8 USMNT Players With The Most To Prove During January Camp
8 USMNT Players With The Most To Prove During January Camp
After the U.S. Men’s National Team had a banner year in 2013, Jurgen Klinsmann and company now turn the page to 2014, which will be an important year for U.S. Soccer, and has the potential to be an even greater year than 2013. The year begins, as usual, with the January camp, which brings together a roster that has a unique blend of established veterans and young players hoping to break into the national team for the first time. The camp is also an important first step in preparations for the 2014 World Cup this summer in Brazil.
From Klinsmann’s point of view, this camp is important for the team as a whole, especially since it will include a two-week trip to Brazil that will help the players and coaches get accustomed to the country and the conditions they’ll be in during the World Cup this summer. However, for the players, it’s an opportunity to lock down a roster spot for the World Cup and prove to Klinsmann and the coaching staff that they should not only be on the roster, but in the starting 11.
Every player that comes to the January camp, which will conclude with a friendly match against South Korea on February 1, will have something to prove, but obviously some more than others, as several of the players in the camp will be all but assured a spot in Brazil this summer. Of the 26 players in the January camp, these eight players will have the most to prove over the next month.
8. Landon Donovan
After taking a hiatus, Donovan returned to the national team last summer during the 2013 Gold Cup, and his performance brought him back into the full squad when 2014 World Cup Qualifying started up again in the fall. However, Donovan’s performance in those qualifying matches was underwhelming, which has put his status with the national team in question once again.
Whether he says it publically or not, Jurgen Klinsmann is disappointed that Donovan didn’t pursue a transfer to a European club team, but because he didn’t he’s in camp with the national team surrounded mostly by young players. Donovan will likely be a part of the World Cup roster, but his role on the team is up in the air, and not even the greatest goal scorer in the history of American soccer will be guaranteed a spot in the starting lineup. Klinsmann will be watching him closely during camp, and Donovan will have to prove that he wants to be on the team, wants to be a leader, and can play at the level he’s played at during previous World Cups.
7. Sean Johnson
Third string goalkeepers generally don’t play in World Cup matches, but they get to be a part of the team and they have a front row seat for the journey through the tournament. Johnson wants that job, but right now Nick Rimando has it on lockdown for the U.S. Johnson needs to find a way to outshine Rimando during camp and earn a start in the friendly against South Korea, because that’s the only way he’ll be able to leapfrog Rimando for the third-string goalie spot and become part of the World Cup roster.
6. Brad Evans
Evans has been the starting right back for a while now, but it’s been by default more than anything else. Jurgen Klinsmann has called several of the top young defensive players in MLS to the January camp, and a few of them are going to get a look at right back with the hope that one or two of them can push Evans for his starting spot. Every time Evans takes the field with the national team he needs to prove that he deserves to be the starting right back, and this camp will be no different. Evans needs to make sure that Klinsmann is confident with him at right back, because Klinsmann is going to look at as many options as possible at right back over the next six months, so Evans better be ready to fight for his spot every time out.
5. Brad Davis
Davis is on the proverbial bubble with regards to a spot on the World Cup roster. He definitely brings something to the table that the U.S. can use in Brazil, but will it be enough? There are a lot of candidates fighting over the final few roster spots, and this is Davis’ opportunity to show Jurgen Klinsmann why he deserves one of them. Davis needs to show that he’s versatile and can make an instant impact coming in off the bench; if that happens, he’ll keep getting opportunities with the national team between now and the World Cup.
4. Benny Feilhaber
Feilhaber hasn’t made a lot of appearances with the national team since Jurgen Klinsmann took over, but this is his chance to start playing with the team on a regular basis leading up to the World Cup. He came off the bench in three of the four matches during the 2010 World Cup, and there’s no doubt that the team was better when he was on the field. He’s a skilled midfielder who has great composure with the ball and is a natural playmaker, making him a player the U.S. could use in Brazil, which happens to be his birthplace. If Feilhaber wants to play in a World Cup in the country where he was born, he needs to have a good camp and show Klinsmann that he can still be an asset to the national team, because this might be the only opportunity he gets.
3. Dax McCarty
McCarty has just five international caps, but Jurgen Klinsmann is giving him a chance to play his way onto the World Cup roster, and he sure has his work cut out for him. His role on the national team this summer would be as a backup to central midfielders Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones, but McCarty is far down on the depth chart right now and he may have to jump over as many as half a dozen players to earn a spot on the roster, including Mix Diskerud and Kyle Beckerman, who are both in the January camp as well. He’s a long shot, but at least he’s getting an opportunity to prove himself.
2. Chris Wondolowski
Wondolowski scored plenty of goals last summer before and during the 2013 Gold Cup, but he disappeared late in the tournament against better teams and is now on the outside looking in for a spot on the World Cup roster. We know he can score in MLS and against the minnows of CONCACAF, but Wondolowski needs to prove that he can score against quality teams at the international level. If he has a good camp, and is able to score a goal in the match against South Korea, he may be able to carve out a spot on the team next summer coming off the bench, but if not, he’ll have little chance of making the World Cup roster.
1. Mike MaGee
There are a lot of players in this camp with little or no international experience that are trying to come out of nowhere and make the World Cup roster, and MaGee is by far the oldest of that group of players, which means if he doesn’t catch on with the national team now he never will. MaGee also has the pressure of being the reigning MVP in MLS, so there will be expectations for him to make a seamless transition to the international level and be an offensive threat right away. A lot is riding on this camp for MaGee and he may have the most to prove of any player in this camp, because he hasn’t played internationally before, and for him it’s now or never.