Twenty-two MLS and Liga MX players will get one last chance to impress U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann before 2014 World Cup camp opens in May. Brian Sciaretta assesses the selections.
JURGEN KLINSMANN TODAY
March 26, 2014
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announced his 22-player roster for the April 2 friendly against Mexico (11 p.m. Eastern; ESPN, UniMas) and as with any roster there is a lot to analyze and discuss.
This marks the final friendly before the start of World Cup camp in May, so for many players who are perhaps on the bubble, this game is more than just a friendly and in fact could be one of the biggest games of their careers in that it could determine their World Cup fate. Here's the full roster:
: Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
: DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes), Michael Orozco (Puebla), Michael Parkhurst (Columbus Crew), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders FC)
: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Maurice Edu (Philadelphia Union), Luis Gil (Real Salt Lake), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
: Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Eddie Johnson (D.C. United), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)
And here are seven quick takeaways.
1. There are no surprise inclusions
Unlike most previous rosters, there were absolutely no surprises on this list. Green’s inclusion was well known and every player on the roster was either part of the January Camp or has been a regular attendee. What this means is that Klinsmann is confident that he has MLS fully evaluated. He is no longer experimenting and doesn't seem to be interested in uncovering more gems. He knows what he wants.
2. But there are significant omissions
This roster is just for MLS and Liga Mx players—minus Club Tijuana athletes, who are in the midst of a CONCACAF Champions League run—but here is who missed out.
The biggest surprise is Benny Feilhaber, who Klinsmann has never seemed to rate highly but who has begun the MLS season playing very well. The signs were on the wall that Feilhaber was always in an uphill climb under Klinsmann but this exclusion seals his fate.
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Jose Torres has played well recently for Tigres, but he seemed to fall out of favor under Klinsmann as the cycle progressed. His ommision is particularly noteworthy given that there is a genuine need for left-footed players on the team. By not making the cut for the Mexico match, Torres appears to be on the outside looking in terms of Brazil.
Julian Green's Role
When Julian Green announced last week that he was going to file his change of association application with FIFA, it was a major story for U.S. national team fans. After all, the teenager has a professional contract with the best team in the world and is best scorer on Bayern Munich’s U-23 team.
But there are a lot of questions surrounding Green. What position does Klinsmann see Green playing? Most importantly, how good is he right now? All signs point to the fact that he is likely going to play on the outside of the midfield where the U.S. lacks depth.
There is a bad habit among American soccer fans/coaches/media to overhype young players. It usually leads to unnecessary pressure for the players and disappointment for the fans. Green is in a tricky situation because time is short before the World Cup and if he is going to play a role, he needs to see minutes. But it’s also important not to give him too much responsibility too soon since he has not seen many professional minutes and is only 18 years old.
With that said, look for him to start the game on the bench but come on in the second half against Mexico.
4. Backline Woes
With the World Cup less than 80 days away, Klinsmann’s defense is far from set. Where does Geoff Cameron fit in? Can a midfieler like DaMarcus Beasley cut it as a left back at the World Cup? Can Evans hold up at right back? Is there space on the roster for Michael Parkhurst?
This game against Mexico could go a long way toward answering these questions. Besler and Gonzalez are likely to start in central defense but if either struggles, Goodson could be given a chance in central defense. Evans did not perform well against South Korea and will need a solid game against Mexico to turn things around. Otherwise, Parkhurst could overtake him on the depth chart. As for the veteran Beasley, he will need to show that he has what it takes to play fullback against strong, motivated competition.
I don’t think anybody has the answers but this game should provide at least a little bit of clarity.
5. Will Wondolowski Win out?
It has been an interesting cycle for Wondolowski who has played very well in MLS but has been inconsistent at the international level. In his last performance against South Korea he scored two goals and made a positive impression. Can he give an encore against El Tri? If he scores and boosts the United States offense, Klinsmann will have a difficult decision leaving him off the 2014 World Cup squad.
6. The Players on the Bubble
Wondolowski, Evans, and Parkhurst are on the bubble, but who else needs a big game?
Maurice Edu returns to the U.S. national team for the first time in nearly a year, and this is his first, and probably last, chance to show Klinsmann that he is a legitimate contender for a World Cup roster spot. Michael Bradley will likely start the game in central midfield alongside Kyle Beckerman—the third option in the two-man central midfield behind Bradley and Jermaine Jones.
Beckerman has played well over the past year and is a Klinsmann favorite, but Edu will likely be given a shot against Mexico. The California native will need a strong showing to catch Klinsmann's eye, and it should be fascinating to see how Edu performs under such intense pressure.
7. Can Dempsey Step Up?
It is no secret that team captain Clint Dempsey hasn’t had the best year. He didn’t dominate MLS when he joined Seattle. His recent national team games have not been up to his normal high standard. And his loan to Fulham was hardly a happy homecoming.
There is no question he is going to Brazil but if the team is going to have any success there, Demspey will need to play well. Optimists will note that he did well in the second half of Seattle's most recent game against Toronto. Was that the sign of better things to come? U.S. fans hope so.
Dempsey will be the most important player on the field for the U.S. team against Mexico. He will be teamed up with Michael Bradley and Landon Donovan as the team faces a motivated and talented regional rival. If the captain can raise his game and build momentum heading to Brazil, it will boost the confidence of the entire team as Klinsmann and company prepare to face a daunting group at the World Cup
Brian Sciaretta is an American Soccer Now columnist and an ASN 100 panelist. Follow him on Twitter.