Here we are in May, just over month away from the first World Cup Qualifyer in Tampa, June 8, versus Antigua and Barbuda. Time is running low to impress Jurgen Klinsmann so who will Klinsmann turn to now that the games count?
Let’s just get into it. 23 players, most likely three keepers, eight defenders, eight midfielders, and four forwards. Here we go.
Goalkeepers: It’s nice start off with an easy one. Tim Howard (Everton). Howard will be between the sticks barring some sort of catastrophe. Which brings us to the backups. Nick Rimando (RSL), made the roster for the somewhat historic U.S. victory over Italy, and will likely be either the number two or three for this match and the June 12 game at Guatemala. Klinsmann could pick Brad Guzan (Aston Villa) as the other keeper, but he has been sitting since Shay Given came back from injury. Youngsters Bill Hamid and Sean Johnson have struggled since the Olympic flop. They should recover, but expect Guzan and Rimando to battle for the number two spot.
If Oguchi Onewyu (Sporting Lisbon) is healthy, as seems likely, then he will join long time partner Carlos Bocanegra (Rangers), in the center of the U.S. back line. They were supposed to be pushed out by now, but the youngsters haven’t stepped up.
Klinsmann seems comfortable with Clarence Goodson (Brondby) as his first sub in the middle. The lanky defender makes me nervous, although he can be dangerous on set pieces.The fourth center back spot is a tricky one. Klinsmann likes Michael Orozco Fiscal even if few others do. I think Tim Ream (Bolton) might get the nod, over Geoff Cameron (Houston Dynasty) and Michael Parkhurst (FC Nordijelland)
The starting fullbacks seem set with Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96) and Timmy Chandler (Nuremberg). The versatile Eric Lichaj (Aston Villa) has come back from injury to perform well on both flanks for Villa and should be called on. The last spot is an interesting one. Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim) has impressed for the U.S. on the wing, but has recently played a lot at left fullback for his club. Edgar Castillo (Tijuana), another Klinsmann favorite, was poor in his last shot for the U.S., but his club form may warrant another look with the Nats. Like Johnson Castillo also can perform further up the pitch.
Klinsmann is spoiled for choice in the middle of the park. Centrer mids Michael Bradley (Chievo), Jermaine Jones (Schalke), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Kyle Beckerman (RSL), and Jose Torres (Pachuca) are all in the frame. And Klinsmann can turn to wingers Brek Shea (FC Dallas), and DaMarcus Beasley (Pumas), not to mention Johnson and perhaps Castillo to provide width.
Does Landon Donovan start at right midfield or does Klinsmann still see him as a forward like at Bayern Munich. He has barely played for Klinsmann, would he leave him on the bench? I can’t see it. And then there is Clint Dempsey. In Donovan’s absence Deuce has flourished under Klinsmann. Playing a somewhat free role Dempsey has supplanted Donovan as the focal point for the American attack.
Some foresee a problem between the two veterans. I don’t, they have played together for years so it shouldn’t be a problem. The ever sunny Klinsmann will see it as a positive and against weak opposition it should all work out.
So who will Klinsmann pick for his midfield. If we look at Dempsey and Donovan as forwards, I’ll say Bradley, Beckerman, Torres, Jones, Shea, Johnson, Beasley and Edu. Missing out is Sascha Kljestan, despite a good season for Anderlecht.
Joining Dempsey and Donovan up front will be Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar). The powerful forward is coming off a big goal scoring year and is apparently ok after his recent head first tumble into a concrete barrier. The last forward spot is between two deserving players, Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes) and Herculez Gomez (Santos Laguna). Klinsmann could take both by shifting personnel. If not, it could come down to who is hotter at the end of the month.
Barring injuries or late loss of form I think we can expect the United States team to look something like this. What do you think?