The ever evolving U.S. MNT roster has continued to change, with Landon Donovan, Jermaine Jones, Tim Howard and Matt Besler heading back to their clubs, rather than traveling on to Panama for tonight’s final World Cup Qualifier.
Donovan and Jones have been battling through injuries, Donovan’s performance Friday against Jamaica hardly indicated full fitness. Besler and Howard are fully fit, Klinsmann apparently sent them home to give others some playing time. The U.S. coach has already announced that Clarence Goodson and Brad Guzan will start versus Panama.
In remarks made to U.S. Soccer, Klinsmann had an interesting take on Jermaine Jones’ injured knee saying, “Jermaine’s case is more of concern (than Donovan’s). His knee was bothering him all night (Friday), but he battled through. It’s clear that the issue with his knee is something that should be taken care of right away so he can be 100 percent for Schalke and the National Team as soon as possible.”
We will have to wait and see if Schalke will follow Klinsmann’s medical recommendations. With the World Cup in June, Jones has plenty of time to recover. Still, any hiccups in his recovery could affect the U.S. MNT midfield, which most observers see anchored by Jones and Michael Bradley. Bradley of course, remains sidelined with an ankle injury suffered on September 6th, while warming up for the U.S. match versus Costa Rica.
Who plays midfield tonight versus Panama will be a worth watching, especially in light of Jones ‘s injury. Mix Diskerud would love a chance to improve upon his uneven performance last Friday against Jamaica. Will Sacha Kljestan get the full 90 to state his case? And Klinsmann could reward one his favorites, Kyle Beckerman, with a central midfield start.
All three could play in a 4-2-3-1. A good performance from Guzan will keep the Guzan over Howard debate simmering, even if the flame remains low. The Goodson, Cameron pairing at central defense is an interesting one, with both players fighting for a spot on the Brazil roster. Brad Evans and DaMarcus Beasley will likely continue at the fullback positions, if Beasley is 100 percent after leaving Friday’s game. Edgar Castillo could get the nod if Beasley can’t go.
Kljestan has evolved into more of a d-mid at Anderlecht, but Klinsmann could still pair him with Beckeman in front of the back four, and behind Diskerud. Graham Zusi earned a start with his Man of the Match performance in just 45 minutes against Jamaica, and Alejandro Bedoya may start on the opposite wing. Bedoya could also play the the forward midfield role and Klinsmann could opt to play Edgar Castillo as wing midfielder.
Jozy Altidore will start up top, and will wear the captain’s armband. It’s a big step for the Klinsmann/Altidore relationship. Remember that Altidore was left off of the roster at one point during the semifinal round by Klinsmann, who questioned his striker’s attitude at the time.
Klinsmann may also try to get Terrence Boyd some meaningful minutes, Aron Johannsson too.
The U.S. MNT has already clinched the top spot in the Hex and a win tonight would match the Americans highest ever point total at 22. For Panama though, the stakes are much higher. The Canaleros must win, and hope that Mexico falter at Costa Rica.
Panama also needs to score goals, they trail Mexico by two goals in goal difference, so the U.S. will have to be prepared for an attacking performance from Panama. Honduras are in solid position to secure the third Concacaf automatic World Cup berth when they play at Jamaica.
With the Reggae Boyz eliminated Honduras need only a tie to put their point total beyond Mexico’s reach. Whoever emerges in fourth place will have to face New Zealand in a two leg home and set.
Below is the final (?) U.S MNT roster for tonight’s match in Panama.
GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS (6): DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes), Michael Orozco (Puebla)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
FORWARDS (4): Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)