The 2014 World Cup is almost here.
On Monday, U.S. National Team coach Jurgen Klinsmann will announce the initial 30-man player pool for Brazil, before paring it down to a final 23. We’ll take a guess at those 23 players one last time before it becomes official. This is our fifth installment. The first came after the Gold Cup in July, followed by another projection after the September qualifiers, another on the eve of 2014 and most recently after a friendly loss to Ukraine in February.
Cardillo: Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Nick Rimando
As it was in the beginning, as it is now. Nothing new to say here.
Duffy: Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Nick Rimando
Cardillo: Geoff Cameron, Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez, DaMarcus Beasley, Brad Evans, Clarence Goodson, Michael Orozco, DeAndre Yedlin.
The question, as I explored last month, is where Cameron plays: right back or centrally? The U.S. defense remains a worry and Klinsmann hasn’t done much to improve it since taking over for Bob Bradley. He’s cast his lot with the Gonzalez-Besler pairing, meaning despite a fine season at Bolton in England’s second-tier, Tim Ream won’t be on his way to Brazil barring an injury.
Duffy: Geoff Cameron, Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez, DaMarcus Beasley, Clarence Goodson, Timmy Chandler, John Brooks, Fabian Johnson
The U.S. has no right back, two inexperienced center backs and an aging DaMarcus Beasley at left back. That does not bode well for them. With no real great options, Klinsmann opts for versatility. Cameron can play on the right, centrally or in midfield. Fabian Johnson could be at left back, if not starting in midfield. Two thoughts for the subs bench: ability to make an impact, experience for 2018. So, basically, not limited MLS guys who won’t be part of the setup beyond Brazil. Chandler’s pace and ability to play on the right and left get him a nod. Klinsmann brings along the towering 21-year-old John Brooks as well.
Cardillo: Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, Fabian Johnson, Landon Donovan, Graham Zusi, Kyle Beckerman, Maurice Edu, Julian Green.
Does Klinsmann go with the unpredictable, out-of-form Brek Shea as a game-changer type off the bench or select a semi-unknown MLS player like Luis Gil with fresh legs or go with the much-publicized Green?. Maybe Donovan’s best role with this particular team is a 25+ minute super-sub, too.
Duffy: Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, Graham Zusi, Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Kyle Beckerman, Julian Green, Mix Diskerud, Alejandro Bedoya
Bradley, Jones, Zusi and Dempsey are locks. Maybe Landon gets relegated to the subs bench. I don’t think there’s a realistic prospect of him being left off entirely. Johnson is a starting option as well. So is Cameron Filling out the bench… Beckerman may be the most reliable option in a deep role. Diskerud and Bedoya offer backups centrally and on the wing. By all accounts, Green joined the U.S. because he was guaranteed a place. Thinking ahead to 2018.
Cardillo: Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, Eddie Johnson, Aron Johannsson
I’m moving Dempsey into the forward pool, since Klinsmann might got with a 4-4-2 formation, tactics bloggers be damned.
Duffy: Jozy Altidore, Aron Johannsson, Chris Wondolowski
Altidore and Johannsson are in. Wondolowski edges Eddie Johnson, based on opening season MLS form.
Cardillo: Julian Green, Eddie Johnson, Michael Orozco
Duffy: John Brooks, Alejandro Bedoya, Chris Wondolowski
Cardillo: Chris Wondolowski, Alejandro Bedoya, Mix Diskerud
Duffy: Brad Evans, Eddie Johnson, Brek Shea
Cardillo: Given the attention Green’s choice to pick the U.S. over Germany triggered, I think he’s going to make the team. He’s probably not as “deserving” over some veterans but his potential at the end of the bench to change a game in the final 10 minutes is probably worth the risk — assuming his style of play meshes with the rest of the American team. Back in 1998 it was completely unfair for Steve Sampson to drop Jeff Agoos at the last minute for rapidly-naturalized David Regis. This isn’t quite the same and Klinsmann shouldn’t pick a World Cup roster based on sentimentality over talent.
Duffy: Does he “deserve” to go? No. Does it make sense to bring him? Yes. Green is 18. He’s played almost no first-team soccer. But, if he develops into a solid Bundesliga starter, that’s a guy who would be a no-brainer starter for the U.S. for the next two to three World Cups. Strides have been made, but the U.S. has a paltry talent pipeline. If the 23rd place is the cost of getting a highly rated youngster, so be it.
Cardillo: 6.5. The time for Klinsmann to change the U.S. soccer culture (if that’s even possible for one man to do) isn’t in June. If he tries to out-gun Germany, Portugal or even Ghana in a possession based game with a shaky defense, it’s going to be a quick three-and-out. If he’s pragmatic and has his team positioned and ready to break on the counter, results can be had. The ‘nobody believes in us card’ remains his best motivational carrot.
Duffy: 6. Klinsmann’s impact will be felt long-term with U.S. talent development and recruitment. For this World Cup, I’m not sure the U.S. has the players to play his style of soccer. They are less talented, less experienced and less physically imposing than their three opponents. I don’t think he’s flexible enough to get the U.S. playing cynically enough. Given the deck stacked against them, I’m not sure that will matter.
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