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ASN Weekly Debate

Is World Cup Qualification Going Too Well for the U.S.?

Jurgen Klinsmann and the Americans have very nearly booked a trip to Brazil. Noah Davis and Ryan O'Hanlon wonder if it will come as easily as people expect and which players will earn those tickets.
BY Noah Davis and Ryan O'Hanlon Posted
June 21, 2013
1:00 PM
Noah Davis: Ryan. We are sitting across the table from each other at a coffee shop, yet chatting online. That's a little strange. Also strange: This is turning into a relatively easy qualification campaign for the United States. Or maybe that's not strange at all and I'm just stretching the metaphor too far. Thoughts?

Ryan O'Hanlon: If we are the U.S. in this metaphor, who is the woman drinking Starbucks (note: we are not at Starbucks) at the table next to us?

Davis: Um... Jonathan Bornstein? That's so unfair to Jonathan Bornstein.

O'Hanlon: I'm going to call her Jermaine Jones, but back to your question: I guess it's not that surprising? Four wins, a loss, and a tie is maybe a little better than expected from the first six games, but not much.

Davis: Back in October, I said they'd go 7-1-2. You, naturally, didn't make a prediction. That's looking pretty good right now, although I'm a little surprised we collectively aren't making a bigger deal out of the difficulty of the next two matches. The U.S. has a losing record in World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica—admittedly, the suddenly unusable Saprissa plays a role in that—and Mexico at home isn't a walk on the field or whatever. It's hard to see the Americans not qualifying for the World Cup, but I can see a situation in which there's suddenly a lot more pressure on those final two games.

O'Hanlon: Yeah, but that's how it goes, right? Things are good right now, so they'll keep being good! Maybe—but the next games aren't until September, and a lot can/will change between now and then. Those games will be really tough—they could conceivably lose both—but even then, things would still almost definitely be fine, which is why the three wins in three were so big.

Davis: I think it's less not-too-high on Cameron and more Cameron-can-come-off-the-bench-in-multiple-spots. That jack-of-many-positions is hugely helpful for a coach, but ironically less so for a player. Then again, we live in a specialized economy, Ryan. Make yourself an expert somewhere or ride the pine. Having said that, leaving Cameron on the bench for 60-plus minutes every match is ludicrous.

O'Hanlon: I think the jack-of-all-trades thing kind of cheapens Cameron's ability. He is one of the best players on the team—and you could argue that he's one of the best two centerbacks and best two center midfielders on the team. You would be right to argue that, but you'd also be arguing with a brick wall because I also don't think anything will change until the team goes through another rough patch.

Davis: I'm glad he's not playing right back anymore. That was a complete waste. But yes, the sad reality is that he's probably not going to see the Starting XI anytime soon. And he'll be a weapon off the bench, which is something the U.S. frequently lacks. So maybe it ends well. Or maybe the unpredictable forces that change things at strange moments will do so again. Here's a question: How many of the players on the recent roster don't make the World Cup squad?

O'Hanlon: Hmmmm. Numbers. Um. Goalies: It'll be Howard, Guzan, and one from the other four who were on the roster. So, three of those goalies won't make it, which really doesn't count. Defenders: I don't think Evans will make it, and probably only one from the Castillo-Parkhurst-Goodson group. Midfielders: I don't think Davis or Holden will. Forwards: They all seem like decent bets, but things will happen over the next year, so at least one of them will probably fall out. So, total: that's five, but add in the randomness of life and pointlessness of existence, and I'll say seven.

O'Hanlon: I wish all rosters had so many goalies. Actually, I wish all rosters had only goalies because all goalies are insane people, but oh well. They'll probably "play it safe" and go with Rimando as the third keeper, but I'll say Sean Johnson goes, so Rimando, Hamid, and Hall are CUT. As for the defenders: Parkhurst. Midfielders: Holden, Evans, Davis, and Beckerman. Forwards: none. I'm already at eight. From outside that list, Cherundolo, Donovan, and Chandler seems pretty-to-extremely likely. Plus, I think a few other random dudes sneak in—probably some/someone from the Gatt-Agudelo-Torres-Brooks-McInerney-Villareal-etc. group. Apologies for my math probably/definitely being wrong.

Davis: Getting that list down to 23 is tough, especially if you try to add Cherundolo, Donovan, Chandler, and one or two from the younger group you mentioned. But I bet Danny Williams doesn't go. And Sacha Kljestan just doesn't seem quite good enough—words he's heard, and proved wrong, before—so I'll knock him off as well. Herculez Gomez getting aged out wouldn't surprise me. Maybe even Clarence Goodson. Some of that calculus changes if Geoff Cameron finds a starting role, but right now, his spot on the bench makes it easier to leave Williams and Goodson off, right? I can see why Klinsmann wants him riding the pine, ready to go in anywhere. It's a really tough call, though. And I'm glad I don't have to make it.

O'Hanlon: The lesson, as always: being a national team coach is the worst.

Davis: It's right behind "Internet commentater" in terms of bad jobs.

O'Hanlon: As far as jobs in which you get paid millions to help grown men who are really good at soccer be better at soccer go, I can't think of anything more difficult.

  Noah Davis and Ryan O'Hanlon do this every week. At this point, it's just inevitable.

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