The U.S. Men’s National Team has announced its squad for the upcoming friendlies against Scotland and Austria, selecting the usual suspects, with the obvious exception of players still involved in the MLS Playoffs and the select few who are nursing minor injuries. Despite the presence of mainstays such as Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, it would be in the USA’s best interest to focus on youth in these upcoming matches.
With the World Cup still seven months away, the U.S. has little to gain in terms of chemistry and playing time for its more experienced players, if those things are even needed. For that reason, Jurgen Klinsmann should instead take advantage of this opportunity to give some of his fringe players major minutes and see who could be a useful a player in Brazil.
Defenders John Brooks and Michael Orozco, wingers Alejandro Bedoya and Brek Shea and strikers Aron Johannsson and Terrence Boyd are some of the players that the U.S. would like to see more of before Brazil. Klinsmann has little to gain by playing starters such Altidore, Dempsey, Omar Gonzalez and Fabian Johnson ahead of these fringe players, and he should take this opportunity to test some of his other talent.
Shea in particular is a very intriguing man to watch for these two matches, as he was called up in spite of the fact that he has received almost no playing time at Stoke City. If he was getting consistent minutes, Shea would be a favorite to make the final roster for the World Cup. Klinsmann will want to see if Shea can shake off the rust and be a threat down the left side, as well as test his fitness and focus.
Brooks and Orozco will be battling for one of the final roster spots, and this is a good opportunity for the pair to display their abilities against quality opposition. Both face an uphill battle to unseat more established center backs, but strong play in these matches could get Klinsmann’s attention.
Up front, Johannsson looks like a safe bet for Brazil, but he could certainly use some more experience on the international stage. These games are a good chance to see how he handles being the focus of the attack, particularly without Altidore on the field. Boyd has only an outside chance at making the final roster, but at the end of the day, the game is about putting the ball in the back of the net, and Boyd could increase his chances dramatically with a goal or two.
The U.S. knows who its key players will be in the World Cup, but they still need to determine who they will have on the bench. These two friendlies are good chance to give some players the opportunity to earn their spot, and Klinsmann should take advantage of it.