Projecting the USMNT 23-Man Roster for WC 2014

USMNT Lineup vs Mexico on September 10. Will all 11 be on the squad for Brazil 2014?

lineup pre-mexico game

The Cover 4.com presents you with the Projecting the USMNT 23-Man Roster for WC 2014! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter at @thecover4 or facebook at theCo VerFour

The World Cup is still many months away, with more than half of the field of 32 yet to be finalized. The United States, however, is one of the few teams who have cemented their place in Brazil next summer. Now that qualification is assured, the guessing game begins: Who will be on Jürgen Klinsmann’s 23-man roster when the World Cup rolls around next June?

            Predictions and projections this far in advance may be difficult, with changes in form and injuries forcing adjustments, but The Cover 4 is committed to keeping you up to date on who we believe are the best 23 players available and eligible to wear a United States jersey for the World’s greatest spectacle. From now until June, we will regularly predict that final roster and update you, our beloved readers, on who is tearing it up overseas that you may not know about, as well as any injury news that could create a spot for potential fringe players. In addition to this, we will highlight each positional battle equipping you with as much knowledge as possible leading up to Klinsmann’s final announcement next May.

            So without further delay, here is the first Cover 4 roster prediction for the United States Men’s National Team leading up to the 2014 World Cup:

 

Goalkeepers (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa/England), Tim Howard (Everton/England), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake/MLS)

Outside Defenders (4): DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla/Mexico), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana/Mexico), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96/Germany), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC/MLS)

Center Defenders (5): Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City/MLS), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin/Germany), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/England), Omar González (Los Angeles Galaxy/MLS), Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes/MLS)

Outside Midfielders (3): Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes/France), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim/Germany), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City/MLS)

Center Midfielders (4): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake/MLS), Michael Bradley (AS Roma/Italy), Jermaine Jones (Schalke/Germany), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht/Belgium)

Forwards (4): Jozy Altidore (Sunderland/England), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC/MLS), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy/MLS), Aron Jóhannsson (AZ Alkmaar/Netherlands)

            A couple notes for clarification before defending the selections: Geoff Cameron is listed as a center defender but has also been used in center midfield and right back, so consider him under all three of those positions. Fabian Johnson has also played outside defender but Klinsmann’s preference is to play him as a left wing so that’s where we put him. Similarly with DaMarcus Beasley who has been a regular at left back for Klinsmann but plays left wing for Puebla in Mexico, we went with where he plays most for the National team. Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan are listed as forwards, though one or the other could line up behind Altidore while the other moves to the right wing as we have seen when Klinsmann shifts to a 4-4-2.

Now to the real business of explaining some selections, the first thing to address: Steve Cherundolo is projected in this lineup under the assumption he will finally be healthy by next June. He has struggled with injuries for the past several months and is currently sidelined following another knee surgery. However, since no one has stepped up and solidified themselves in his place, he will remain the projected starter at right back. Brad Evans has been the best of the replacements, but a change in form could see the likes of Timothy Chandler or Michael Parkhurst step up and take a spot.

            German-American sensation John Brooks may also surprise some with his inclusion here as a center defender given his age and lack of international experience. With as much as Klinsmann has fought for him to commit his future to the US, it would be a crime for Klinsmann to leave him out this time around. Don’t be surprised to see Brooks on the field in one of the next two World Cup Qualifying matches that would permanently cap-tie him to the US, assuming he’s healthy, after leaving a recent match for his club early due to injury. He is also the top-rated defender on his team according to one reliable German football site that tracks and evaluates Bundesliga players, so expect to see him next summer in Brazil.

            Some of you may also wonder where Mix Diskerud and Jose Torres are on this list, who were regulars for Klinsmann this summer during the Gold Cup. Both of those players deserve to be on the team, especially given Diskerud’s performance as a substitute against Mexico, but there are only so many places. Sacha Kljestan is on this team right now because he has been absolutely on fire for Anderlecht in Belgium scoring goals at an incredible rate, so he gets the nod over Diskerud, though he has been in good form for Rosenborg in Norway as well. However, we saw Kyle Beckerman effectively used as a replacement for Michael Bradley in the Mexico game, and that performance combined with Klinsmann’s confidence in him give him preference over Diskerud or Torres, while Kljestan’s ability to score goals gives him the edge in the final spot there.

            Few would argue with Alejandro Bedoya, Fabian Johnson, and Graham Zusi on the wings. Bedoya has been a regular starter for Nantes and played well when he got his chance against Mexico, while Zusi has proven himself more than capable in prior World Cup Qualifiers despite struggling against Costa Rica. Brek Shea is currently on the shelf for Stoke City after picking up an ugly leg injury during a preseason friendly, and was not overly impressive during the Gold Cup, though he could challenge for a spot when healthy and at his best.

            The final tough decision came at forward. Both Terrence Boyd and Aron Jóhannsson are unstoppable right now for their club teams. Boyd has been attracting serious attention playing for Rapid Vienna in Austria, scoring 22 goals in 51 appearances since joining the club last year, and has teams like Lazio (Italy) and West Ham (England) hungry to add him during the January transfer period. Jóhannsson has been equally impressive with nine goals in 12 games so far this season for his club including a hat trick in the team’s Domestic Cup game this week to lead AZ Alkmaar to victory in extra time.

            For the first time in recent memory, the United States has a good problem to have: They have several quality players to choose from and depth at numerous positions. As the year goes on, it will be important to track who is getting healthy and who is playing well at the right time. A player on a hot streak is extremely dangerous in tournaments, especially when it is the World Cup, so an in-form player may get chosen over a more talented player that is out of form.

Be sure to check back with the Cover 4 as we continually update this squad list and analyze the positional battles over the coming weeks and months, and leave comments on who you feel we left off the list that should be on, as well as who you think should not be on the team that we have projected a spot to, and begin to catch World Cup fever with us!

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Oh yeah, tell your friends too!

David Oleson
Guest Sports Activist for The Cover 4

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http://www.twitter.com/thecover4

USA vs. Mexico WCQ Primer and Lineup Prediction

Jurgen Klinsmann

USA vs. Mexico WCQ Primer and Lineup Prediction

 Pick any cliché you want: All good things must come to an end; teams learn more from losing than from winning; it was just one game, or any number of possible options; the US Men’s National Team and coach Jürgen Klinsmann learned some harsh and valuable lessons in their game against Costa Rica in San Jose that should help prepare them for tonight’s clash against hated rival Mexico.

First, the depth they thought they had does not exist. Sure, they have more talent on the team than they have in recent history or maybe ever, but they do not truly have depth. They are like that really good high school varsity football team that is moving up in the state rankings, but has one or two completely irreplaceable players who really carry the team, rather than the true powerhouses who aren’t affected by injuries to even their best players. Michael Bradley is without a doubt the most important player for the US, and they were not nearly the same team without him on the field. They looked completely lost for the first 25 minutes. They had no link between defense and attack, and no one to calm things down and maintain possession to stop Costa Rica’s momentum. The players’ demeanor suggested that without Bradley they were in trouble. Geoff Cameron is a solid Premier League defender and defensive midfielder, but he lacks the passing, playmaking, and overall confidence on the ball that Bradley brings. Bradley has been ruled out for the Mexico game with the sprained ankle he sustained in warm-ups before the Costa Rica match, and Cameron is suspended for yellow card accumulation, leaving Klinsmann with another big decision to make at center midfield for tonight’s game.

Second, the Michael Orozco experiment at right-back was a complete disaster. Costa Rica exposed him all night and he was caught out of position several times. This has been a gaping hole for the US while Steve Cherundolo has been out with numerous injuries. Brad Evans was a steady stop-gap for the time being but he is also out with an injury. Which begs the question; will Klinsmann please explain what Timmy Chandler did to deserve this exile? The US worked hard to get him to commit, he finally did, and now they are leaving him in Germany for every significant game they play when they are desperate for quality at his position. He’s a Bundesliga right back with size, skill, and speed, and the US needs him. Michael Parkhurst is likely to start at right back tonight against El Tri after a solid showing at the Gold Cup, though he has rarely seen the field for his club team in Germany. Recent call-up Brad Davis could also slide back and fill-in, but Parkhurst is the clear choice after Orozco’s fiasco last week.

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Lastly, with Jozy Altidore starting on the bench due to injury, Klinsmann saw that his team must start with an established striker up front from here on out. The US employed what’s known as a “False 9”, meaning they are playing without a true striker while one of the midfielders at random drifts forward and acts as the striker. Clint Dempsey is an excellent forward, but he is not a true striker capable of playing alone up top. He is at his best as a playmaker behind the striker; same with Landon Donovan. Ahead of the match excitement was building because the US was supposed to start their first game with a full “A” team, yet with Altidore starting on the bench, arguably their two best in-form players were not on the field (Bradley being the other after a strong start with Roma in Serie A). Why did Klinsmann choose to go with Graham Zusi or Donovan instead of Eddie Johnson or Aron Johannsson, both of whom are established strikers with a nose for goal? We may never know, Klinsmann is a mad scientist who rarely explains his decisions, but expect to see Klinsmann’s standard 4-2-3-1 lineup against Mexico tonight following another failed experiment with a 4-2-4.

During the 12-match winning streak it seemed like every odd decision Klinsmann made paid off, but in Costa Rica the magic ran out against a talented team with a chip on its shoulder. Mexico is desperate coming into this game. They need to escape with at least a draw to keep hope alive of getting into the third place spot in CONCACAF, qualifying automatically for the World Cup, and avoiding a two-legged playoff against New Zealand with a birth in Brazil on the line. He needs to have the team prepared for the intensity they will face, they absolutely cannot come out flat like they did against the Ticos, and he has to be sure of his lineup decisions. That being said, here is my prediction for the US lineup tonight against El Tri:

GK: Tim Howard

LB: DaMarcus Beasley

CB: Omar Gonzalez, Clarence Goodson

RB: Michael Parkhurst

CM: Kyle Beckerman, Jermaine Jones

LAM: Fabian Johnson

CAM: Clint Dempsey

RAM: Landon Donovan

ST: Aron Johannsson

Starting from the back, Klinsmann called in Goodson after Cameron and Matt Besler were suspended for yellow card accumulation. With John Anthony Brooks being sent back to his club team Hertha Berlin, Goodson is the best choice over Orozco at this point. Had Brooks stayed, I would have made him the favorite to start, which would have permanently cap-tied him to the United States over Germany. Goodson had a solid Gold Cup for the US and carries a wealth of international experience, plus he is a force in the air on set-pieces. I have Parkhurst starting at right back for the reasons stated earlier, and Beasley remaining at left back due to his experience even though he had a rough outing against the Ticos last week.

For center midfield, I will admit I am not the biggest fan of Kyle Beckerman’s game. He is not a flashy player, but he is steady and gives Jones the freedom to push forward. They both have a knack for picking out a long pass and are capable distributors in attack. Though neither contain the goal-scoring prowess of Bradley, this is the best combination Klinsmann has available, with Beckerman more likely to stay back and assist with defensive duties. Mix Diskerud is another option here if Klinsmann chooses to go for a more attacking player in Bradley’s absence.

The only change I see in the attacking midfield is dropping Zusi to the bench and moving Dempsey back into his more natural center attacking midfield role. Yes, Zusi played a great pass to Fabian to set up the US penalty kick opportunity, but he was virtually invisible the rest of the time he was on the field and his corner kicks were downright awful, seeing Donovan replace him in that role to start the second half. With Fabian Johnson’s speed, playmaking, and recent form with the team, there is no way Klinsmann will bench him in this game. Out of all the German-American imports he has convinced to play for the US, Johnson has been the best by far and exactly what the team needs on the wing. Donovan and Dempsey showed how well they can work together during the second half of the Costa Rica game, so I don’t see Klinsmann splitting them up. That leaves Zusi as the odd man out for the team to bring in a true striker.

Speaking of that true striker, Aron Johannsson, the Kevin Bacon doppelganger nicknamed the Iceman, looks primed to start this game with Altidore out due to yellow card accumulation after his moronic act near the end of the Costa Rica match. I believe I speak for several US fans when I say I want to see this man in action for a full 90 minutes. Iceland was livid that he chose the United States over them, and it hasn’t taken long to see why. He has five goals in seven matches for his club team AZ Alkmaar, and was impressive during his time on the field against Bosnia-Herzegovina last month in his US debut. Eddie Johnson is the only other possibility here, and may get the nod based on his experience against Mexico and CONCACAF opponents, but I really see Klinsmann going with Johannsson here due to his form, skill, and Mexico’s lack-of familiarity with him. He’s unlike any other current US player and may be the spark they need in this game. He has seemingly infinite energy and he has a hunger to score goals.

Off the bench, I expect to see Alejandro Bedoya get his chance in this game. He has been impressive for Nantes in Ligue 1 (France), especially against European power PSG. He could come on for Donovan or Dempsey in the second half if the US wants more action on the right wing to provide more width to their play. Edgar Castillo could also see action at left back or left wing with his experience playing in Liga MX (Mexico) while providing more speed than Beasley is capable of at this point in his career. The final potential substitute will depend on how the match goes. Diskerud provides more attack in the midfield than Beckerman, Jose Torres is a steady midfielder who can string passes together to kill clock at the end of a match, or Eddie Johnson could come on if the team needs a goal late.

Regardless of who Klinsmann puts out there, the United States must make a good showing in their biggest game of the year against their fiercest border rival. Hype around the team has never been this high, and if they want to keep some of their new fans around, a win on National television in primetime will go a long way to building even more momentum ahead of next summer’s World Cup in Brazil. Check out the game tonight 8 pm ET/5 pm PT on ESPN.

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Thank you for reading The Cover 4! Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook & Twitter.

Oh yeah, tell your friends too!

David Oleson
Sports Activist for The Cover 4
http://www.facebook.com/thecover4
http://www.twitter.com/thecover4

 

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