On Thursday, U.S. Men’s National Team coach Jürgen Klinsmann announced his 23-man roster for the upcoming World Cup Qualifiers against Costa Rica and Mexico. The squad is a strong one, mixing most of the “first team” with some Gold Cuppers and a couple of surprising inclusions. Calling “[t]he next game … the most important one,” it’s clear that Klinsmann wants to ensure the U.S.’s qualification to the World Cup Finals as quickly as possible, by getting two wins against the U.S.’s top opponents in CONCACAF.
Before looking at the roster as it is, there are a couple of players who have reason to feel snubbed. Both Michael Parkhurst and Clarence Goodson put in very solid displays in the Gold Cup, but neither appear here.[Editor’s note: Parkhurst was called up after this post was published to fill in for Brad Evans, who was injured on Saturday.] Goodson, in particular, will wonder if there’s anything more he could do to get a call-up for truly meaningful games. Instead, Michael Orozco and John Brooks are on the roster. Orozco has shown well for his club team (Liga MX’s Puebla), and has a recent history of scoring important goals for the U.S., but Brooks’s call-up is clearly a play by Klinsmann to nail down his participation for the U.S. in official games, and not based on recent performance, per se.
Sacha Kljestan will also be disappointed not to be included. His play at international level has improved steadily (and his club performances continue to be very good), but he apparently has not done enough, as of yet.
As noted, Brook’s inclusion is something of a surprise, but an understandable one. If either of the games against Costa Rica and Mexico are comfortable, Brooks will surely make an appearance, which would solidify the German-American’s FIFA status as an American player.
Joining him is another young player U.S. fans were introduced to recently, Aron Jóhannsson. The Icelandic-American has already made a one-time switch and is securely an American player now, but his showing against Bosnia and Herzegovina, allied with his sharp start to the Dutch season, have revealed an electric player who might complement or spell Jozy Altidore better than any other U.S. striking option.
Gold Cup graduates
Leading the way with the least surprising inclusion from the Gold Cup squad is Landon Donovan. After Donovan’s performance in that tournament, not including him would have been farcical, seriously undermining Klinsmann’s credibility. Luckily, as he has done for the last year, Klinsmann made the right decision, and brought Donovan in. It remains to be seen exactly how Donovan will be used, as Graham Zusi, the man who took Donovan’s place, is also in the squad.
Also making the leap up are Alejandro Bedoya and Kyle Beckerman. Klinsmann has been effusive in his praise of Bedoya’s recent move to Nantes, in France’s Ligue 1, and Beckerman’s performance in the Gold Cup was arguably the most important of any U.S. player not named Landon Donovan. Beckerman may not have an obvious place in a midfield including both Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones, but his play definitely warranted his inclusion.
Mix Diskerud also gets a call, and his creativity could be a useful weapon in the midfield if the U.S. struggles to break down a packed defense.
Yellow card quandary
There are currently eight players carrying a yellow card: Altidore, Bradley, Geoff Cameron, Brad Evans, Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, Fabian Johnson and Jones. Another yellow card for any of them will result in a one-game suspension. Klinsmann seems to want the full three points against Costa Rica, but it would not be surprising to see a somewhat modified starting 11 in Costa Rica to ensure that certain players are available for Mexico.
The squad is actually quite healthy, with the only major question being Altidore, who was held out of Sunderland’s team this weekend with a hamstring injury. He will still travel to be with the U.S. team, where he will be evaluated by team doctors, and it remains to be seen if his participation in the two games will be limited. Losing him would be a serious blow. The U.S. still has the firepower to score without him, but it’s never a good thing to lose a striker in such good form.
In short, this is a very strong squad. The U.S. is in a very good position in the qualifying group, and will qualify with four points from these two games, Of course, the U.S. team is looking for six, and considering the record of the last six months, they are likely favorites to do just that.
GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS (8): DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City) John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Michael Orozco (Puebla)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Roma), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Jermaine Jones (Schalke), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
FORWARDS (5): Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders FC) – See more at: http://www.ussoccer.com/news/mens-national-team/2013/08/klinsmann-calls-23-players-world-cup-qualifiers-against-costa-rica-and-mexico.aspx#sthash.esnYvVHU.dpuf