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Clearing the air on a few Klinsmann exclusions
by Ridge Mahoney, February 4th, 2013 6:04PM

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TAGS:  men's national team

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By Ridge Mahoney

Omissions from a national team roster always crank up the buzz, and those excluded by Jurgen Klinsmann Monday from the Hexagonal opener in Honduras certainly did their share.

Fans and journalists, like coaches, have their favorites, and some disagreement can certainly be traced to subjective, in some cases addled, perspectives. Yet so much of the angst is misplaced. The coach isn’t always right, and the proof of his acumen can’t come before Wednesday afternoon, but there’s plenty of rationale to be rehashed.

Let’s run down a few of the rejected and try to calm those jangled nerves:

NO KYLE BECKERMAN? But Klinsmann loves him, and he’s the loyal, energetic worker bee every team needs, especially in a hostile road environment, can screen the back line, is a true warrior, and, well, Klinsmann loves him.

Yes, love is love, but business is business, and qualifying for the World Cup is strictly business. Plus, the coach has picked at least four players – Danny Williams, Jermaine Jones, Maurice Edu and Sasha Kljestan – who can do that job and are in-season, even though Jones is coming off a suspension. Michael Bradley could slot into that spot, too, if necessary. (And Kljestan plays a mostly primarily holding/linking role for Anderlecht.)

WHERE’S BENNY FEILHABER? He was a real catalyst more than 2 ½ years ago at the World Cup, and played a great second half –- OK, 30 minutes – against a ponderous Canadian team last week before fading near the end but he’s got skills and since he was born in Brazil and played in Europe he has to be out there in a big game, right?

Uh, no, and once again Klinsmann in his Monday conference call reminded the world that Feilhaber doesn’t exert his influence often enough and strongly enough to be trusted in a road qualifier. “We want him to become more of a ‘pusher’ in terms of being more involved in the game,” said Klinsmann. “And on a consistent basis, meaning every couple minutes, every two or three minutes. Here and there it seems like he is fading out and then coming back in. “He’s a little inconsistent, but he’s working on that. That has to do obviously with the technical approach, but also with the physicality of the game, the rhythm and the pace of the game.”

OK, but why not bring a player like Feilhaber as possible sub even if he’s not a 90-minute player? Klinsmann’s philosophy, in matters both of fitness and level of performance, is that everyone has to be prepared to start. “But it is very important to know that a player who flies in and flies into Honduras, is ready to go,” said Klinsmann. “We can’t bring in players that we have question marks with injuries. That doesn’t work in such a short period of time.” The national team coach specifically referenced “question marks with injuries,” but preaches the same thing about question marks, period. There are still too many of them with Feilhaber, and maybe, just maybe, there’s a motivational message being sent that another creative midfielder, Brad Davis – also an MLS player, by the way -- is on the plane to Honduras, and he’s not.

Klinsmann also likes what he’s seen of Jose Torres, who after fading from the scene at Pachuca has rebounded smartly with UANL Tigres. “He played there for eight years or something like that,” said the coach. “In the new environment, prove yourself, become a starter, and he’s started off the season really well. So he’s a player who has so much more to reach and we help him in that process.”

BAD NEWS FOR GOODSON and GOOCH? Clarence Goodson and Oguchi Onyewu are tall, strong defenders with international experience, both with European club play and against Concacaf teams. How can they both be left out with Carlos Bocanegra only recently back in action after missing more than a month with a torn hamstring?

From their exclusion we can infer that a) Klinsmann is satisfied that Bocanegra can start and last the full 90 if necessary; b) the coach is very impressed with Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler; and c) there’s enough experience on the back line, even without Goodson and Gooch, to handle the hostility in San Pedro Sula.

The official explanation went thusly: “Clarence is in preseason right now in Denmark [at Broendby] and Gooch is not playing at all in Malaga. There are always reasons for why we choose certain players and why we do certain things. We believe that Matt Besler has the capabilities to step it up to the international level. So does Omar. So that gives more options in a very busy year, 2013.”

Next month, the USA plays its first double-dip of the Hexagonal, hosting Costa Rica and playing in Mexico four days apart. With a longer lead time and two games instead of one to plan for and worry about, the roster decisions will be quite different. The MLS players and those in Scandinavia will be into their seasons as well.

So don’t read too much into the first week in February. But don’t discount it, either.

Go HERE for the USA's roster for its World Cup qualifier against Honduras (Wednesday, 4 pm ET, BeIN Sport & BeIN en Espanol).



8 comments
  1. Miguel Dedo
    commented on: February 4, 2013 at 7:01 p.m.
    Ric Fonseca writes that Ridge Mahoney cannot write about soccer, in doing so demonstrates that he cannot write about about soccer or about soccer writers.

  1. James Froehlich
    commented on: February 4, 2013 at 8:41 p.m.
    If I read only JK's quotes, I am quite satisfied with the explanations. Although I am and have been a big supporter of Feilhaber I have to agree that he needs to upgrade his intensity and consistency. Not having been an athlete myself, I am truly mystified by what causes someone on the cusp of excellence to fall short from what appears to be nothing more than the level of commitment. Jose "Paco" Torres falls into that category also. He displays intervals of outstanding creativity and then just fades!! While there is naturally a real issue of personal responsibility, I have also often wondered whether players like Benny and Paco, who rely on quick, accurate passing interplay, might get frustrated by the inability or desire of their teammates to play the same type of game.

  1. James Madison
    commented on: February 4, 2013 at 10:49 p.m.
    OK, Feilhaber I can understand (and if I had read this before the Costa Rico blog, I would not have commented there as I did. However, Jones is a send-off waiting to happen; hopefully, when he costs the US a match, Klinsmann will finally cop to that. And maybe either Feilhaber or Stuart Holden will benefit.

  1. Robert Kiernan
    commented on: February 5, 2013 at 7:26 a.m.
    OK, I'll throw my two cents in here... Bocanegra was reported with back pain RECENTLY as well as dealing with that torn hamstring, so straight out his inclusion, Captain or not, is suspect... Fabian Johnson had a knee injury as of a week ago, is he truly up to a full 90 minutes in Honduras? I've got to question bringing Brad Evans as anything more than as a back up to the back up at LB... figure other than Johnson, either Castillo or Parkhurst would be the likely candidates... so does Evans even make the bench? I'm wondering if Chandler winds pushed up into playing as a flank midfielder to provide more offensive crossing later in the match if we fall behind... figure Parkhurst could slot in at RB. The Question still remains how many players do we commit to the attack? It looks like we are lacking flank players... so guys like Torres or Williams or Kljestan are more likely going to be called to play wide, regardless of whether or not that is their best position... figure we have so many central guys in midfield, that we will be playing a rather clogged style... maybe Zusi gets used outside but I really don't see this as a very offensive side... looks more like a team trying for a tie on the road. ... (ICE)

  1. Walt Pericciuoli
    commented on: February 5, 2013 at 11:15 a.m.
    I can't disagree with too much, but I would have liked to have had an extra attacker.

  1. Mark Grody
    commented on: February 5, 2013 at 3:11 p.m.
    a tie would be a great result

  1. Chris Sapien
    commented on: February 5, 2013 at 8:38 p.m.
    up top Dempsey & Gomez, Diamond middle Bradley,out left Davis,out right Zusi, holding Williams, back four left to right Johnson, Boca, Cameron, Parkhurst! Lineup committed to going forward, wings that stay wide and provide service and take good set pieces, back four with outsides willing to overlap and combine down the flanks. Solid center mids ready to body up and don't have to worry without outside attacks due to outside back speed and positioning. Howard of course.

  1. Chris Sapien
    commented on: February 5, 2013 at 8:39 p.m.
    worry about, not worry without.....


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