The 30-man preliminary roster for the United States’ World Cup team was released on Monday, and most of the talk was about who wasn’t included: namely, Eddie Johnson. There were some other borderline snubs, like Benny Feilhaber, who is in the form of his life with MLS league champions Kansas City, or Sacha Kljestan, a very good player who never quite fit Jurgen Klinsmann’s system, or Brek Shea, an electric sub whose move to Europe has mostly backfired.
But, enough about who’s not here. What’s more interesting are the players who took those players’ spots.
Julian Green: This is the name Eddie Johnson is likely writing skulls and crossbones around in the back of his Trapper Keeper. Green, a German-American who recently filed his one-time switch of allegiance, making him a permanent addition to the U.S. player pool, is 18 years old, and already on the fringes of the Bayern Munich first team. He’s also a striker, which has been a trouble position for the U.S. in the recent past. That’s the good news. The bad news? He’s 18. And recently injured. And he hasn’t played for the Bayern Munich first team. It’s possible that Green will make the 23-man final roster, but his is a name firmly for the future only. It would be hugely shocking to see him play in Brazil.
Terrence Boyd and Joe Corona: Boyd and Corona were mostly indifferent contributors to the World Cup Qualifying cycle, but have found form of late. Boyd, for his part, ended the Bundesliga season on fire, scoring six goals in his final four games. Klinsmann like players in form, and these guys are in form.
Chris Wondolowski and Brad Davis: For all of Jozy Altidore’s struggles, the forward line is still one of the most settled areas of the U.S. team, so Wondo is a long-shot to make the flight south. Davis offers something no one else on the roster does: pinpoint service from the left, as well as excellent dead ball skills. Like three-point shooting in basketball, there’s always room for that on a team. Their inclusion shows how far their international performances have come to make it into this last camp.
Maurice Edu: This is the biggie for Union fans. Edu’s play since returning to MLS has warranted his inclusion, although it’s hard to see who he kicks off the plane, with Alejandro Bedoya, Mix Diskerud, and Kyle Beckerman proving their worth throughout the last year. Still, a good camp could get him a place at the expense of an extra defender or forward — or even the aforementioned Davis — depending on how the numbers shake out.
John Brooks, Timmy Chandler, and DeAndre Yedlin: The inclusion of these three speaks to how unsettled the U.S. defense has become. Long the weakest point in the U.S. lineup, the defensive line is a real problem area. For a time, it appeared Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez had the center back positions locked up, but Gonzalez’s poor play has his starting spot in real jeopardy, but with no obvious candidate to replace him. Clay Goodson is the next man up, but Parkhurst has done well in his return to MLS, and Brooks is there for competition. Chandler and Yedlin are included because Steve Cherundolo was forced to retire due to injury. Without him, the right back position has been in flux, with Brad Evans, a converted midfielder, the likely starter. His lack of athleticism, though, can leave him exposed, opening the door to others
In all, seven names need to be culled for the final 23-player roster, which is due on June 2. While the goalkeepers’ places are safe, relatively few others can be truly assured that they are definitely on the plane. Even Landon Donovan wasn’t an automatic choice in the last U.S. game, though Donovan not making the final roster would be a massive shock.
Regardless, this final camp is hugely important for a lot of players. No longer is the coaching staff merely getting a look at young guys or fringe players. This is the best the U.S. has to offer, at least in the eyes of Jurgen Klinsmann. Tough choices will be made.