In the lead-up to the 2014 World Cup, Jurgen Klinsmann must cut a player pool of 30 down to his official 23-man roster on June 2.
Many of the usually faces have already solidified spots, and now the debate turns to which players are on the fringes. It is suspected that 18 spots are accounted for, leaving five up for grabs. However, the decision is not as clear-cut of an equation as bringing the 23 best players but rather bringing in those who fit the team most effectively.
The current player pool of 12-15 fringe players will be viewed favorably if they play multiple positions and excel at positions where depth is weak. Here, I will take a look at the forwards who will make it on to the plane to Brazil.
Due to the USMNT’s difficult group, it can be expected that Klinsmann will not bring as many attacking options as midfielders and defenders. The U.S. goes into each game as underdogs and will probably field a defensive-heavy selection. This should leave positions up top hard to come by for players currently on the fringe.
At this point, Sunderland forward Jozy Altidore is the favorite to start against Ghana. However, his horrific form has many questioning how World Cup-ready he will be come June. The good news is that Aron Johannsson provides a proven backup . Johannsson, who took Altidore’s spot at AZ Alkmaar, has been scoring goals at a clip that has only been done previously by his predecessor.
Needless to say, the Icelandic striker is a sure bet to represent the Red, White and Blue at this summer’s World Cup. The only question remaining is if Johannsson can supplant the incumbent and take over the starting position. In the past, Klinsmann has been unconventional in his approach, so do not be surprised if Johannsson gets the nod.
Behind these two, Juan Agudelo, Eddie Johnson, Chris Wondolowski and Terrence Boyd are four players who should get called to the 30-man pre-World Cup camp and have the ability to play their way either in or out of the squad.
Going in to the season, Agudelo had the most to prove and after a successful loan to FC Utrecht, things looked promising. But minutes have been difficult to come by and Agudelo is starting to show his age; unfortunately, he might be a bit too young to make any sort of run at landing a spot on the World Cup squad. At this point, it is safe to say that Agudelo will have to wait for the 2018 World Cup in Russia to get his first experience on the world’s biggest stage.
Johnson, who will likely make the roster as hybrid of a midfielder and forward, should have his passport stamped due to his versatility and athletic abilities, leaving Wondolowski and Boyd.
Boyd has been on the fringes for a number of years. The Rapid Wien star is usually the first forward to receive a cameo appearance in any U.S. friendly, but Klinsmann has yet to see any sort of quality. Normally, the prolific domestic goal scorer looks lost in an international jersey, and a near-perfect camp will be needed if he wants to wear the Stars and Stripes this summer.
Wondo, who also scores goals in his domestic league, struggles on the international stage like Boyd as well, but a recent good performance against Mexico should push him to the top of the fringe player pool. So the real question comes down to how many forwards will Klinsmann take? If I were a betting man, I would say two, with Johnson being a third option. Therefore, expect to only see Altidore and Johannsson in Brazil.