In the lead up to World Cup 2014, Jurgen Klinsmann must cut a player pool of 30 down to his official 23-man roster on June 2. Many of the usual 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, roughly 12 to 15, of fringe players will be viewed favorably if they play multiple positions and excel at positions where depth is weak.
In the second of a three part series I will take a deep dive into the midfielders that will make it on to the plane to Brazil.
On the left side, Landon Donovan is projected to start with Fabian Johnson backing him up as an ultra defensive option. Behind these two options are limited and anyone filling in would be playing out of position. Things are different opposite of Donovan with Graham Zusi as the anointed starter and a plethora of players looking to gain admission in to the prestigious 23-man squad. Leading the pack is one of Klinsmann’s favorites, Nantes midfielder Alejandro Bedoya. Bedoya has long been a stalwart for Klinsmann and is a well experienced option who provides a decent array of abilities including service, defense and possession. Other players who will have to show well in the preliminary 30-man camp are Brek Shea, Sasha Klejstan and Daniel Williams. Shea’s recent flip of the bird cost him playing time at Stoke, left many questioning his maturity and will surely prevent him from making the squad. Klejstan and Williams are both getting quality minutes in Europe, but their lack of firepower and versatility will most probably prevent them from making the 23-man roster.
At holding midfield is Jermaine Jones, and while his current form leaves much to be desired he is a projected starter due to his great track record. There will be a battle to back up Jones between Maurice Edu and Kyle Beckerman. Edu, who recently made the move to MLS after a successful stint in Europe with Rangers, is more athletic and has played in a past World Cup. But even with that track record, Klinsmann seems to favor the more technically savvy Beckerman. Beckerman lacks pace in the midfield but makes up for his deficiencies with stellar positioning and impeccable ball skills. The Real Salt Lake midfielder is a great option in possession and as a result should find himself as a first time World Cup participant at the age of 32.
The only position left to debate is attacking mid, the eight, which is usually reserved for a crafty, offensive maestro. And for the U.S. it is currently manned by their best player, Michael Bradley. Behind Bradley it is clear that unless a player such as Klejstan has a superb camp, Mix Diskerud will put his European flare and change of pace together in Brazil.
With Jones, Bradley, Donovan, Zusi, Beckerman, Diskerud and Bedoya all predicted to have their passports stamped, that leaves us with two interesting players, Julian Green and Eddie Johnson. Johnson has always been on the cusp and his clinical finish which was the game-winner in the USA’s 3-2 victory over Mexico surely helped his chances (oh wait, they blew for offsides). Additionally his versatility to play forward and outside mid should help his case and probably get him on the plane. Which leaves us with Green; if Klinsmann is looking to the future he will give this talented Bayern Munich reserve an opportunity to train and experience a World Cup setting first hand. But Green does bring more than just potential to the table; he has a flare for taking on defenders and can be a nuisance for opposing teams to deal with. With that said it would be in Klinsmann’s best interest to take a flyer on Green and have him suit up for the USMNT in Brazil.