Three weeks before the start of the 2014 World Cup, USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has submitted his 23-man roster. Amidst plenty of surprises, especially the exclusion of Landon Donovan, Klinsmann believes that these 23 players give the U.S. the best chance to succeed in Brazil this summer.
The three goalies we’ve known all along. Tim Howard will be the starter, Brad Guzan the backup, and Nick Rimando will be the emergency third-string goalie.
There is still much to be decided along the back four, but Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler appear to be the obvious choices to start at the two center back spots. Geoff Cameron is also a contender to play there, while John Brooks will provide depth at center back. With Brad Evans left off the roster, the right back position is wide open, with Cameron, DeAndre Yedlin, and Timothy Chandler being the candidates, as Klinsmann hopes that one of them will distinguish himself during upcoming friendly matches. At left back, DaMarcus Beasley is the most likely option, although Fabian Johnson could start there if there’s no room for him in the midfield, because there’s no way Johnson should be left out of the starting 11.
In the midfield, Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones are the obvious choices to control the central midfield, although Kyle Beckerman and Mix Diskerud could both push Jones for the starting spot next to Bradley, although both will make for excellent reserves. At the two outside midfield spots, Klinsmann has four options in Brad Davis, Graham Zusi, Alejandro Bedoya, and Julian Green, although Klinsmann could choose to rotate those spots from game to game during the tournament.
Up top, Klinsmann put four strikers on the roster in Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Aron Johannsson, and Chris Wondolowski. Dempsey is a virtual lock to be in the starting 11, while Altidore Johannsson, and Wondolowski all have a chance to be in the starting lineup if they can perform well and score goals during the upcoming friendlies.
Outside of a few obvious exceptions, Klinsmann has chose a relatively young roster to bring to Brazil, at the expense of a few notable veterans. The reason for this is two fold. First, Klinsmann needs young players that can content with the athletic midfields and world-class strikers the U.S. will face in the “Group of Death.”
Second, Klinsmann wants a team that’s fit and has stamina, allowing the U.S. to hold up to the heat and humidity in Brazil, on top of the fact that the Americans will travel more miles between games than any other team in the tournament. The hope is that the youth on the roster will allow the U.S. to be in better shape than its opponents and become an edge for them the deeper they get in the tournament.
This isn’t necessarily the roster that most anticipated Klinsmann would choose. But it’s a roster with plenty of talent and athleticism at the expense of age and experience. Klinsmann has pushed a lot of the right buttons over the past year with regard to lineups and substitutions, so he should be given the benefit of the doubt amidst the surprise omissions. Of course, whether this roster will be enough to get the U.S. into the Knockout Stage remains to be seen.
Bryan Zarpentine is a New York Mets writer at RantSports.com. He also writes frequently about the NFL, College Football, College Basketball, and International Soccer. Like him on Facebook, follow him on twitter @BZarp and add him on Google.
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