The friendlies are done, it’s time to get real.
Though nothing prevents players from being added for the start of qualifying play against Antigua & Barbuda on Friday, here’s a capsule look at those expected to fill out the lineup sheets for that game and a match against Guatemala on June 12. A total of 41 players have worn the USA jersey this year and those excluded from the current squad, as well as a few others, could be recalled for the later stages of the semifinal round from which two teams advance to the Hexagonal.
This compilation includes all 23 players named by U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann for the three friendlies and two Concacaf World Cup qualifiers. Data is taken from the six games played so far this year: against Venezuela and Panama in January, at Italy in late February, and in the past week and a half against Scotland, Brazil and Canada.
Though midfielder Michael Bradley tops the rankings, several other players -- Fabian Johnson, Clint Dempsey, Jermaine Jones, Landon Donovan, Clarence Goodson, Herculez Gomez -- have earned marks that suggest they will be especially prominent as the serious business of qualification for the 2014 World Cup gets underway.
In parentheses are the average ratings compiled by Soccer America for games played in 2012:
Brad Guzan (5.0). Only one sub appearance, against Scotland, may not be sufficient preparation if Howard needs to be replaced.
Tim Howard (5.8). Solid in all four starts and especially impressive in 1-0 defeat of Italy.
Nick Rimando (7.0). Got his only chance in Panama City and posted a zero with some spectacular saves.
Carlos Bocanegra (5.5). The captain performed admirably against Italy but hasn’t been as dominant in the last three games.
Geoff Cameron (5.0). Talent on the ball is offset by errors in learning the centerback position. Own goal against Scotland could have been avoided by better marking.
Edgar Castillo (4.5). Thrust into a start at left back against Canada. His ball skills impressed but his defensive play didn’t. As a left mid in the Scotland game he looked okay.
Steve Cherundolo (5.2). Quieter going forward than in past years; is that a function of age (33) or different responsibilities?
Clarence Goodson (6.0). Handled his two starts against Italy and Canada very well, nearly won the latter game with a sharp header that forced an excellent save.
Fabian Johnson (6.3). The revelation so far of 2012 in three starts, his late scratch from the Canada game renewed concerns about depth at left back.
Oguchi Onyewu (4.3). Rough outing against Brazil taints adequate showings as a sub versus Scotland and Canada.
Michael Parkhurst (5.7). Played very well at centerback in early-season starts (Venezuela, Panama), hasn’t been as confident at right back as sub (Brazil, Canada).
Kyle Beckerman (5.0). Saw a lot of time last year; so far in 2012 has been a sub against Scotland and Brazil.
Michael Bradley (7.2). Dominant showings against Italy and Scotland have been followed by solid jobs in Brazil and Canada matches.
Maurice Edu (5.5). He’s been handed various midfield roles in three starts and one appearance as a sub; he’s obviously more destroyer than creator. Gave his best performance (7.0) in the defeat of Italy.
Jermaine Jones (5.8). A force anywhere on the field, is the only U.S. player to start five of six games this year (didn’t play against Italy).
Joe Corona (5.0). Looked good as a sub against the Scots in his national team debut.
Clint Dempsey (6.3). His might be the most impressive resume of 2012; superb against Italy and more than adequate in the last two games despite recovering from a groin strain.
Landon Donovan (6.3). Wowed the world as he flayed Scotland, competent but nothing special in the Brazil and Canada matches.
Jose Torres (5.3). Has adapted to a wide left position in the past three games, and certainly has upside in skill and savvy. Will he dislodge Brek Shea long-term?
Jozy Altidore (5.0). Sub appearance against Canada was his only action since a solid match against Italy.
Terrence Boyd (5.0). Raw but shows great potential as a rugged alternative to Altidore.
Herculez Gomez (6.0). His drive, touch and nose for goal will be an asset in the qualifiers, whether he plays alone up front or partnered.
Chris Wondolowski (5.5). Has yet to be handed a chance to match his good showings in the first two games of the year.