US STORYLINES
RECAPS
EXTRA TIME
BRIAN SCIARETTA - Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Over the weekend, Jurgen Klinsmann announced final additions to his 27 player roster for the upcoming games which include the start of World Cup qualifying.

The roster shows that there are both some promising signs for the team as it moves forward and also there are some puzzling moves that are cause for concern. But here are the key storylines with the games fast approaching.

Erich Lichaj's absence is tough to explain

Erlc Lichaj's omission is by far the biggest head scratching decision. After recovering from his hip injury in the second half of the season, Lichaj emerged as a starter with Aston Villa.

Villa were generally disappointing this year and narrowly avoided relegation after winning just once in their final 17 games. Despite that, Lichaj played well at both right back and left back.

It is true that injuries have prevented Lichaj from playing for the US national team since Klinsmann was hired last August. Still, Lichaj is not a risky pick for Klinsmann despite his inability to play in recent games.

First, with Timothy Chandler possibly walking away from the US national team for good, Lichaj would seemingly be even more important. Steve Cherundolo is the starting right back, but what other fullback are there? Chandler is out, Edgar Castillo didn't impress in his last few national team games, Michael Parkhurst has had an extraordinary year but has never played fullback for the US team, Fabian Johnson is naturally a midfielder, and Alfredo Morales can play right back but he struggled to earn minutes for an awful Hertha Berlin.

One possible rumor for the omission of Lichaj and Bolton defender Tim Ream is that they both need rests after playing only the second half of the season. That reason would be puzzling as these games have been given high priority by Klinsmann and it would seem that it should be all hands on deck.

Both Ream and Lichaj are young players who should be up for the rigors of international play. Steve Cherundolo is 10 years older and has played a whole Bundesliga season. If anyone needs a break it would be him. Instead, Cherundolo was the first US player to arrive in camp.

Lichaj has played with the national team several times before and knows his teammates. Beyond that, he is an English Premier League starter which is a level higher than most other American players. Klinsmann has stated that this camp was not a time for new players (or players new to him), but Lichaj seemed like a wise, unrisky, and necessary exception.

Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey: together again

Klinsmann has been trying to put his stamp on the US national team since August and to this date, the two best American players have not played for the team under the new coach.

Clint Dempsey is coming off the best season any American has ever had in Europe. Landon Donovan has been the best performer for the US national team ever. Donovan is 30 and Dempsey is 29 but they both have a lot to offer.

It is unclear how and where Dempsey and Donovan will play together under Klinsmann, but the two will provide serious offensive firepower. When Bob Bradley was the head coach, one of his best accomplishments was that he got Dempsey and Donovan to play to the best of their abilities. If Klinsmann can do the same, the US team could achieve solid results.

It is unclear how Alfredo Morales will fit into the team

While Lichaj was the most surprising omission, Alfredo Morales was the most surprising inclusion. Klinsmann said this roster was not a time to experiment but Morales' seems in line with that reason. During this season, Morales struggled to break into a Hertha Berlin team that was relegated to the 2. Bundesliga.

Morales played well as a defensive midfielder in a friendly for the US U-23 team against Mexico but that really was his only noteworthy performance in 2012. His resume is pretty short right now.

Looking at the US team, it is unclear what position Morales will play. For Hertha he has played right mid, defensive mid, central defender, and right back. His best position is defensive midfield and there are several people ahead of him there on the depth chart.

Sacha Kljestan made a good case to be included

Sacha Kljestan is coming off a terrific year with Anderlecht where he was a consistent starter for the club that won the Belgian title. Playing one of the two controlling midfield positions along with Argentine international Lucas Biglia in a 4-2-3-1 formation, Kljestan was exceptional.

Kljestan has been uneven at times with the US national team in the past but rarely has he ever had the opportunity to play the position for the US team that he now plays at Anderlecht. The chance to let Kljestan play this position for the national team seems like it could be productive.

Klinsmann has stated that his reluctance to call on Kljestan is primarily due to the logjam of central midfielders. But Kljestan's resume is just as good as Maurice Edu, Jose Torres, Kyle Beckerman, and Graham Zusi.

Kljestan is not at the level to start for the US team, but it's hard to believe he hasn't done enough at a solid team like Anderlecht to make a 27 player roster.

Hard work paid off for Michael Parkhurst

One of the best stories among all the US players in camp is that of Michael Parkhurst who is a key reason why Nordsjaeland is in position to win the Danish title and secure a spot in the group stages of next year's Champions League.

Parkhurst has struggled to break into the national team throughout his career but this season he has proven to be able to play central defense, right back, left back, and defensive midfield at a high level. Despite his small frame, he is one of the smartest American players and can help the team as it begins its World Cup qualifying campaign.

Not much experience up top or on the wings

While Klinsmann is getting both Dempsey and Donovan together for the first time under his tenure, there are serious questions in the attack.

On the wing, Brek Shea has had a tough start to the MLS season so he did not make this roster. But DaMarcus Beasley did not make the team despite having a good season in Mexico with Puebla. Donovan will likely start on the right and Fabian Johnson will likely start on the left, but after that, there aren't as many options as Klinsmann would like to have.

At forward, the options are also thin. Jozy Altidore is a solid starter but there are not many experienced options behind him. Herculez Gomez had a great year for Santos but he struggled to regain his form late in the season after an injury. He also has no caps under Klinsmann.

Juan Agudelo is talented and has played under Klinsmann. But he has spent most of his career as a backup in MLS. Terrence Boyd has had a great season with Borussia Dortmund's U-23 team, but he has yet to make a professional first team appearance at the club level.

Altidore will be called on to do the heavy lifting for the US team but after him, there are lots of question marks.
ICEMANofALFRED
Wednesday May 30, 2012 4:10 pm
I still tend to see our weakness as at central defense, Boca, Goodson and Gooch are all getting to an age where if they get themselves injured it will take a fair bit of TIME to heal up... Lichaj may play at wingback, but long term I still think he may wind up as a central defender, he has the size and the "attitude" to play there and also seems to have the touch to work the play out of the back instead of just booting things long... this clearly is something that Klinsmann values and seems why he has kept guys like Chandler and Ream in the picture. But this is where Williams and Morales are likely being looked at as potential role players in the rear... but other than say George John or maybe when healthy Omar Gonzalez or Gale Agbossoumonde... we just don't have that many other options that I'm aware of...
(ICE)
Ed C.
Thursday May 24, 2012 3:44 am
Sacha NOT at the level to start for the USA? You mean you would prefer Beckerman there? That Jamacian-wannabe is actually pretty bad when he plays for the nats.
Alex
Wednesday May 23, 2012 12:16 pm
I don't like the fact that Demarcus and Sasha were left off the training camp roster. They may or may not be good enough to play for the USMNT but I think they have played well enough to have their fates decided in face to face competition with the other players on the roster and not just be presumptively excluded by JK.
Mike E
Tuesday May 22, 2012 9:46 pm
Like: Lichaj omission. I watched a few Villa games this year, and Eric seemd like he came back too soon. Get him ready for the last three qualifiers this year, and next year's Hex.

Like: Ream omission. I think this one needs a year banging heads in England in order to get a good idea of what he needs to do.

Dislike: Beasley omission. Luck follows speed, and we lack that in this crew.

Dislike: Buddle inclusion. Out of form.

Like: Parkhurst inclusion. WAY OVERDUE.

Like: Becckermann inclusion. This guy sometimes goes overboard, but he can clog Brazil in the midfield, and play physical against Scotland and Canada. Nobody pushes this guy around.
Dave
Tuesday May 22, 2012 5:36 pm
IMO the only real snub/questionable decision on player selections is Lichaj not being called in. Unless he requested or the coaches believed that he needed some time due to his hip injury in the 1st half of the english season, I don't understand Castillo or Morales being higher selections than Lichaj as either a Right Back or a Left Back. Without Chandler in the mix I would consider him the # 2 at both outside back positions behind Johnson & Dolo.
While I don't necessarily agree with the inclusion of Zusi & Beckerman, I'm not really too concerned. Kljestan lost the coin flip between the 3. Jones, Bradley, Edu, Torres, & Williams are all better @ the # 6 or 8 position than those 3 anyway so until there is a serious injury or lack of Playing time its a non-issue.
vik
Tuesday May 22, 2012 12:51 pm
There doesn't seem to be a good reason not to bring more fullback depth with Lichaj. Very odd.

@Eurofan
Belgium is a very good 2nd tier league, and easily better than the scottish league. Just look at the kind of talent they have exported in recent years.
Chris
Tuesday May 22, 2012 12:28 pm
Eurofan, saying the Scottish Prem League is better than the Belgian league is a joke. The Jupiler League comes in as the 12th ranked league in Europe according to the UEFA coefficients, whereas the Scottish league ranks well behind at 18th. The Scottish league is actually ranked behind the Cypriot League now. So yeah.

Also, Lichaj and Beasley not getting the call ups seems to hurt us the most given our lack of depth at those positions. Both players clearly deserved the call up.

I still feel bad for Sacha, though. Is Zusi really better? I doubt that. Maybe as a set-piece taker, but that would be it.
thisguy2
Tuesday May 22, 2012 11:01 am
Tim Ream has never convinced me to be a solid defender, especially when he played for Bolton! He was shaky at times, and at other times he was slower at reading the game.... He just isn't a international player!

As for Sasha he plays in Belgium! A league where is nowhere near the bundesliga, premier league, la liga, ligue 1, hell not even the Scottish premier league! Until that guy joins a league of prestige than maybe, if he earns a regular spot than he can come and have a shot at the National team, until than hell no!

Too bad we didn't bring Lichaj, or Wooten, hell even GATT
JGD
Tuesday May 22, 2012 10:17 am
Good article, Brian. The Lichaj and Ream omissions are head-scratchers no doubt. Klinsmann must be especially high on Castillo. I have to wonder if Boca will get the start at LB with Parkhurst and Gooch manning central defense.

Dolo is the first to arrive in camp. Hardly unsurprising, the guy has been nothing but a consummate professional his entire career. One of the USMNT's most underrated players and a shoo-in for Hall of Fame induction when he hangs it up. I hope he'll continue to play at a relatively high level for at least another couple years.
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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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