SCOTT PETERSON - Tuesday, May 27, 2014
5 German-Americans in the Squad, you say?
The headlines went to Donovan's roster snub, perhaps justifiably so, but the fact that 5 German-born Americans made the squad has also faced considerable scrutiny.
If you ask me (full disclosure: I'm an expat living in the Fatherland), each of them will see the field, each of which having a major say in US fortunes in Brazil.
Jermaine Jones and Fabian Johnson headline the "Duh" picks, Timmy Chandler is the sole member of club "cock tease", while Julian Green and John Anthony Brooks have you chomping at the bit to lambaste me in a barrage of freshly chilled Brooks-couldn't-carry-my-jock sorbet.
But let's start at the top with the most polarizing Fatherland Sam, aka Teutonic Yank, Jermaine Jones.
The 31-year old just spent the past 5 years for one of the most storied clubs in Germany, Schalke 04, where he is a member of the century club, while also logging double-digit caps in the Champions League.
He currently plays for one of Turkey's "big three" in Besiktas Istanbul, where the pressure and scrutiny by the press and fans alike is as intense as anywhere on the planet.
In short, Jones' experience, is something no other American, Bradley and Dempsey included, can match. And despite his rough-and-tumble style, which occasionally leads to unnecessary bookings and increases in Marco Reus foot-pain threshold, his passing skills and distribution are solid, at times sublime, while his intensity is as ruthless, as it is essential. See, Neymar writhing on the ground after a "legal" challenge in a friendly.
The other lock is Hoffenheim's Johnson. Where Klinsmann lines him up, is another question (and Lord knows we have plenty of those for Klinsi). For his club, he typically plays on the left, while for country he's been getting reps on the right.
The 27-year old has pace, consistency and versatility, making him indispensible in defense and an excellent alternative in midfield. It's his ruthless attack-mindedness from the back, however, that has him poised to shine in Brazil should the opposition leave space from Johnson to exploit down the flanks.
Granted, the size of that ‘if' ranges from an optimistic big, to a realistic gargantuanly massive given the lack of experience at the back and the opposition's attack.
His movement is excellent, as are his crosses, while he consistently finds himself in attacking positions. Since joining Hoffenheim in 2011, he's seen the pitch 87 times in the Bundesliga, picking up 17 assists and scoring 5 times.
Johnson's should-be opposite number in the back, Timothy Chandler has engaged in a tedious, sometimes childish game of hard-to-get with the USMNT since debuting versus Argentina in 2011 and cap-tying himself in 2013.
When healthy, Chandler is a pacey right back that is solid if not spectacular, tallying 13 scorer points in 95 Bundesliga contests. While his club side Nuremberg are fresh off of being relegated, it's difficult to give the 24-year old too much blame as he missed three months with a knee injury before returning for two matches down the home stretch.
Should Johnson and Chandler indeed man the full back spots as, for lack of a better word, expected, (see, Klinsmann, Jürgen. Coach/decision maker), the US immediately becomes stronger in defense, despite the liabilities, or liability, in central defense.
The only spot in central defense that is any cause for optimism is Geoff Cameron. The Stoke man just completed a ninth-place finish for the Potters, albeit as a starter at right back. Nevertheless, Klinsmann has repeatedly stated that he sees Cameron as a center back, and given his experience, strength in the air, skill on the ball and his excellent distribution, Cameron is a lock.
The other position is completely up for grabs.
The presumed started, and reigning MLS Defender of the Year, Matt Besler has been decent for the US in qualifying and a stud in the MLS, which, until proven at the highest international level on a consistent basis, is nothing that breeds confidence with the attacking acumen the US will face in Brazil.
Omar Gonzalez has an imposing frame and solid instincts, but is occasionally asleep at the wheel and is frequently caught ball watching. That coupled with the fact that he is battling a knee injury, weakens his case for the starting 11.
According to the national media, John Brooks' inclusion was a shock-something I frankly don't get. Yes, he's young. Yes, he looked poor versus Austria and the Ukraine, but played well versus Bosnia-Herzegovina.
That coupled with the competition he faced in the Bundesliga, where he started 14 games for Berlin after dealing with injuries, should by no means make him a default passenger on this team. Sorry MLSers, but the BuLi is just a few steps ahead.
The performances in the send-off series will go along way to determining Cameron's partner. But make no mistake: it's a three-way fight.
Finally, we have Green, who's, well, ahem, green.
What can we reasonably expect from an 18-year old who has yet to make an impact on a senior team? His talent is beyond doubt, as is evinced by the fact that Bayern Munich think highly of their young starlet. He trains with the first team, where he competes against the likes of Ribery and Robben, while receiving instruction from Pep Guardiola.
That, however, means nothing at a World Cup. Nevertheless, he figures to see action as a sub as his skillset is unlike any other striker in a US shirt: technically gifted, instinctual and explosive.
Jürgen likes his Germans, and so should you.