BRIAN SCIARETTA - Monday, May 13, 2013
In the summer ahead, Jurgen Klinsmann is going to have to dig deep into his player pool for both World Cup qualifiers and the Gold Cup.
There are a lot of issues which will come into play when naming the rosters for these teams and here is my best guess as to how things will come to fruition. But first let's examine the key issues
Aside from Stuart Holden who Klinsmann has said will be part of both teams, there is unlikely to be much overlap between players on both rosters. For European players, both camps will take up their entire offseason. For MLS players, playing in both the May-June games and the Gold Cup will require them to miss most games between mid-May through the end of July.
It is quite likely that the May-June camp begins with more players and gradually the team is reduced to 23 for the qualifiers. This is how I see the team for the World Cup qualifiers as a 23 team unit.
There is likely to be a few players here and there who could miss the games but for the most part, overlapping will be at a minimum.
The usual faces will be there for the May-June games as Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler have been instrumental recently. Carlos Bocanegra has returned to playing for Racing Santander and Geoff Cameron is versatile to the point where he can play both right back and central defense.
The Gold Cup will be the most interesting with regards to new players. George John and Matt Hedges have been instrumental for FC Dallas this season in central defense and their chemistry could be useful for the US team.
Eric Lichaj is also earning some minutes for Aston Villa and this summer would be the perfect time for Klinsmann to look at the Chicago-native for the first time.
Competition is tight for a spot on this team. Holden, Beasley, and Donovan are now far more in the mix. Jose Torres had a nice season in Mexico and Sacha Kljestan is closing in on another Belgian title.Michael Bradley is likely to miss the start of camp but he is crucial to this team's success.
For the Gold Cup, Klinsmann has the opportunity to look at players who have been doing well lately. Alejandro Bedoya should make the team after his stellar play has moved Helsingborg into first place. Mix Diskerud is another player who is creative in the midfield and Joe Corona could finally see regular minutes for the first time under Klinsmann.
Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, and Herculez Gomez are locks for the World Cup qualifiers but after that there is a lot of competition for limited spots.
Terrence Boyd has been a project for Klinsmann for a long time and this is likely to continue after a strong season with Rapid Vienna. The German-born Boyd seems like a natural contender for both teams but it is unlikely as July is an important part of preseason.
MLS players will dominate the Gold Cup team and Jack McInerney is likely to force his way onto the team after leading the league in scoring in the opening months. Similarly, Mike Magee has proven to be very effective for the Galaxy and Eddie Johnson has been useful to the national team.
One surprise who makes sense is Andrew Wooten who has a strong season on loan with Sandhausen playing well both at right wing and as a central forward. His versatility is impressive and Kaiserslautern already are looking forward to his return to the club. His strengths clearly would be a benefit to the US national team.
No other topic in American has been more talked about than Landon Donovan in 2013 and decisions will have to be made soon.
In the end, Klinsmann should choose him for the team and there are several reasons for this. The first is that he is still clearly good enough. He still has pace and with the US team struggling for offense, he can be that impact player.
Donovnan's offensive strengths address the US team's weaknesses. First, he can play wide which few players in the national team pool do. Second, he can finish. Third, he combines very well with players in the attacking third. One of the reasons why Altidore has not produced at the same rate for the US team as he does with the national team is that he's not the lone-striker in the manner Klinsmann plays him. Donovan could be there to combine with Altidore in the attack. Similarly, when Dempsey drifts back into the midfield, Donovan can still remain in an attacking position.
Also, Klinsmann has been hesitant to say where Donovan stands on the US team only stating that there are now players ahead of him. On the other hand, Klinsmann was far more forgiving of Chandler's refusal to play for the national team for a year and he was quick to welcome back Holden after an extended injury.
The fact that Donovan took a hiatus for nearly four months shouldn't greatly affect his standing. He may not be public with the severity of his the issues he was dealing with but he's earned the benefit of the doubt that when he says it was serious, we should believe him. He has amassed 144 caps for the US team and has appeared dozens more times for youth teams. He is a veteran of three World Cups, an Olympics, a U20 World Cup and a U17 World Cup. He is not going to abandon the team for anything less than a serious condition.
Above and beyond that, he's a great player. He is on pace to become the first ever player in the history of world soccer to have 150 caps, 50 goals, and 50 assists (he's currently at 144, 49, & 48 respectively). He's the best ever player on the US national team and leaving him off would be a distraction for the US team. It would indeed be a nightmare scenario if Donovan was left of the US team and he then proceeded to go on a hot streak with the Galaxy while the US team was assembled for the qualifiers.
Timothy Chandler has ligament damage in his left knee and while he is listed as being out for 3-4 weeks, I don't think he will be fit to play as soon as he returns. So I have him out of action this summer.
Similarly, Brek Shea has not returned to Stoke's lineup and manager Tony Pulis has indicated that Shea is still battling issues from his foot surgery last November. There is a chance that Shea could come to camp because the US team is struggling for wide players, but it is unlikely at this point
As for Danny Williams and Juan Agudelo, both have been injured to the point where they have missed a lot of action with their respective clubs.
World Cup (23)
Gold Cup (23)