With time getting short before the September World Cup Qualifiers, let’s take a crack at figuring out who will make the USMNT roster for the games on September 6th in Costa Rica and the 10th versus Mexico in Columbus.
Goalkeepers: (3) As always, this is the easiest group to predict. Tim Howard remains number one, backed up by the very capable Brad Guzan. Nick Rimando was excellent in the Gold Cup and will continue as Klinsmann’s third man.
Defenders: (8) Well that was the easy part, now things get tricky. In the central positions Matt Besler looks like the first selection, but who will partner the rising Sporting Kansas City man? Omar Gonzalez and Besler looked set to partner up for years to come and still might, but Gonzalez is not a lock just yet.
Clarence Goodson was very effective in the Gold Cup, and in fact retained the job even after Gonzalez joined the team in latter stages of the tournament. Michael Orozco Fiscal also performed well during the Cup and is off to a good start to the season with his Mexican club.
John Anthony Brooks showed promise in his much anticipated USMNT debut recently in a 4-3 win over Bosnia-Herzegovina and will be in the conversation. Klinsmann may be anxious to cap tie the talented 20 year old, but Brooks picked up a knee injury last week for Hertha Berlin, so he may not be available.
With Geoff Cameron settling in at right back for Stoke, Brooks should get the call if healthy, allowing Cameron to compete for the fullback spot with Brad Evans, while providing cover at center back and defensive midfield. Michael Parkhurst, a key contributor at the Gold Cup, isn’t seeing the field at Augsburg, and will miss out.
Gold Cup captain DaMarcus Beasley looks like Klinsmann’s choice at left fullback, unless Fabian Johnson reverts to that role. If Johnson is looked at as midfielder, that would open up a spot for another fullback. Edgar Castillo had a good Gold Cup final and could back up Beasley.
Tim Chandler is in the doghouse at the moment, but Klinsmann could pick these games to throw the Nuremberg man a bone. Eric Lichaj has never been called in by Klinsmann, but since his off-season move from Aston Villa to English Championship side Nottingham Forest, Lichaj has drawn nothing but rave reviews. Orozco-Fiscal has been primarily used in the center for the U.S., but at Puebla he has been used almost exclusively at fullback, so he could get a call. And it is still probably too soon for the Seattle Sounders rookie sensation DeAndre Yedlin, who should get a call in January.
So, decision time.
Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Omar Gonzalez (L.A. Galaxy), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes), John Anthony Brooks (Hertha Berlin), DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Edgar Castillo (Tijuana)
Midfield: (9) Midfield is perhaps the toughest position to sort out. Klinsmann has a deep pool to select from, despite injuries to Stuart Holden, Brek Shea and Maurice Edu.
The U.S. has been lining out in a 4-2-3-1 and although they often shift to a 4-4-2, we will use that 4-2-3-1 as our base. Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones are locked in as the deep lying mids. Clint Dempsey is set as the center mid/withdrawn forward and the two wings will come from the trio of Landon Donovan, Graham Zusi and Fabian Johnson.
If I were making the selections I would drop Fabian back and play Donovan and Zusi on the wings, but I am not and I don’t see that happening in Costa RIca.
So who gets the remaining spots? Kyle Beckerman seems to have locked up one place as a d-mid. I have never been a big Beckerman believer, but he was solid in the Gold Cup and Klinsmann likes his game.
That leaves Jose Torres, Sacha Kljestan, Joe Corona, Alejandro Bedoya and Mikkel Diskerud as the most likely candidates to fill out the midfield. New Reading man Danny Williams was in the 23 in Bosnia-Herzegovina, but he will miss out here.
Shea’s absence leaves Klinsmann without a true wing option off the bench, with Bedoya the most effective wide player in the group. Kljestan impressed versus Bosnia-Herzegovina and Diskerud has shown to be a tougher defender than his reputation suggests.
I see Torres missing out and Bedoya edging out Corona. Beckerman Kljestan and Diskerud should round out the group.
This is the group I see heading to Costa Rica. Michael Bradley (Roma), Jermaine Jones (Schalke), Landon Donovan (L.A. Galaxy), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht) and Mikkel Diskerud (Rosenborg).
Forwards: (3) While there are more options than usual for the forward spots, I think this will be pretty straightforward. Jozy Altidore is the automatic, with goals in five consecutive internationals. Eddie Johnson and Aron Johannsson are in form and can provide a spark for Klinsmann off the bench.
Herculez Gomez is injured and Terrence Boyd is also carrying a knock. Chris Wondolowski has been in great form, but with Dempsey a de facto forward Klinsmann can carry just three up top.
So the final three are Jozy Altidore (Stoke), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar)