BRIAN SCIARETTA - Monday, March 5, 2012
One week ago USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann was left scrambling to find players to fill out his roster to take on Italy.
A sudden rash of injuries forced him to replace Jermaine Jones, Timothy Chandler, Landon Donovan, and Jose Torres. One week before that, Klinsmann's team was informed that starting central defender Oguchi Onyewu would be out two months with a knee injury.
Chandler's hamstring injury was reported to keep him out three weeks and the calf injury to Jermaine Jones was less clear.
This past weekend, however, saw both players make Bundesliga starts for their club. This therefore raised the question as to whether German medical care pulled off a miracle, or whether the injuries were exaggerated in the first place.
Let's not take a huge risk and assume the later.
It may be a little more forgiving for Jones who is older and who played well in January for two friendlies and a scrimmage against the US U-23 national team.
For Chandler, pulling out of the last friendly is more disappointing. It has become a pattern now for him to miss out on key games.
He rejected an invitation to play in last summer's Gold Cup to rest after his first professional season. Likewise in the team's first game under Klinsmann in a friendly against Mexico, he withdrew because of an injury but ended up playing the following weekend.
When midweek friendlies come about on the FIFA calendar, a few players reporting injuries is nothing new. It happens. But for Chandler, it seems to be happening more frequently. And this game was a short plane flight away in Italy. It didn't require a transatlantic flight.
I don't believe for a second that Chandler is still flirting with the German national team as those rumors have been flying around for close to a year now. The most likely scenario is that he is likely focused primarily on his club career and the wishes of his employer.
In the end of the day, the US team pulled off the upset and many players put on strong performances. Clint Dempsey, Fabian Johnson, Clarence Goodson, Michael Bradley, and Jozy Altidore all were very strong. Many players required similar sacrifices to Chandler in order to play in the game.
Chandler remains a top American player with elite athleticism and a very bright future. It would just be nice to see him with the team every game possible so that he can be involved in the budding chemistry. As a player who is likely going to be a key part of the team for years to come, it would be particularly beneficial to see him grow into a leadership role and part of that is consistently showing up for big games.