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Deep Roster Thoughts

Searching for U.S. Depth: A Brazilian Fairytale

The United States men's national team was supposed to be the deepest squad the Americans have ever brought to a World Cup. That hasn't exactly panned out over the first two matches.
BY Noah Davis Posted
June 24, 2014
11:37 AM
RECIFE, Brazil—The strength of Jurgen Klinsmann's 2014 World Cup squad was supposed to be its one through 23-man strength. The team might not have had the top-end talent to match Portugal and Germany, but they possessed quality up and down the lineup, a small difference in talent between the best and worst player.

That was the story, at least.

For a variety of factors, it's not what we've seen in Brazil. Landon Donovan—who is one of the 23 best players in the country, although Jurgen Klinsmann is certainly is well within his right not to bring him—is home. Jozy Altidore, one of the three most irreplaceable men in the Starting XI, got hurt 20 minutes into the opener. A few of the younger players haven't risen the way the coach hoped, and at least one fell flat on his face.

While a few subs have been excellent, if the Americans reach the round of 16, it's going to because of the efforts of the starters.

But first, some comparison Here's a list of players Bob Bradley brought into matches four years ago in South Africa:

Stuart Holden
Edson Buddle (x2)
Maurice Edu (x2)
Benny Feilhaber (x3)
Herculez Gomez (x2)
DaMarcus Beasley

All fine players but no one who exactly strikes fear into the heart of an opposing coach. Of those 11 appearances, only Edu made a real, significant difference on the proceedings. The story in 2010 was one of talent in limited quantities. It's what Klinsmann was hired to fix.

Now, a list of the players who have seen time off the bench in Brazil.

Aron Johannsson
Graham Zusi
John Brooks
DeAndre Yedlin
Chris Wondolowski
Omar Gonzalez

Against Ghana, both Zusi (assist; started the next game) and Brooks (game-winning goal; a couple huge defensive stops) were more than solid. But Johannsson effectively failed to replace Altidore in the target striker role, repeatedly allowing The Black Stars to regain possession because of his inability to take down and control long balls. Yedlin wasn't bad in the match with Portugal, but his inexperience allowed two opponents to steal the ball from him in the corner, kicking off the sequence that led to the last-gasp goal. Same with Wondolowski. Klinsmann brought Gonzalez on late to play stopper and help steal the win, a plan that didn't work, obviously. (Ironically, Edu would have been perfect for that situation.)

What about the rest of the bench. Well, there's Timmy Chandler, who can't be trusted. Brad Davis? He's a fine player, but can you picture a scenario in which he makes an impact in Brazil? Julian Green has looked overwhelmed every time he has stepped on the field for the Americans in friendlies. I can't imagine him succeeding given the pressure in Brazil. Mix Diskerud is another promising prospect but he's too defensively lax to figure much at all. When Klinsmann turns to his bench, he doesn't see a whole lot of help.

While the team in Brazil is good and deep, it's not quite as good or quite as deep as we assumed it would be going into the tournament. It's a symptom of where the U.S. is going as a soccer-playing nation but also, unfortunately, a result of where the program sits today.

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