Jurgen Klinsmann had to perform a delicate balancing act this week, one that pitted Olympic Qualification against World Cup Qualifiers and to that end he and his top lieutenant Andi Herzog released their rosters over the weekend.
Klinsmann selected 26 players for the upcoming World Cup Qualifier home and home series versus Guatemala that will take place on the same two days ( Friday, 3/25 and Tuesday, 3/29) as the United States U23 team plays a two-game set against Colombia for a chance to compete in this summer’s Rio Olympics.
Klinsmann had stated previously that with the MLS season only just underway, players from Europe and Mexico would be likely to dominate the senior roster but the U.S. Coach and Technical Director still managed to pick 13 players from the domestic league, 14 if we include Colorado pre-signee Tim Howard, who announced on Sunday that he would be trading Merseyside for the Rockies at the conclusion of the Everton season.
Klinsmann pulled rank on Herzog by claiming U23 eligibles DeAndre Yedlin and John Brooks, although nine of Herzog’s side have at least one cap with the full national team, led by Seattle Sounders forward Jordan Morris with nine. The coaches can, however, tinker with the roster after the first game.
For example, if the U.S, can take care of business Friday in Guatemala, Klinsmann may deem it worthwhile to send Brooks, and or, Yedlin Herzog’s way, if the U23 side is in position to win the Olympic qualifier set.
Likely U23 selections Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham) and Gedion Zelalem (Rangers/on loan from Arsenal), are battling injuries and were unavailable while Rubio Rubin has just returned to action with FC Utrecht after a long injury layoff.
Klinsmann opted not to select Christian Pulisic to either roster after the 17-year-old turned heads with his breakthrough with the Borussia Dortmund first team last month. Pulisic’s subsequent return to the BVB youth set up for more seasoning likely played into Klinsmann’s decision.
The U.S. come into the Guatemala two gamer having split a pair of WCQ in November, beating up on CONCACAF minnows St. Vincent and the Grenadines 6-1 in St. Louis before playing to a disappointing goalless away draw with Trinidad and Tobago.
The familiar refrain, win at home and tie on the road, was trotted out after the November Qualifiers but the T&T match was there for the taking if not for some poor finishing by Gyasi Zardes, a deficiency that highlighted Klinsmann’s curious call to leave Clint Dempsey out of the squad for the games.
Klinsmann doesn’t want to leave points on the table this time around, saying in a statement released by U.S. Soccer that “our goal definitely for the two Guatemala fixtures is six points. We badly want to get the job done before the Copa America Centenario if possible.” The Copa will be held at venues across the United States throughout June.
“We know it’s going to be very difficult, especially in Guatemala City, but it’s also going to be difficult in Columbus, and there we have a great crowd behind us. We tried to make sure there’s the right mix of players, and we are convinced that this roster is strong enough to get the job done.”
The U23 team finds itself in this do or die showdown with the favored Colombians after failing to secure an Olympic berth during the CONCACAF Championships. After winning the first three games of the event the Yanks dropped a 2-0 decision in the tournament semifinal to Honduras.
A win over Canada in the third-place game set up this two-game face-off against Colombia, who finished second in the South American Championship. Argentina and hosts Brazil will also represent South America this summer in Rio de Janeiro.
U.S. ROSTER BY POSITION (Club; WCQ Caps/Goals)
GOALKEEPERS (4): David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes; 0/0), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa; 9/0), Tim Howard (Everton FC; 30/0), William Yarbrough (Club Leon; 0/0)
DEFENDERS (9): Ventura Alvarado (Club America; 0/0), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City; 8/0), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United; 0/0), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin; 0/0), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City; 15/1), Edgar Castillo (Monterrey; 4/0), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca; 8/0), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana; 4/1), DeAndre Yedlin (Sunderland; 0/0)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake; 6/0), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes FC; 3/0), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC; 26/5), Mix Diskerud (New York City FC; 3/0), Ethan Finlay (Columbus Crew SC; 0/0), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Monchengladbach; 11/1), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers FC; 2/0), Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution; 0/0)
FORWARDS (5): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC; 28/12), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC; 34/13), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes; 0/0), Bobby Wood (Union Berlin; 2/1), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy; 2/1)
U.S. U23 Roster by Position:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Cody Cropper (Milton Keynes Dons), Ethan Horvath (Molde KJ), Tyler Miller (Seattle Sounders FC)
DEFENDERS (8): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Matt Miazga (Chelsea FC), Eric Miller (Colorado Rapids), Tim Parker (Vancouver Whitecaps FC), Desevio Payne (FC Groningen), Shane O’Neill (Cambridge United), Brandon Vincent (Chicago Fire), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas)
MIDFIELDERS (9): Fatai Alashe (San Jose Earthquakes), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Luis Gil (Queretaro), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Emerson Hyndman (Fulham FC), Jerome Kiesewetter (VfB Stuttgart), Matt Polster (Chicago Fire), Dillon Serna (Colorado Rapids), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC)
FORWARDS (3): Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Mario Rodriguez (Borussia Monchengladbach), Khiry Shelton (New York City FC)
Friday, March 25, 6 pm ET
U23 Olympic Qualifier (1st leg)
USA vs Colombia
10 pm ET
CONCACAF World Cup Qualifier
USA vs Guatemala
Estadio Metropolitano, Guatemala City, Guatemala
BeInSport, NBC Universo
Tuesday, March 29, 7 pm ET
CONCACAF World Cup Qualifier
USA vs Guatemala
MAPFRE Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
ESPN2, UNIMAS, UDN
9:30 pm ET
U23 Olympic Qualifier (2nd leg)
USA v Colombia
Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas