Who Will Make the Cut? USA World Cup Preliminary Roster

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It’s starting to get exciting! Less than 30 days to go until World Cup Brazil 2014 and rosters or preliminary rosters are coming out each day. 30 players were selected by USA Coach Jürgen Klinsmann and will begin a vigorous training camp on May 14th at Stanford University. The roster must be trimmed to 23 players by June 2nd and those will be the chosen ones to represent the USA in Brazil.

As part of the final preparations the team will play 3 games in the Send-Off Series: USA vs Azerbaijan on May 27th in San Francisco, USA vs Turkey on June 1st at Red Bull Arena in New Jersey and USA vs Nigeria on June 7th in Jacksonville. If you can’t make the trip to Brazil, these matches are the next best option. Grab your USA Soccer tickets today and watch the World Cup contenders before they leave for the biggest sporting event of the quad.

Let’s take a look at the roster.

U.S. ROSTER BY POSITION:
GOALKEEPERS (3) : Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

DEFENDERS (11) : DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Timmy Chandler (Nürnberg), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Michael Parkhurst (Columbus Crew), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders FC)

MIDFIELDERS (10) : Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Maurice Edu (Philadelphia Union), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Jermaine Jones (Besiktas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

FORWARDS (6) : Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

Omissions: The surprises really came down to just a few with the major one being the omission of Forward Eddie Johnson of DC United. Johnson was a big contributor scoring 4 goals during qualification including one against Mexico that clinched qualification. But his on- and off-field issues plus his abysmal form for DC United are factors while others like Boyd and Wondo have been on scoring tears. Other notable omissions include Benny Feilhaber of Sporting KC who not only made the 2010 South Africa roster but was a key contributor off the bench in multiple games, Brek Shea of Dallas who has tremendous upside but lacks consistency, plus Herculez Gomez, Sacha Kljestan, Michael Orozco, Tim Ream, Jose Torres, Danny Williams and Juan Agudelo.

Goalkeepers Analysis: No surprises, no questions, everyone knew this would be the 3 that will be on the plane to Brazil. Howard continues to be one of the best goalkeepers in the EPL and the world and we will be relying on him heavily. Guzan provides a great backup in case Timmy gets a fluke injury or red-card. And Rimando deserves this reward and is capable if needed.

Defenders Analysis: No question this is an area of great concern for US fans. Matt Besler has been a rock and continues to improve for both club and country. But Omar Gonzalez, who US fans clamored for to be included on the US squad just a few years ago, has been struggling on the field and with injury. Clarence Goodson will look to make a strong point for starting in the 1st game in Brazil, especially after some strong showings including his pairing with Besler against Mexico in qualifying. The outside back selections are going to be interesting as veteran DaMarcus Beasley has speed, stamina and experience but definitely can put a scare into US fans, though we’ll probably see him start against Ghana. Brad Evans seems to be Klinnsmann’s choice at right-back even though he plays in midfield for Seattle while fellow Sounder DeAndre Yedlin actually plays that position and has been called in. I’m a big fan of Yedlin but I don’t expect him to make the plane but he will be key in the coming years (along with Luis Gil, who did not make the roster). And wait, is that Timmy Chandler, the young right-back who US fans fell in love with due to his athleticism, speed and ability to attack down the wing…but who also declined call-ups and battled some injuries? Let’s hope we get the best of Chandler because he might be the one to contain Ronaldo. Parkhurst became a no-brainer and likely makes the plane because he can play any position across the backline and is solid. Fabian Johnson is going to get major minutes whether it be a starter or off the bench and possibly in midfield too. He’s naturally right-footed but can play left back so don’t be surprised if he starts against Ghana at either side. Brooks’ inclusion for me is all about the future. He’s big, athletic and talented but still very young and prone to mistakes, even off the field as he missed games at Hertha Berlin due to an infection from tattoos of all things. He won’t be on the plane. And finally that brings us to perhaps one of the most interesting dilemmas…Geoff Cameron. He’s been a solid starter at right back all season for Stoke City and has size, skill and speed to be a starter for the US. He also can and wants to play in central defense and has the ability to play in defensive midfield and even up top as he showed back in his Houston Dynamo days. Even though he is the guy that is playing right-back at the highest level and playing it well he might not even start there for us in Brazil.

Midfield Analysis: This looks to be the USA’s strongest area as there has proved to be major competition to find a place in midfield. Some good players were left out and Klinsmann has some keen observing to do over the next month as to not only who makes the cut, but as to who will start against Ghana and beyond. Beckerman is the opposite type of player from his hair-style, not flashy but he puts in the work, the miles, the tackles and the safe passes. His showing in the 1st half of the last game against Mexico was the American Dream…a US midfield that can control the tempo and the game while creating scoring chances and disrupting opponents passing. He’s a lock for the trip and possibly starts as he gives Michael Bradley freedom to roam the field and do what he does to drive the attack. Some fans may have forgotten about South Florida’s Alejandro Bedoya a bit as he hasn’t been with the US lately but he’s been tearing it up for Nantes in France. He’s lively, fit, skillful and Jürgen likes him…he will get time and likely starts in Brazil on either flank. Bradley is the backbone and the heartbeat of the US team. For me he’s been our best player for years starting before South Africa. He covers more ground than ice in Antarctica, provides an outlet for pressure passes anywhere on the field, finds the open spaces and gets important goals (my personal favorite was the comeback, tying goal against Slovenia at 2010 World Cup South Africa as we were there and in the Slovenia fan section). Joe Corona, now that’s a cool name…he’s been a bit of a wild-card as US fans haven’t seen all that he can do. He’s very skilled and has done well in Mexico…it’s going to be close if he makes the plane. Brad Davis is a crafty veteran who at this point really is just a possible specialized weapon off the bench. His left foot is special providing great crosses and dangerous passes but frankly that’s about it at this point. He will be another one on the bubble. Then we have Mix Diskerud who has special skills of technique, ball control, passing and vision…but he’s not the most athletic guy and can’t tackle a U12 player. A certain friend of mine thinks he’s the bee’s knees and I like him too but he needs to show more…he will make the trip but let’s see how much he proves in camp leading up to the games. Oh Mo it’s good to see you back! Maurice Edu is back playing in the US for Philadelphia and he’s been playing like the Mo of old and will make the final cut and could be major contender for minutes in central midfield. Then there is Julian Green, the newly nationalized, young German-American who is on the books for one of the best club teams in the world, Bayern Munich. He’s only 18 (turns 19 just before the tourney starts) and practically all of his minutes have been for Bayern’s second team but he is highly talented and rated. It’s a major coup for the US team to get him and one of the reasons I love that US Soccer signed Klinsmann to a long-term contract through 2018 World Cup in Russia…much like John Calipari at Kentucky, Jürgen can recruit, especially in Germany. US fans got a glimpse of Green late in the game against Mexico and you can see his skill and speed and flair on the attack from the left wing. This will be an interesting call if he makes the final cut but he’s definitely one for the future. Speaking of German-Americans, next is Jermaine Jones the tough, battling, enigma of a central midfielder. He has pedigree growing up in the Germany youth teams and many successful years at Schalke…but he is just as liable to get a red card as he is to make some great plays. Jürgen has loved pairing him with Bradley not too long ago but perhaps he’s lost ground to Beckerman and even Edu lately. Given he makes the trip and he will see significant time…I say we have him take out Ronaldo in the game against Portugal…just kidding, kinda. And finally we have Graham Zusi who has been a revelation for MLS, Sporting KC and US Soccer. The kid works hard going both ways on offense and defense, has solid skills, great crosser of the ball and has a great attitude…and he’s from Florida, well done.

Forwards Analysis: The classic Outfield song “Your Love” starts with the line, “Josie’s on a vacation far away…” which seems to fit for Jozy Altidore as he’s not done much for Sunderland this season in England, scoring only 1 goal. Granted Sunderland were terrible and not many chances came his way, but Jürgen and US fans know what he means to the US squad…power, strength, and ability to hold possession even when tasked as the lone forward. He set scoreboards alight last season in Holland scoring 31 goals so we know he’s capable, let’s hope he gets that mojo going again; we are going to need it. Terrence Boyd is the surprise pick as he has never done much while wearing the Stars & Stripes but he’s been finding the back of net in bunches recently for Rapid Vienna. He’s in the same mold as Jozy and is definitely one for the future, I will be surprised if he makes the plane. Deuce is back! Clint Dempsey has been in fine form for Seattle after a rough transition back to MLS last season. He is a wild-card for the US team. When he is on we are dangerous, when he is off we are quiet. He’s become a veteran and a leader and Jürgen has tasked him to lead as the Captain and we need that for 90 minutes each game from him. The guy finds ways to score though and he has special flair. Another interesting comment surrounding the roster announcement came from Klinsmann regarding Landon Donovan. He doesn’t see Donovan as a midfielder on this team but as a forward. Hmmm…can it be true he’s way past his prime? I say that’s what everyone talks and writes about because LD typically has the knack for proving his detractors wrong, except at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Let’s hope we get the Donovan that was the best US player of all time. Aron Johannsson has taken over the scoring this season at AZ Alkmaar that Jozy left behind. He is another special player with incredible touch, passing and scoring ability, we are just not sure he is the complete package yet. But I like him as a weapon off the bench and he is definitely on the plane and will get minutes in Brazil. And finally we have Chris Wondolowski, the San Jose Earthquakes forward who has continued to rattle in goal after goal in MLS over the past few seasons. He defies the critics and does score some easy goals but in the end that is his job. Just not sure he can do that on foreign soil for the US. Everyone loves his attitude and he will work tirelessly…this one will be close.

USMNT-coach

Coaches Analysis: If you don’t know about Jürgen Klinsmann come out from underneath that rock. He was one of the greatest strikers in the world who won the World Cup with Germany in 1990 and found success on the field in Germany, England and Italy. His style and approach to coaching bore fruit as a 1st time coach with Germany, tasked to lead the Nationalmannschaft as the hosts of World Cup 2006 in his homeland. Unlike German teams in the past he brought in new players different from the country had produced before, utilizing the growing multi-national players with great skill and technique and not just size. Germany were a revelation that represented their country well to finish 3rd at that tournament. Living in the US, specifically SoCal for over 15 years now he understands US players, how they think, how they train and what their strengths and weaknesses are. He gives them confidence but also drives them to work hard. His staff is strong made up of past great players who have become great teachers of the game like Tab Ramos, Andreas Herzog and now Berti Vogts as an advisor. US Soccer fans wanted him and we got him…we are in good hands.

My Final Roster Projection: OK I’m laying out for all to see but obviously there is time for things to play out in training camp and in the prep games. Here is what I am thinking for your final 23-man US team in Brazil…not an out-and-out prediction but a projection for now:

GKs (3): Howard, Guzan & Rimando

Defenders (8): Beasley, Besler, Cameron, Chandler, Gonzalez, Goodson, Johnson & Parkhurst

Midfielders (8): Beckerman, Bedoya, Bradley, Diskerud, Edu, Green, Jones & Zusi

Forwards (4): Altidore, Dempsey, Donovan & Johannsson

Out: Brooks, Evans, Yedlin, Corona, Davis, Boyd & Wondo (though I can see 2 from this list play themselves in: Evans & Wondo…and others on ready in case of injury)

What are your predictions for the final squad?

The road to the World Cup is a long and arduous trip with nearly 2 years of qualifying and travels to hostile and unfriendly stadiums throughout North America, Central America and the Caribbean. Now begins the final preparations with the tournament in sight and a final pool of 30 players fighting to punch their ticket to Brazil as one of the 23 players that will represent the USA.

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