2012 PLAYER ANALYSIS
RECAPS
PREVIEWS
EXTRA TIME
BRIAN SCIARETTA - Tuesday, November 29, 2011
The US national team is now finished for 2011 and while it's safe to say it wasn't a very good year for the team, 2012 is likely to be more promising.

The first half of the year saw Bob Bradley struggle to achieve results and he was dismissed after a poor Gold Cup where the US failed to impress in any one of their six games.

While Jurgen Klinsmann's arrival was met with a great sense of optimism, that was quickly damped as the team won only once in its first six games and scored only two goals in that span.

In the final game of 2011, Klinsmann's team showed a spark and scored three goals en route to a 3-2 win over Slovenian team that is known for its defense.

Next year will be interesting as 2014 World Cup Qualifying gets under way and the Klinsmann system should really begin to set in with the core players on the US team. Not to mention, the top young players on the US team may also play in the Olympics.

The game against Slovenia was only just one game but it was a positive sign in that it showed a US team that was able to attack in a way Klinsmann had wanted. They moved to a familiar 4-4-2 and it worked.

Aside from the January camp, the top US players likely won't be together again until February and over the course of next year, the US could look quite a bit different.

With that said, let's look at the team in depth as to which players make up the core moving forward, which players could fall off, and which players can begin to rise.

GOALKEEPERS

Core: Tim Howard
Potential to rise in 2012: Bill Hamid, Sean Johnson, Nick Rimando
Potential to fade in 2012: None

The US team's goalkeeper situation is settled at the top with Tim Howard certain to start through the 2014 World Cup as long as he is healthy.

Following him, Klinsman has said that DC United's Bill Hamid is now the number two because Brad Guzan is not playing for Aston Villa. Hamid should remain at number two if he can continue to play at a high level with DC United but he still can't be considered a core player despite being a regular backup because he has yet to play in a US game.

The third-string goalkeeping position is wide open right now but signs point to it going either to Sean Johnson or Nick Rimando.

DEFENDERS

Core: Timothy Chandler, Carlos Bocanegra, Oguchi Onyewu, Clarence Goodson
Potential to rise in 2012: Omar Gonzalez, George John, Michael Parkhurst, Zach Loyd, Alfredo Morales
Potential to fade in 2012: Steve Cherundolo, Michael Orozco Fiscal, Tim Ream, Jonathan Spector
Wild Cards: Eric Lichaj, Heath Pearce

The US national team's defense is right now should be the top concern for Jurgen Klinsmann. With the exception of Timothy Chandler, the defenders who played the most meaningful minutes so far under Klinsmann are either over 30 or will be over 30 by 2014.

Steve Cherundolo has not had a good start to the 2011/12 season in the Bundesliga. Also, players like Michael Orozco and Tim Ream were regularly called into camp under Klinsmann but failed to perform well.

In central defense, the starting central defense is Bocanegra and Onyewu but there are some interesting options. First, Omar Gonzalez continued to improve in 2011 in MLS and he looks poised to be given an extended look at the international look. George John also played well at FC Dallas but when his transfer to Blackburn fell through in August, his consistency dropped.

In the fullback positions, Chandler and Cherundolo hold the starting spots. With Spector playing mostly in the midfield for Birmingham, his future in the backline for the US could be limited. Michael Parkhurst is a potential solution as he is enjoying a career year for FC Nordsjaeland at both right back and central defense.

Another potential defensive solution in 2012 is Alfredo Morales who is also seeing occasional minutes for Hertha Berlin at both defensive midfield, central defense, and right back. Also Zach Loyd has been called up by Klinsmann but his ability to play both right and left back could see an additional look.

Eric Lichaj has been forgotten with his hip injury and if he returns to full health, he could be an option as well.

MIDFIELDERS

The Core: Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Brek Shea, Michael Bradley, Fabian Johnson, Jermaine Jones,
Potential to rise in 2012: Sacha Kljestan, Mikkel Diskerud, Josh Gatt
Potential to fade in 2012: Kyle Beckerman, Maurice Edu, Robbie Rogers
Wild Card: Jose Torres, Danny Williams, Stuart Holden

The US team midfield has looked erratic under Klinsmann in 2011. In the most recent friendlies, the team struggled to create any scoring opportunities against France but then looked sharp for long stretches against Slovenia.

Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan will continue to be regulars for the team but it is likely that either could move to forward. Michael Bradley was perhaps the best player on the field for the US team against Slovenia and should be a starter once again.

Fabian Johnson looked like a revelation in his first start and his strong play for Hoffenheim this season suggests he will quickly become part of the core. Jermaine Jones has been gradually regaining his dominant form at Schalke.

While there have been positives, there have also been players that have struggled. Kyle Beckerman does not appear to have the speed to play at the international level and he is unlikely to improve given his age. Likewise, Maurice Edu has been lackluster with his play in the final third of the field.

Despite numerous caps, Sacha Kljestan has never been an elite player for the US national team but he having a career year for Belgian power Anderlecht. Likely to be in the Champions League next year, Klinsmann should give Kljestan a continued look to try to figure out how to carry over his club success to the international level. If Kljestan continues to play well, he could likely take Edu's place.

Josh Gatt is another player who could likely find his way into the US national team. His strength is explosive speed on the wings and that is something the US has not had as of late. Playing for the Norwegian champions, Gatt could find himself in the Champions League next year and is one of the top young American players in the game.

Klinsmann could also receive a boost in the midfield with the return of injured players. Stuart Holden has not played significantly since his injury last March and he is unlikely to return before April. He is obviously a talented player but it is impossible to say how good he will be after missing more than a year.

Danny Williams has been playing significantly for Klinsmann ever since the 22 year old received his US passport in late September. It is tough to evaluate where he is moving forward because he is yet to play his natural position as a defensive midfielder. Williams is having a strong season at Hoffenheim in the center of the field and it is probably only a matter of time before he plays there for the US team. Still, his versatility makes him an asset for the US team.

FORWARDS

The core:
Jozy Altidore,
Potential to rise in 2012: Herculez Gomez, Terrence Boyd, CJ Sapong, Teal Bunbury
Potential to fade in 2012: Edson Buddle
Wild Card: Juan Agudelo, Chris Rolfe

The forward pool has been thin for the United States ever since 2009 when Charlie Davies was injured in a car crash.

Jozy Altidore remains the unquestioned first choice forward but after him there are a bunch of young players.

Juan Agudelo has been regularly called up despite inconsistent playing time for the Red Bulls and it uncertain how much that will continue should Agudelo not play more in 2012.

There are also a number of young forwards who are knocking on the door. Terrence Boyd is close to playing for Borussia Dortmund and had a great first US U23 camp. Teal Bunbury has been called up by Klinsmann but has yet to play. CJ Sapong is the MLS rookie of the year and should get a chance to play for Klinsmann in January.

Among the veterans, Herculez Gomez is coming off yet another strong season in Mexico but his age makes him questionable. The same can be said for Chris Rolfe who is impressing in Denmark and Edson Buddle who had a strong outing for the US against Ingolstadt.

In all likelihood, Landon Donovan remains a good bet to move up top to forward as 2014 draws closer. The all-time leading scorer is yet to play with Dempsey under Klinsmann but the emergence of midfielders like Fabian Johnson and Brek Shea could make a move up-top a strong possibility.

PREDICTED 23 PLAYER ROSTER FOR 2012 WORLD CUP QUALIFYING

Goalkeepers (3)

Tim Howard, Bill Hamid, Nick Rimando

Defenders (8)

Carlos Bocanegra, Oguchi Onyewu, Steve Cherundolo, Timothy Chandler, Michael Parkhurst, Omar Gonzalez, Clarence Goodson, Jonathan Spector

Midfielders (8)

Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Fabian Johnson, Brek Shea, Danny Williams, Jermaine Jones, Stuart Holden, Sacha Kljestan

Forwards (4)

Jozy Altidore, Landon Donovan, Edson Buddle, Juan Agudelo
twr96
Saturday February 18, 2012 11:20 pm
What about J.F. Torres is better than Buddle and you dont need 3 GK.
HatterDon
Thursday December 29, 2011 11:34 pm
What is it going to take for JK to look at Zak Whitbread? More to the point, what is it going to take for YOU to look at Zak. He's a big, strong, mobile center half -- a huge need for us going forward -- and he's playing regularly for Norwich in the Premier League. He hasn't been capped at the senior level because he's been injured most of the last 2.5 years, but I'd rather see him in the squad than the German-speaking "American" of the month.
Jesse
Wednesday December 28, 2011 6:29 pm
Jermaine Jones numerous yellow cards this season are a warning sign of a player who has lost a step. He's always been a physical player, but he's gone from physical to thuggish to compensate for lost speed. I'd move him to fading in 2012.
jbj
Tuesday December 20, 2011 4:47 pm
big omission for me is benny feilhaber. especially with uncertainty re holden, BF needs to be in the mix as one of the few guys (kljestan as well) who can add some creativity at CM position

altidore
dempsey
johnson-kljestan-bradley-donovan
chandler-onyewu-boca-dolo
Kilroy
Monday December 19, 2011 5:31 pm
Not a bad list overall, but has ANYONE noticed that Guzan is actually starting at Villa now with Given injured? Don't give up on him just yet.
Anthony
Friday December 9, 2011 8:17 pm
4-1-3-1-1
howard
chandler, onyewu, cameron, lichaj
jones
johnson, torres, shea
dempsey
donovan
2tone
Tuesday December 6, 2011 12:52 pm
Andrew Wooten should be more in this conversation. Wooten is on a goal scoring tear right now 10 goals I beleive which is more than Terrence Boyd. He is training regularly with Kaiserslauterns first team, and it is only a matter of time before he starts to get some first team minutes. As previously stated I would take Cameron over Gonzo going into WC qualifying. Cameron is far better than John. But we will find out exactly which of these MLS CB's will be more in contention with the National team come January. I agree with the midfiled for the most part. And I tend to agree that Donovan will be moved up top to parther with Altidore going into WC qualifying.
Andy
Saturday December 3, 2011 2:37 am
Oh, another guy who's getting no love is Corey Ashe! The guy has crazy speed, and he's been a beast for Houston this year. He would be great for the US considering the weakness at left back. It would allow Timmy to play on the right, which would be nice despite his pretty good play at left back. Ashe is tireless, and he seems pretty comfortable with the ball at his feet. Not likely, I guess, but I guarantee that he would tear it up with the Nats.
Andy
Saturday December 3, 2011 2:25 am
Bedoya, Cameron, Zusi, Adu, Feilhaber, and a few U 23s probably deserve at least a mention. Cameron is one of the best non-capped defenders in the US pool under Klinsmann, and he would fit into the Klinsmann system like a charm. I have more of a case than that, but I'll just stop at saying that he deserves a cap about as much as Omar Gonzalez. Plus, Boca, Dolo, and Goodson are on the way out for me, and we might as well do it soon. Let's see George John, Cameron, and Gonzalez getting some chances. (Nothing against Parkhurst either).
Andy
Saturday December 3, 2011 2:12 am
@RealGusMustabus Buddle is 30, that's why he's headed for a decline.
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A big question for U.S. fans heading into the World Cup is surely on Jozy Altidore and just what is plaguing the young striker at Sunderland.
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