Working with Casey here on NASORB over the past two years, I’ve seen a major growth in soccer interest on the site. In the beginning it was myself writing the previews and recaps — some weeks more often than others, but recently the addition of talented analysts like Jake Reeder and Harrison Crow have made my job more enjoyable.
Soccer has become a big focus on this blog — mostly Seattle Sounders FC. But once every four years, America goes bat-shit crazy for the FIFA World Cup, and with less than one month to go before the Red, White and Blue begin their campaign in Brazil there is more excitement and anticipation around this team and tournament than any I can remember.
Last week our lord and savior Jürgen Klinsmann called in his 30-man provisional World Cup squad to Palo Alto to begin preparations for the tournament. The hard thing to swallow for a lot of these players and fans is that the team is not yet set — although many including myself believe what the final roster will be, Klinsmann has until June 2 to turn that 30 man roster into a 23 player list.
Before he’s required to submit his 23 though, the coaching staff will have nearly three weeks of training and two exhibition matches to try out different combinations of players to see who will make the cut, and who will be left of the Brazil-bound plane.
Firstly, and most importantly — we need to take a look at the 30 men called into “Camp Klinsmann” (TM Jake Reeder) and see who plays where.
GOALKEEPERS (3) : Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS (11) : DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Timmy Chandler (Nürnberg), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Michael Parkhurst (Columbus Crew), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders FC)
MIDFIELDERS (10) : Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Maurice Edu (Philadelphia Union), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Jermaine Jones (Besiktas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
FORWARDS (6) : Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)
Now looking at the roster, one thing to remember is that positions are not set in stone. Dempsey can play as a forward or midfielder as can Donovan. Edu can play on the back line, while Fabian Johnson is also a left midfielder. It’s the versatility of some of these players that will get them a spot on the final team.
So starting off, let’s take a look at the players who figure to be a lock to go to Brazil.
The sure bets
All three ‘keepers, Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron, Fabian Johnson, Julian Green, Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, Graham Zusi, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore. Now the one name that may come as a complete surprise is that of 18-year-old Julian Green, who has one cap with the USMNT since deciding to play for Klinsmann instead of the German National Team almost two months ago. Normally, Green would be on the outside looking in, but according to several national sources, Green was basically guaranteed a spot on the 23 to entice him to play for the Yanks — so whatever.
So that leaves 11 spots left to fill. So who are the guys likely to make it with a little competition?
As long as they don’t screw up
Omar Gonzalez, Clarence Goodson, DaMarcus Beasley, Alejandro Bedoya, Landon Donovan and Aron Johannsson. Bottom line here is that you need three center backs and along with Besler the best options are Gonzo and Goodson. Beasley has been the left back through qualifying and his speed is always a nice thing to have late in a match. Landon Donovan is not missing this team — he’s still a guy I trust with the USMNT. Bedoya is one of the most underrated midfielders the US has, and Johannsson is the back-up to Jozy.
Five spots left. So before we fill them, let’s take a look at the areas of competition.
I’d slot Cameron in here every match. He’s had a great season with Stoke City playing in that position — he’s the starter in my book.
But you need to have a back-up, and there’s a few intriguing options.
Brad Evans was Klinsmann’s go-to RB through qualifying and has become a coaches favorite. Timmy Chandler has always been on the wrong side of the USMNT, after rejecting several call-ups in past years, this is the talented defender’s first camp since early 2013. DeAndre Yedlin has been lightning in a bottle for the Sounders, and has played decent in his two camps for Klinsmann, and finally there’s Michael Parkhurst, who has played well since moving back to MLS, but never seems to be in the conversation for the national team.
Two of these guys are likely going with Versatility being a key.
For some reason, Kyle Beckerman has become the apple of Klinsmann’s eye — the german loves that hippie. But he’s got some competition for his spot behind Jones and Bradley in the center of the park. Both Maurice Edu and Mix Diskerud have played well at times for the Yanks. Likely two of the three are going with one left behind.
The chances of this forward seeing much of the pitch is little-to-none, but it’s important to have that scoring threat on the bench if needed. This one is coming down to MLS golden boy Chris Wondolowski and the talented, but not often called upon Terrence Boyd.
So who is left out?
Well just looking at the areas of competition and who was a surprise into the camp, we’ll likely be sending home the likes of John Brooks, Joe Corona and Brad Davis — they’re the closest thing to a lock to miss the plane that I can think of.
In that left back/last defender position, I’m taking Brad Evans and DeAndre Yedlin — and not for homer reasons. I could also see Yedlin giving way to Chandler, but I think Klinsmann loves what Evans brings to the table, and Yedlin has that attacking engine if it’s needed late in a match.
For the Center mids, might as well bring the hippie along with the attacking prowess of Mix. Sorry Mo, back to Philly for you.
And finally, JK loves him some Wondo — Boyd goes back to Austria.
So who’s on my 23?
GOALKEEPERS : Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS : DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders FC)
MIDFIELDERS : Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Jermaine Jones (Besiktas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
FORWARDS : Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)
And yes, I did count to make sure there were 23 guys. The other changes I could see is leaving a guy like Yedlin off to keep an Edu or less likely a Brad Davis just for his cross and set piece delivery.
Will this be the 23?
Who the hell knows. I love what Klinsmann has done with this program, and I’ll trust any decision he makes — but this just seems to be a logical group that could win some matches.
Now we just sit back, watch the friendlies against Azerbaijan on May 27, and Turkey on June 1 — the day before the roster must be finalized. Maybe we’ll even get lucky enough to have Jake write a few USMNT columns for us. Until then, stay tuned here on NASORB as we’ll cover the World Cup pretty hard over the next two months.