BRIAN SCIARETTA - Friday, August 30, 2013
There is plenty to take away from Jurgen Klinsmann's latest roster for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica and Mexico.
It wouldn't surprise me if this is the team that goes to Brazil
Over the summer Jurgen Klinsmann had three separate occasions to evaluate the player pool. The first were the June World Cup qualifiers, the second was the Gold Cup, and the third was the Bosnia friendly.
This roster reflects what Klinsmann sees as the best U.S team right now. The only two noteworthy injuries are to Steve Cherundolo and Terrence Boyd and both players may be on the outside looking in anyway.
That being said, this is the first time some of the best players will all be together in a long time. Dempsey, Donovan, Bradley, Altidore, and Howard are all together. There are also newcomers John Brooks and Aron Johannsson now in the mix. Finally several players have stepped it up in recent months including Mix Diskerud and Alejandro Bedoya.
If this was the final World Cup roster, would anyone be surprised?
Brooks will and should be cap-tied
The U.S team has the chance to finally cap-tie an elite prospect in John Anthony Brooks. The talented central defender recently turned down an invitation to play with Germany's U-21 team to play with the U.S against Bosnia. The U.S has used a lot of German-Americans in recent years but never has a player turned down current German interest for the United States.
At only 20 years old and a starter with Hertha Berlin, Brooks has enormous potential. He is tall at 6'4 and is remarkably discipline as it has been well over a year since his last card. The smooth passing central defender could be a boost to the U.S team for years to come.
Brooks is likely not yet a starter for the U.S team but it would be surprising if Klinsmann did not use the opportunity in these upcoming games to cap-tie this true prospect.
Fabian Johnson is now viewed as a midfielder
Fabian Johnson is the best left back in the U.S national team. He also could be the best left midfielder for the U.S team as well. The team has been remarkably productive with him in advanced positions and Jurgen Klinsmann knows it. With Klinsmann including Edgar Castillo and DaMarcus Beasley on the roster, it's clear that Fabian will be the left midfielder since there would be no other reason to bring three players who are left backs.
If Castillo and Beasley struggle at left back, Johnson will play there but that is not the intent ahead of camp.
Omissions: Corona, Kljestan, Chandler, Shea, and Lichaj
The U.S team is a tough team to make right now and there is obviously going to be difficult decisions when putting together a 23-player roster.
Sacha Kljestan still has great opportunity to make the team heading to Brazil. He is a regular starter for Anderlecht who are in the group stages of the Champions League. If he plays well in those games, he could take Beckerman's spot on the team.
Joe Corona is a hybrid right wing, central playmaker and his omission was tough one since he has enjoyed success at Club Tijuana this year. He didn't make the team because he is in direct competition with Alejandro Bedoya who has had a terrific 2013 and now starts for Nantes.
Brek Shea is still in the pool and could very well improve but it will take him some time. He has played very little soccer over the past year. Mark Hughes believes at him in Stoke so he will have the opportunity to prove himself and get back into the picture.
Timothy Chandler and Eric Lichaj are both on the outside looking in but right back remains a thin position for the U.S team. Lichaj has never been given a look under Klinsmann but he is playing well for Notthingham Forest and Timothy Chandler may be in the process of winning his starting spot back at Nurnberg. The door is closing on both but neither are out of it if they get back on track.
Dempsey and Donovan, together again
It's been over a year since Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan have played together. A lot has changed since then. Dempsey has returned to MLS with Seattle and Donovan has re-signed with Los Angeles on a multiyear deal.
In the limited times, Klinsmann has had both players, it hasn't lived up to standards. Actually, the last time the two best American players ever have played well together was at the 2010 World Cup. Getting Donovan and Dempsey to play well together is one of Klinsmann's greatest challenges before Brazil and these games in September are the first step in that process.