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Breaking down Klinsmann's March qualifying options
by Paul Kennedy, March 8th, 2013 6:41AM

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TAGS:  americans abroad, men's national team, mls, world cup 2014


[HEXAGONAL COUNTDOWN] Only two weekends are left before Jurgen Klinsmann will announce the team he's bringing in for the crucial U.S. World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica March 22 in Commerce City, Colo., and Mexico four days later in Mexico City. Here's a look at the sure picks and those battling for the half dozen of so spots to complete the roster.

A quick overview:

-- Sixteen players would be considered sure picks to be called in for the two games, assuming they are all healthy. Two key players, goalie Tim Howard and forward Clint Dempsey, have been sidelined though there is no indication that their participation in the March is in doubt. Klinsmann can suit 23 players -- three must be goalies -- for each game. They might not all be the same 23 players for each game.

[UPDATE: Everton manager David Moyes said Friday Howard has two broken bones in his back and could be sidelined four weeks, ruling him out of the March qualifiers.]

-- The goalkeeping situation is set with the No. 1 and No. 2 choices (assuming Howard's back is OK). Two MLS goalies could come in and out and fill the No. 3 spot depending on their schedules. (MLS will be playing a full slate of games between the two qualifiers.) The frontline is the most settled position (again with the assumption that Dempsey's calf injury heals in time). If not, well, the picture changes dramatically.

-- As many as five players could be fighting for two midfield spots, and four players from among seven candidates could grab the remaining spots on the backline. The former reflects the growing options Klinsmann has among wide midfielders, making players like DaMarcus Beasley, Chris Pontius and Josh Gatt very much longshots. The latter reflects the dearth of central defenders starting right now.

-- One, two or three MLS games isn't a lot of time for a player to impress Klinsmann or change his opinion. But the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals involving Houston, Los Angeles and Seattle could turn his head. Three goals against Chicago might not earn Mike Magee a call-up, but three goals against Chicago, plus two strong CCL games, may. See below.

*Called in for Feb. 6 Honduras qualifier.

GOALKEEPERS (3):
Sure picks:
*Brad Guzan (Aston Villa, England). Earned Sky Sports Man of the Match in a 1-0 home loss to defending EPL champion Manchester City on Monday. If Villa avoids relegation, Guzan will be a big reason.
*Tim Howard (Everton, England). Back injury forced him to sit out last week's 3-1 win over Reading, ending his streak of 210 consecutive starts. This weekend Everton plays Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup quarterfinals, and backup Jan Mucha will again play.
[UPDATE: Everton manager David Moyes said Friday Howard has two broken bones in his back and could be sidelined four weeks, ruling him out of the March qualifiers.]
Possibilities:
*Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire). Had excellent first half and couldn't do much to prevent 4-0 loss to the Galaxy. Fire plays Sunday between Costa Rica and Mexico, so he could suit up against Ticos and skip trip to Mexico City.
Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake). Shut out San Jose, 2-0, in MLS opener. RSL plays Saturday between two qualifiers, so he could (re-)join national team for trip to Mexico City.

DEFENDERS (8):
Sure picks:
*Geoff Cameron (Stoke City, England). Didn't play in last week's 1-0 loss to West Ham, just the third EPL game he's missed in his first season. Isn't a worry unless he doesn't start again this weekend against Newcastle.
*Timmy Chandler (Nuremberg, Germany). Sat out last week's game against Freiburg for yellow-card accumulation but otherwise playing well for Nuremberg.
*Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy). Off to strong start with the Galaxy. You have to assume he stays in the U.S. starting lineup.
*Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim, Germany). Hoffenheim has lost all four games since February qualifier -- dooming it to almost certain relegation -- but the defense has only allowed five goals (one 2-1 and three 1-0 losses).
Possibilities:
*Matt Besler (Sporting KC). Only player who traveled to Honduras but didn't dress. SKC struggled for first half hour before it came to life and thumped Philadelphia, 3-1, in season opener.
John Anthony Brooks (Hertha Berlin). Long shot? Sure. And also a possibility to play for Germany (U-20s). But 6-foot-7 (that's right!) German-American is getting high marks with promotion candidate. Klinsmann says USA needs to be more aggressive in nailing down dual citizens. Call-up could accelerate decision on joining U.S. U-20s for Under-20 World Cup.
*Carlos Bocanegra (Racing Santander, Spain).
Hasn't played since returning to Spain. Would be in danger of being dropped except for lack of depth in the back.
*Edgar Castillo (Tijuana, Mexico). Would be shoo-in for next two qualifiers but suffered three broken bones in his face in last Friday's Liga MX game. Injury was expected to keep him out of action for a month but he might be able to return to training when the USA assembles in Colorado. Big part of Xolos' first two wins in Libertadores Cup.
*Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders). Strong January camp and versatility earned him a trip to San Pedro Sula. Hit post in Sounders' 1-0 loss to Montreal. Competition for another call-up will be tough.
Clarence Goodson (Brondby, Denmark). Turned down move to Turkey in January. Didn't start in Superliga spring opener but came on in 10th minute.Missed Honduras game because Danish season had not yet resumed but fact he's playing again is no assurance he'll be picked. Has fallen down the depth chart since a year ago.
*Michael Parkhurst (Augsburg, Germany)
. Started at Bayer Leverkusen, only start since moving to Bundesliga in January. Ability to play anywhere along the backline works in his favor.

MIDFIELDERS (8):
Sure picks:
*Michael Bradley (Roma, Italy). Began last two games on the bench but Roma is winning (three victories in a row) and he is playing well when he comes on. One of the few shoo-ins to start in March qualifiers.
*Maurice Edu (Bursaspor, Turkey). Started every game since Honduras match so loan move to Turkey has paid off. He didn't even dress at Stoke City.
*Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04, Germany). Became only second American to score in knockout phase of UEFA Champions League when he scored in 1-1 draw at Galatasaray. Will miss second leg in Gelsenkirchen with suspension for yellow-card accumulation. Also suspended for Saturday's Borussia Dortmund for same reason.
*Jose Torres (Tigres, Mexico). Playing very well after transfer from Pachuca. Missed first two games for unbeaten Tigres with calf injury but started every game since then.
*Danny Williams (Hoffenheim, Germany). Started last two Bundesliga games after being relegated to bench.
*Graham Zusi (Sporting KC). All he did in MLS opener was score one goal and set up other two goals in SKC's 3-1 comeback win over Philadelphia.
Possibilities:
Joe Corona (Tijuana). Strong game in 1-0 win over Corinthians in Libertadores Cup came as no surprise. He's integral part of the Xolos' championship team. Klinsmann said before Honduras game he'll get his chance. Perhaps now.
*Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo). Scored winner in Dynamo's 1-0 win over Santos after coming off bench. How he plays in second leg in Torreon should determine whether he gets another call-up.
*Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht, Belgium). Signed a contract extension with the Belgian champions two days after returning from San Pedro Sula. Came on as sub against Honduras but faces competition for a roster spot from several more attacking midfielders this time.
Mike Magee (Los Angeles). You can't ignore what he did in MLS opener -- spectacular hat trick in 4-0 win over Chicago -- or how he was unlucky not to score Thursday night at Herediano -- shot off crossbar and goal unjustly disallowed. Versatility works in his favor. Can play third forward spot like Eddie Johnson has played.
Brek Shea (Stoke City, England). Rehab kept him out of January camp, but he's starting to get some minutes, albeit off bench, at Stoke.

FORWARDS (4):
Sure picks:
*Jozy Altidore (AZ, Netherlands). Has scored four goals and an assist in his last three games to set single-season scoring record for an American abroad: 24 goals.
*Clint Dempsey (Tottenham, England). Hasn't played in two weeks since lingering calf injury and is unavailable this weekend against Liverpool. Not the kind of news you want to hear.
*Herculez Gomez (Santos, Mexico). Started every game for Santos in Torneo Clausura since change in coaches and had best game of the season last weekend with two goals and an assist at Chiapas.
*Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders). Hit crossbar in Sounders' 1-0 loss to Montreal. Worked very hard in 1-0 defeat at Tigres on Wednesday night.
Possibilities:
Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna). Was on winter break when Honduras game was played. Scored his team-high seventh goal in the Austrian Bundesliga and 10th in all competitions in first game back.



10 comments
  1. Kerry Ogden
    commented on: March 8, 2013 at 10 a.m.
    I feel the US's best bet would be to scrap the senior Team and work with the current U-20 USMNT as their senior team, they are at the perfect age to start their work towards the top, They cannot do any worst than what the senior team has done to date under Klinnsman rule & the most important factor is that the U-20 has demonstrated is cohesion & connectivity to work as one which the senior Team has not shown to date!!!

  1. David Mozeshtam
    commented on: March 8, 2013 at 11:37 a.m.
    Keep in mind that the U-20 team has a coach. The senior team doesn't.

  1. Alberto Mora
    commented on: March 8, 2013 at 12:30 p.m.
    I certainly know for sure that Klinnsman knows more futbol that David Mozeshtam.

  1. David Mozeshtam
    commented on: March 8, 2013 at 12:59 p.m.
    At least I'm not rejoicing at the fact that one day Klinsmann won't be alive.

  1. Chris Sapien
    commented on: March 8, 2013 at 1:35 p.m.
    I'm sorry, but after the Honduras game, how can anyone say Gonzalez is ready to stay in the starting line-up. Now is not his time, and I would feel more comfortable with Goodsen regaining his starting role alongside Cameron, with Parkhurst and Fabian J. out wide willing to go forward, connect and overlap, still with the pace and workrate to recover back! (unlike Chandler) And holy-hell, where's Wondolowski?? You want an attack? If healthy, put Wondo and Herc. up top, drop Dempsey and Jozy into left and center attacking mids with Zusi on the right, and have Bradley sit under them as a holding/distributing mid! Why do we constantly feel we have to have any defending mids who more times than not are not either willing to tackle? I would much rather win 4-2 or 5-3 than play for a hopeful 1 nil or 2-1 result.

  1. R2 Dad
    commented on: March 8, 2013 at 11:53 p.m.
    Until the midfield core is settled, we won't have a hub to the wheel. Holden has the quality--will he get a chance?

  1. Robert Kiernan
    commented on: March 9, 2013 at 4:18 p.m.
    I really have trouble believing what I'm reading here...Holden has barely played yet, he didn't play at all last week... he shouldn't be called in until this summer's Gold Cup if he shows he's able to play.@Chris Sapien you are KIDDING about playing Jozy at midfield, right? He has NEVER been a provider in midfield, he has played as a lone ranger up top and that very likely will be what he is called in to play.@Kerry Ogden, our u-20 team looked cohesive??? No it didn't... the midfield turned over the ball and the defense was made up of all four players playing out of position, if they had problems at that level it stands to reason that they aren't going to be any more effective against older seasoned professionals... again, bring them into the fold for the Gold Cup this Summer but NOT for a must win match at home against Costa Rica, let alone playing a recently embarrassed El Tri at the Azteca. No, with Tim Howard out, we are going to be rather makeshift as is, Boca is NOT ready to go, the combination of Gonzalez and Cameron had no chemistry against Honduras, and I doubt it will be very different playing two right sided centerbacks together again. Clearly Castillo is questionable, so we are looking weak in the back... this is not looking good at all. Bradley and Jones are part of our midfield, Torres and Corona seem better suited than Shea, Chandler likely is better used as a wide midfielder than at RB, honestly I'd even consider playing Williams at a Stopper close to his club teammate Johnson, who was NOT ready last time out and that showed... figure at home against Costa Rica we might go a 4-4-2, but the second match likely will be a return to a single Striker, likely Altidore... I strongly doubt we get a point away in Mexico which makes the full three at home so important, so until this is past us, well I'm far from confident here. ... (ICE)

  1. Chris Sapien
    commented on: March 10, 2013 at 10:43 p.m.
    Robert, NO I was not kidding.....either we stop playing Jozy as a target striker, put him face to frame where he has unleashed a nice array of goals for his club, or we drop his non-productive _ _ _ altogether!! I would rather see him by-passed regularly enough by having a strong enough attacking midfield left and right, then expect him to hold balls up as a lone striker and ask him to score back to goal, which unless you haven't watched his last dozen games with the Nats, he isn't doing. I like the idea of him pressing up the middle and delivering a slotted ball or two when the defenders move to stop him, or he takes several cracks a game from distance as he does for club when the defenders don't move to stop the ball. If that was your only criticism of my post, you and I probably see things very similar for the most part.

  1. Emile Jordan
    commented on: March 11, 2013 at 9:23 a.m.
    Play a 4-3-3 with Bradley center mid and Dempsey center striker. Have all the play go through those two and the rest can out work Costa Rica at altitude on a big field with a loud USA crowd. I like the USA subbing outside mids and outside strikers as effectiveness lessens.

  1. Chris Sapien
    commented on: March 11, 2013 at 3:22 p.m.
    Not bad Emile, except that both Bradley and Dempsey far too many times have to come way too far back to "find" the ball. And when was the last time, if ever, did Klinns decide not to have at least one holding mid in his line-ups? I am with you on the attacking mentality though!! What happened to the days where the US was the most fit side out on the pitch, and if nothing else we could out-physical the opponent if not out-skill them?


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