[USA MEN] With the end of the January camp, U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann's attention returns to looking at players playing at foreign clubs. He says he plans on using the March 5 game at Ukraine to get one last look at some players -- likely based in Europe -- about whom he doesn't have a clear picture.
He told USSoccer.com the door will still open until the very last moment when he has to call up the players he intends to bring into the pre-World Cup camp expected to be held in mid-May in Northern California.
In recent weeks, several European-based players who seemed to be out of the World Cup picture due to lack of playing time or poor form have moved back into the hunt. Klinsmann went so far as to mention Timmy Chandler, who was finally cap-tied after a long engagement a year ago but who has not played or been called in since the 2-1 loss to Honduras in the Hexagonal opener.
Chandler has played every game for Nuremberg this season and earned kicker Team of the Week honors in the first game before and after the Bundesliga winter break and had another strong game Sunday in Nuremberg's 3-1 win at Hertha Berlin. Chandler's reluctance to commit to the USA is well known but he does play a position -- right back -- at which no obvious first choice has emerged.
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“We just want them to be on the field and build their case," Klinsmann told U.S. Soccer. "We communicate with them, players like Oguchi Onyewu, Tim Ream, and Danny Williams. You have Brek Shea, who went down into the Championship from Stoke to play games and is now playing 90 minutes almost every week. You have Timmy Chandler at Nurnberg, who for six months has been doing a very consistent, good job. Jermaine Jones goes to Besiktas and will pick up the rhythm of playing games again. We follow the players that have injury problems like Steve Cherundolo, who is still having issues, and John Anthony Brooks with Hertha Berlin, who is hopefully back next week. Same with Fabian Johnson who broke his arm and is hopefully back next week as well. Being in February and a few months prior to the World Cup, you want to see them all play. You have to give them a clear message that only if you pick up a rhythm and play week-in, week-out, will you complete one of the big keys in order to make the World Cup roster. That’s why we are really happy some of them now are starting to get their rhythm. This all plays a vital role in evaluating them, and then we have to make the vital calls in May.”
Onyewu, Ream, Williams and Shea -- all national team starters at some point in the past -- present unusual challenges for Klinsmann and his staff to evaluate in that they all play in the second level of English soccer. Still, he said the door remains open for everyone.
“It’s about what happens over the next couple of months," he said. "We coaches are going to do our homework as well. We are going to put the puzzle together of hopefully 23 players that are totally committed, that are not only giving everything they have, but that also mix well together. The tricky part about a World Cup roster is that you want to bring in a group that really is on the same page with one another, that support one another and are willing to take the challenge to another level – maybe two levels – within a short period of time. We have preparation for the World Cup for four weeks. In those four weeks, we will do a tremendous amount of work and they need to be ready for that. There are many different elements that play into the roster and therefore the door remains open until the very last day.”
Klinsmann signaled that most if not all the players called in for the Ukraine game -- the lone game for which he'll have the luxury of picking his entire roster -- will be European-based players, not from MLS or Mexico's Liga MX.
“Obviously, it’s challenging bringing a lot of players over from the U.S. or from Mexico for a game that only has three days of preparation," he said. "It’s more an opportunity to call in more European-based players because they are already in Europe and they can quickly show us where they are at. We have a very good picture of the players we worked with in the January camp for four weeks. We know where they’re at, what their qualities are and what they bring to the table, so the Ukraine match might be an opportunity to see a couple more European –based players."
For the half dozen players based in Mexico -- Edgar Castillo, Joe Corona and Herculez Gomez at Tijuana, DaMarcus Beasley and Michael Orozco at Puebla and Jose Torres at Tigres -- their only chance to impress Klinsmann one last time will come if a match against Mexico on April 2 comes through.
There is a catch, though. If Tijuana beats the LA Galaxy in the Concacaf Champions League, the semifinals will begin on April 1, meaning Xolos' trio of U.S. World Cup hopefuls, Castillo, Corona and Gomez, will likely be unavailable.