holding midfielder and the second game at right back). However, that versatility alone probably keeps him on the roster for the U.S. for a long time coming.
John Anthony Brooks has also suffered a bit since the World Cup, being called out publicly by his club coach and struggling for first-team minutes. Michael Orozco, on the other hand, while missing the World Cup team, has earned starts in two out of the U.S.’s three post-World Cup friendlies and looked good in his appearances. Still, it seems likely Klinsmann will put Brooks ahead of Orozco.
After Jones, Besler, Gonzalez, Cameron and Orozco, everyone else is a long shot, at best. Tim Ream has been solid for Bolton the last two seasons, but has never quite appeared up to the job at the international level. Maurice Edu played center back a fair amount this season for the Philadelphia Union, and has even been used at center back by Klinsmann before, but appears to be too far down the depth chart for serious consideration.
Finally, MLS Defender of the Year candidate Matt Hedges will probably begin to earn some call-ups in the near future (the January camp seems likely), but it’s hard to see him pushing any one out of the lineup at this point.
On the roster: Jones, Besler, Gonzalez, Brooks, Cameron
In the discussion: Orozco
Misses the cut: Ream, Edu
Dark-horse favorite: Hedges
The beauty, and potential headache, for the U.S. at outside back is that the team’s two best options—Fabian Johnson and DeAndre Yedlin—are probably also the team’s two best options on the wing for the time being.
But whether or not Klinsmann starts Johnson or Yedlin in the back or in midfield doesn’t really matter, as both are virtual locks for the roster. It only becomes important to the discussion when considering who might play in the back should either, or both, be used further up the pitch.
In the October friendlies, Greg Garza proved his worth and pushed himself into the discussion for not only a roster spot, but a spot in the starting XI. The other possibility at left back is DaMarcus Beasley, but it remains to be seen whether Klinsmann sees the 32-year-old as a viable option heading into the future.
Greg Garza is the future of the left back position and I don’t care what you think about that. #Garzilla
Timmy Chandler, despite not playing a minute in Brazil, still appears to be a favorite of Klinsmann and has started all three of the U.S.’s games since the World Cup. His versatility—he has routinely started for the U.S. on both sides of the defense—is a plus, but his consistency in a U.S. jersey is still lacking.
Dark-horse candidates in the back include Robbie Rogers, who has enjoyed a revival of form since being converted into a defender by LA Galaxy coach Bruce Arena, and Edgar Castillo, who was a pre-World Cup favorite of Klinsmann and who is still enjoying regular playing time in Liga MX.
Castillo’s past performances for the U.S., especially defensively, have always been a bit shaky, but he does get forward well—something Klinsmann clearly expects out of his outside backs.
On the roster: Yedlin, Johnson, Garza, Chandler
In the discussion: Beasley
Dark-horse favorites: Castillo, Rogers
Although nearly every U.S. fan agrees that Klinsmann has been using Mix Diskerud and Michael Bradley in the wrong roles, those same fans would agree that both Diskerud and Bradley are locks for the roster next summer.
Jones and Cameron, both now considered center backs by Klinsmann, can also offer cover as defensive midfielders, if needed.
Since the World Cup, Klinsmann has been giving the majority of minutes at center midfield to Alejandro Bedoya and Joe Corona. Bedoya’s performances in the middle have not been spectacular, but have been solid in their simplicity. Klinsmann has also stated that he sees Bedoya as a leader of the team going forward. Corona, on the other hand, has struggled in his last three performances for the U.S. and a recent foot injury will keep him out until 2015.
After that, the speculation begins. Kyle Beckerman will be 33 next summer, but played extremely well in the World Cup and is still in fine form for RSL. Whether Klinsmann decides to keep him around, or begin searching for younger talent, remains to be seen.
Another option is Alfredo Morales, who has been getting consistent playing time in the 2. Bundesliga for the last two seasons and was capped by Klinsmann in each of the U.S.’s last three games.
Danny Williams has also recently returned from injury for Reading and was enjoying a standout club campaign last season before getting hurt. Lee Nguyen is also in good form right now and finished the 2014 MLS regular season with 18 goals and five assists.
It’s hard to see how Klinsmann can avoid giving Nguyen a chance in this year’s January camp, although Nguyen will likely miss out on the November friendlies due to the Revolution’s playoff commitments.
Among the longshots at center midfield are Fulham’s Emerson Hyndman, RSL’s Luis Gil, Columbus Crew’s Wil Trapp, Tigres’ Jose Torres and possibly even Wiener Neustadt’s Conor O’Brien.
Hyndman got off to a bright start in the English Championship this year, but has struggled for playing time in recent weeks. Gil had a terrific moment of skill in RSL’s playoff game this weekend, nutmegging two LA Galaxy defenders in a single sequence, but his performances are still far too inconsistent for the international level.
Trapp was recently given high praise by Thierry Henry, but is still probably a year or two off from breaking through with the national team. Finally, there’s no sign that Torres, who still enjoys consistent playing time in Liga MX, will earn a recall to the team from Klinsmann and O’Brien, despite regular playing time in Austria, doesn’t appear to be on Klinsmann’s radar either.
On the roster: Bradley, Diskerud, Bedoya, Morales
In the discussion: Beckerman, Corona, Williams, Nguyen
Misses the cut: Hyndman, Gil, Trapp, Torres, O’Brien
Out wide, there are plenty of options, but no clear favorites.
Joe Gyau was just breaking into the U.S. lineup—and Dortmund’s—before injuring his knee last month against Ecuador. He’s expected to be out until January and it remains to be seen whether he can regain fitness and form in time for next summer. Julian Green also seems a lock, but his loan move to Hamburger SV has only resulted in 85 total minutes of playing time thus far.
Graham Zusi has had a drop in form since the World Cup and 1860 Munich’s Bobby Wood was recently demoted to 1860’s second team. Brek Shea—to no one’s real surprise—has once again struggled to find minutes, this time with Birmingham in the English League Championship.
Not impressed with Zusi tonight…seems off. Where he left off in Brazil. #USMNT
Without any clear options on the wing, it’s likely Klinsmann will turn to Johnson, Yedlin, or both, to provide options for the U.S. attack. Luckily for the U.S., a number of the team’s options at forward can also play wide if needed.
Additionally, Klinsmann has shown he is willing to look elsewhere to find more options. In October, he gave a surprise call-up to NASL-product Miguel Ibarra and there are several youngsters who could see themselves called in for the January camp, including the Chicago Fire’s Harry Shipp (7 goals, 6 assists in 2014), the New England Revolution’s Kelyn Rowe (5 goals, 5 assists in 2014) or D.C. United’s Luis Silva (11 goals, 4 assists in 2014).
Tijuana’s Paul Arriola, who has also been doing duty with the U.S. U-20’s lately, could also be in the mix.
While Jozy Altidore continues to struggle for minutes with Sunderland, he showed once again what he can do for the U.S. last month against Honduras with a superb goal.
Clint Dempsey has been in fine form for Seattle this season and there’s no reason to believe he won’t still be an integral part of the squad next summer.
The U.S. will also be boosted in the November friendlies—and likely next summer—by the return from injury of Aron Johannsson and Terrence Boyd. While Johannsson didn’t play much in the World Cup, and Boyd missed the roster altogether, both should be key players for the Americans for years to come.
Rubio Rubin, who has started seven of Utrecht’s 11 Eredivisie matches so far this season, also appears to be the real deal and should make the squad.
Other candidates, should the U.S. need depth, could include Sandhausen’s Andrew Wooten (4 goals in the 2. Bundesliga so far this season), the Galaxy’s Gyasi Zardes (16 goals in 2014) or Stanford’s Jordan Morris, who Klinsmann called up for the September friendly against the Czech Republic.
On the roster: Altidore, Dempsey, Johannsson, Boyd, Rubin
With the newest United States men’s national team roster due to be released this weekend, the attention of U.S. fans will refocus, however briefly, on the past. That’s because the U.S.’s match against Ecuador, to be played on October 10 in East Hartford, Connecticut, will be the final international match for American legend Landon Donovan.
And while paying homage to Donovan is fully deserved, the attention of most U.S. fans, and certainly that of head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, is squarely on the future.
In the U.S.’s only match since the 2014 World Cup, an early September friendly against the Czech Republic, Klinsmann has already shown signs that he is willing to spend the next year experimenting with new personnel, formations and tactics and the October friendlies will likely be no different.
However, next summer, in the 2015 Gold Cup, results will be the focus because a championship by the U.S.—which has already won the 2013 Gold Cup—will earn the team automatic qualification to the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia.
With that in mind, here’s a breakdown of the roster choices ahead.
With Tim Howard taking himself out of the running until next September, the goalkeeping duties for the U.S. men’s national team will fall to someone else next summer. The two front-runners are Aston Villa’s Brad Guzan and Real Salt Lake’s Nick Rimando.
Many tipped Guzan to take the reins without a fight, but Klinsmann has said he views it as an open competition between the two. And Klinsmann held to that view in the U.S.’s recent 1-0 win over the Czech Republic, in which Guzan and Rimando split halves.
Who the third keeper is behind Guzan or Rimando is anyone’s guess with frequent call-ups Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire) and Bill Hamid (D.C. United) the likely candidates. Also in the running is Southampton’s Cody Cropper, who was called up for the match against the Czechs and practiced with the team this summer as they prepared for the World Cup.
Virtual locks – Guzan, Rimando
In the discussion – Hamid, Johnson, Cropper
At center back, the U.S. has plenty of experience with World Cup veterans Matt Besler (Sporting KC), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy) and Geoff Cameron. Cameron recently underwent groin surgery—and was struggling for minutes at Stoke prior to his injury—but is still one of the U.S.’s best options.
John Anthony Brooks should also be in the mix, but according to recent reports has been demoted to Hertha Berlin’s second team and was publicly criticized by his club coach last week after some shaky performances.
Maurice Edu has been playing center back for the Philadelphia Union this season and has played the position for the U.S. in the past. Should the U.S. be looking for depth, Edu could be the man.
Also still in the picture is Puebla’s Michael Orozco, who started against the Czechs.
Long shots for the roster include Birmingham’s Will Packwood—who finally saw his first playing time for Birmingham City yesterday—as well as Tim Ream (Bolton), Chris Schuler (RSL) and Matt Hedges (FC Dallas).
Ream doesn’t seem likely to crack the first team by next summer, but did play the second half of the match against the Czechs.
Virtual locks: Besler, Gonzalez, Cameron, Brooks
In the discussion: Edu, Orozco
Long shots: Packwood, Ream, Schuler, Hedges
At outside back, Klinsmann should also have a number of World Cup veterans to rely on next summer, including DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Monchengladbach) and Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt). The real battle, assuming Klinsmann brings four outside backs and doesn’t decide to count Yedlin or Johnson as a winger, is who gets the fourth spot.
DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo) played well at left back in the World Cup, but may be left behind if Klinsmann opts to look for a younger choice. In his place could step Greg Garza, who has been getting regular minutes with Tijuana in Liga MX and was a second-half substitute in the U.S.’s recent match against the Czechs.
Robbie Rogers, who has been a revelation for the LA Galaxy on the left, could also make for an interesting selection.
After that, Klinsmann could opt for Edgar Castillo (Atlas) or Eric Lichaj. Castillo has never been particularly impressive on the international level as a defender, but does get forward well. For his part, Lichaj has never seemed to be one of Klinsmann’s favorites.
Virtual locks: Yedlin, Johnson, Chandler
In the discussion: Garza, Beasley, Rogers
Long shots: Castillo, Lichaj
Michael Bradley, despite some ups and downs with Toronto FC and this summer with the U.S. in Brazil, is a lock. It’s also hard to believe that Mix Diskerud, who started the U.S.’s game against the Czech Republic, won’t be in.
After that, it’s a question or whether Klinsmann will value youth, or experience. Jermaine Jones (New England Revolution) and Kyle Beckerman (RSL) both played well in the World Cup and will both be viable options next summer. But both are also unlikely to make it to the 2018 World Cup and will need to be cycled out at some point.
If Klinsmann decides that the future is now, there are a number of interesting choices. Danny Williams, assuming he can get healthy and back to form with Reading, could get on the roster. So too could Emerson Hyndman, who already has five starts this year in the English Championship with Fulham, or Alfredo Morales, who has been a regular for two seasons for Ingolstadt in the 2. Bundesliga. Both Hyndman and Morales also got minutes against the Czechs in the U.S.’s last friendly.
A few other names may also be in the running, including Tigres’ Jose Torres, the Columbus Crew’s Wil Trapp and Wiener Neustadt’s Conor O’Brien. All three seem long shots, but there’s no doubt there will be some major turnover at this position for the U.S. in the next few years.
Finally, Stuart Holden, who is currently a free agent, has been told by Bolton that he can return to their team when ready.
Virtual locks: Bradley, Diskerud
In the discussion: Jones, Beckerman, Williams, Hyndman, Morales
Long shots: Torres, Trapp, O’Brien, Holden
Despite the U.S.’s lack of attacking flair in Brazil this summer, there are a number of exciting options available as the Americans move forward.
Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), who played as a center midfielder in the U.S.’s last friendly, is still firmly in the picture, and it’s likely Klinsmann will continue to look at Graham Zusi (Sporting KC) in the next cycle as well. World Cup veteran Julian Green (Hamburger SV) will also be part of the squad barring injury, or an extremely poor run of form.
One of the most exciting prospects moving forward is Joe Gyau, who recently made his Bundesliga debut for Borussia Dortmund and started for the U.S. against the Czechs.
After that it’s a bit of a free-for-all. Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution) has been impressive this season in Major League Soccer and Klinsmann may use a cap or two looking at MLS youngsters Harry Shipp (Chicago Fire), Kelyn Rowe (New England Revolution), Luis Gil (RSL), Dillon Serna (Colorado Rapids) or Nick DeLeon (D.C. United).
Tijuana’s Joe Corona is also still in the picture and his teammate, Paul Arriola, will be looking to break into the squad soon as well. Birmingham’s Brek Shea and 1860 Munich’s Bobby Wood also received call-ups for the U.S.’s last friendly.
Finally, there’s an outside chance Klinsmann could look at Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers)—assuming his citizenship pans out in 2015 as planned—or Josh Gatt (Molde), should the latter make a return to form by next summer.
At forward, Jozy Altidore, despite his lack of playing time with Sunderland, will be in and likely playing alongside Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders). Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar) and Terrence Boyd (RB Leipzig), assuming both return to fitness and form, should also be in.
The rest of the forward pool is full of unknowns. Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy) has had an impressive MLS season, but still hasn’t convinced some he is international caliber. Still, expect Klinsmann to give the youngster a look at some point before next summer.
Utrecht’s Rubio Rubin has been getting some starts in the Eredivisie, but with mixed results. Klinsmann could also continue to look at Stanford’s Jordan Morris, who was called up for the U.S.’s last friendly.
Finally, Juan Agudelo, who has been missing in action this club season, could make a return if he can find a new club and consistent playing time, but that seems like a long shot considering his current situation.
As the United States men’s national team moves on from the 2014 World Cup, the attention of U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann will now turn towards the next World Cup qualifying cycle and, more immediately, the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Having already won the Gold Cup in 2013, the 2015 edition is of particular importance to the U.S. because of its implications for the 2017 Confederations Cup. If the U.S. can repeat as Gold Cup champions next summer, it will guarantee itself a place in Russia for 2017.
So, while Klinsmann will likely be using the next year to experiment with some new tactics and previously uncapped players, the key to success next summer will be to find the right blend of youth and experience.
Here’s a look at how the 2015 Gold Cup roster might shake out.
The big question at goalkeeper is whether or not Tim Howard will retire from international play. If he decides to keep playing, he seems to be a sure-fire lock to make the roster. If he decides his career with the U.S. is over, the reins will be turned over to Brad Guzan—the U.S.’s more-than-capable No. 2.
At 36 years old, Nick Rimando will likely be moving out of the picture as the U.S.’s No. 3 and the coaching staff will turn their full attention towards future netminders Cody Cropper, Sean Johnson and Bill Hamid.
Cropper, Johnson and Hamid all have high ceilings and all have some previous experience playing for, or training with, the U.S. squad. Cropper was brought in to train with the team this summer during the U.S.’s World Cup training camp. Johnson deputized well in the backup role in the 2013 Gold Cup and Hamid has been a frequent call-up in recent years.
Looks like a lock: Howard (if not retired), Guzan
In the pool: Johnson, Hamid
Still has a chance: Cropper
Considering the merry-go-round of players at center-back for the U.S. over the past two years, the future of the U.S. defense looks surprisingly bright.
Matt Besler’s play in this summer’s World Cup was so strong that, in the tournament’s aftermath, he received numerous offers to move abroad. And Omar Gonzalez surprised many U.S. fans with his strong play against Germany and Belgium in the U.S.’s final two World Cup matches.
Geoff Cameron will turn 30 next summer, and while his prospects for the 2018 World Cup might fade as his age advances, the Premier League defender will be too valuable to leave out next summer.
Finally, the U.S. can look to John Anthony Brooks, who was the hero for the U.S. in its opening group-stage game in the 2014 World Cup against Ghana.
If Besler, Gonzalez, Cameron or Brooks can’t make the tournament due to injury, or a significant drop in form, Klinsmann has a number of other players he could consider. Two promising prospects include Shane O’Neill and Will Packwood, who’ve both already been called into U.S. camps.
Looking further down the list, Matt Hedges, Chris Schuler or Maurice Edu, who has been playing center-back for the Philadelphia Union as of late (and has done so at the international level as well), could be in the mix.
Looks like a lock: Besler, Gonzalez, Cameron, Brooks
In the pool: No one
Still has a chance: O’Neill, Packwood, Hedges, Schuler, Edu
At either left or right back, Fabian Johnson is the best option the U.S. has in its player pool and DeAndre Yedlin’s strong cameos in the World Cup have likely cemented his place on the team for the near future.
After that, things get pretty hazy. DaMarcus Beasley played better than most fans expected at the 2014 World Cup and, despite his age, should still be a viable option next summer. Using Beasley, however, is only a stop-gap measure as the odds of him still being around in 2018 are virtually nil.
Timmy Chandler hasn’t won too many friends among U.S. fans in the past with his spotty commitment, but assuming Klinsmann still has faith in him and Chandler is willing to travel across the Atlantic, he could be an important piece of the puzzle.
One exciting prospect for the U.S. on the left is Tijuana product Greg Garza, who could be joined on the team by a promising youngster, like Andrew Farrell or Chris Klute.
Finally, if he can manage to stay healthy and return to form, Eric Lichaj could still be in the mix as could Robbie Rogers, who has recently made the move to left-back for the LA Galaxy.
Looks like a lock: Johnson, Yedlin
In the pool: Chandler, Beasley
Still has a chance: Garza, Farrell, Klute
Darkhorse favorites: Lichaj, Rogers
When it comes to the center midfield pool, Klinsmann will have to decide whether to trust his experienced veterans, or look to the future.
Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman, who both played well in this summer’s World Cup, will both be 33 next summer. That means that even though they’ll likely still be in good form, they’re guaranteed to be out of the pool by the time the 2018 World Cup rolls around.
Despite his underwhelming play at the World Cup, Michael Bradley is sure to be on the team. And, although he didn’t receive a single minute of playing time in Brazil, Mix Diskerud not only will still be in the picture, but could finally be ready to step into a starting role.
After that, it’s anyone’s guess. Emerson Hyndman has been receiving wide praise for his play with Fulham this preseason, but Fulham will be playing in the English Championship this year—the same level a host of other Americans play at, none of whom were selected for the final World Cup roster in 2014.
Edu, who made a late run at the 2014 World Cup roster after spending a year and a half on the bench at Stoke City in the EPL, may be back in the mix by next summer, as could Stuart Holden, if his knee can withstand another recovery from another torn ACL.
A number of other players are also still in the picture, including Ingolstadt’s Alfredo Morales, Reading’s Danny Williams and perhaps even Tigres’ Jose Torres.
Finally, a number of youngsters could make a push by next summer, including MLS’ Dillon Powers, Amobi Okugo, Perry Kitchen and Wil Trapp, or U.S. youth international Caleb Stanko, who is playing in Germany with Freiburg.
Considering that one of the U.S.’s biggest weaknesses at the 2014 World Cup was its attacking play, it may come as a surprise that many of the team’s most exciting prospects are wingers and attacking midfielders.
Bayern Munich’s Julian Green should be a staple for the team by next summer and, in many Americans’ dreams, would be joined by Arsenal’s Gedion Zelalem (Zelalem has not yet declared his international intentions and still likely faces a number of citizenship hurdles before becoming eligible for the U.S.).
Green will almost certainly be joined on the roster in 2015 by fellow U.S. World Cup veterans Graham Zusi and Alejandro Bedoya, and possibly even a few other familiar faces like Brek Shea, Joe Corona or a fully-fit Josh Gatt.
After that, the U.S. has a dozen exciting prospects—but all are unproven at the international level.
There are several players from MLS who could be on the team, including Luis Gil, who already has several call-ups under his belt, and Darlington Nagbe, who should be a U.S. citizen by 2015. The league also has Dillon Serna, Nick DeLeon, Harry Shipp, Kelyn Rowe and Diego Fagundez looking to make their breakthroughs (although Fagundez did recently accept an invitation to play with Uruguay’s U-20 team). Veteran Benny Feilhaber, while no longer a youngster, could even sneak back into the pool based on his strong play for Sporting KC.
Abroad, Klinsmann will have a close eye on a host of prospects coming through the ranks, including Lynden Gooch, Joe Gyau, Bobby Wood, Duane Holmes and Paul Arriola.
Looks like a lock: Zusi, Bedoya, Green
In the pool: Corona
Still has a chance: Feilhaber, Gyau, Wood, Shea, Gil
Up top, the U.S. is pretty well set. Clint Dempsey, though not reasonably in the mix for 2018, will still be too important to the team’s success to be excluded from the Gold Cup roster next summer.
A healthy, and hopefully in-form, Jozy Altidore should also be a lock.
Rounding out the forward pool should be Terrence Boyd and Aron Johannsson, the two most promising young American strikers in Europe right now.
If any of those four happens to be injured, there is no clear-cut choice behind them. Juan Agudelo still has plenty of time to get back in the picture, but needs to find a club, consistent playing time and the back of the net on a regular basis. Eddie Johnson could also be a short-term stop-gap measure, if needed.
Long shots in the forward pool would include Jack McInerney and Will Bruin, or perhaps even a young prospect like Rubio Rubin, Patrick Mullins or Gyasi Zardes.
Looks like a lock: Dempsey, Altidore, Johannsson, Boyd
In the pool: No one
Still has a chance: Agudelo, Johnson, McInerney, Bruin