[UKRAINE-USA] Yes, there will be a game at Antonis Papadopoulos Stadium in Larnaca, Cyprus, on Wednesday night (live on ESPN2, WatchESPN, UniMas at 2:30 p.m. ET). Barring some dramatic turn of events back in Ukraine, the Ukrainian national team will take to the field and serve as sparring partner for the USA's squad of mostly European-based players. Here are the U.S. players for whom this game is the last chance to make the case they deserve one of the 23 tickets for the World Cup in Brazil. ...
Unless some sort of injuries arise, 20 of the 23 spots on the World Cup team are spoken for, leaving probably one spot open on the backline, in midfield and upfront. Nine of those 20 should go to players in Cyprus. Five players with the team didn't take part in the Hexagonal or Gold Cup, leaving seven players who need to play strong games on Wednesday to improve their chances:
JOHN BROOKS.Considered the new darling of the backline only six months ago, the young German-American has endured a rough first season at Hertha Berlin. With the top three center backs all but assured of going to Brazil all back prepping for the MLS season -- Omar Gonzalez, Matt Beslerand Clarence Goodson -- Brooks could get a chance.
OGUCHI ONYEWU.After almost a full year of inactivity -- at Malaga and QPR -- Onyewu has found a home at Sheffield Wednesday and new hope of making his third World Cup team. Ukraine will provide the perfect test to gauge his fitness and make the case that he, not Michael Parkhurst, not Michael Orozco and not Brooks should join the defensive crew in Brazil.
DANNY WILLIAMS.At the beginning of 2013, Williams was the first choice at holding midfielder but slowly, then quickly dropped out of the picture. Like Onyewu, Williams -- still only 24 -- has turned over a new leaf in the League Championship (Reading) and remains an option if Klinsmann wants to go with another, more defensive-minded central midfielder. Last-minute scratches by Michael Bradley and Mix Diskerud could give him a chance to make his case.
BREK SHEA.Shea's move to England has not turned out well but he continues to show occasional glimpses with the national team -- two winning goals in the Gold Cup -- that earn his recalls. As bad as he often looks with the national team and at Barnsley, he is unique in the all-energy game he brings to the team on the outside late in games.
EDGAR CASTILLO.The lone player flown in from North America -- Tijuana gave him the weekend off to fly to Frankfurt -- is a different kind of alternative to Shea if Klinsmann wants to brings in an extra left-sided player. He's been a more consistent threat than Shea on the left side though likely would lose out to a player like Parkhurst if Klinsmann is looking an extra left-sided player in the back.
SACHA KLJESTAN.Kljestan was an alternate in 2010 and dearly would like to avoid being stuck with the same status in 2014. A rough second half of the season at Anderlecht -- appearances in only three of the seven league games since the winter break -- has compromised his chances, though he gives Klinsmann a player capable of playing anywhere in midfield.
TERRENCE BOYD.Boyd ranks second to Aron Johannsson in goals by an American abroad in 2013-14 with 14 goals for Rapid Vienna. The German-American received multiple call-ups to the national team in 2013 but ended up playing just 78 minutes, all off the bench. He still remains, though, the closest thing to a double for Jozy Altidore up front.
GOALKEEPERS (3):Cody Cropper (Southampton), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton)
DEFENDERS (7): John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), Alfredo Morales (Ingolstadt), Oguchi Onyewu (Sheffield Wednesday), Will Packwood (Birmingham City), Jonathan Spector (Birmingham City)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Jermaine Jones (Besiktas), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Brek Shea (Barnsley), Danny Williams (Reading)
FORWARDS (5): Juan Agudelo (FC Utrecht), Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Aron Johannsson (AZ)
GOALKEEPERS (3):Andriy Pyatov (Shakhtar Donetsk), Rustam Khudzhamov (Illichevets Mariupol), Denys Boyko (Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk)
DEFENDERS (7): Vyacheslav Shevchuk (Shakhtar Donetsk), Oleksandr Kucher (Shakhtar Donetsk), Yaroslav Rakitskiy (Shakhtar Donetsk), Eugene Hacheridi (Dynamo Kyiv), Evgeny Makarenko (Dynamo Kyiv), Artem Fedetsky (Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk), Andrew Pilyavskyy (Maccabi Haifa)
MIDFIELDERS (13):Oleh Husyev (Dynamo Kyiv), Andriy Yarmolenko (Dynamo Kyiv), Roman Bezus (Dynamo Kyiv), Denys Harmash (Dynamo Kyiv), Serhiy Sydorchuk (Dynamo Kyiv), Eugene Linnet (Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk), Ruslan Rotan (Dnepr), Nicholas Morozyuk (Metallurg Donetsk), Taras Stepanenko (Shakhtar Donetsk), Edmar Halovskyi (Metalist Kharkiv), Denys Dedechko (Vorskla Poltava), Anatoliy Tymoshchuk (Zenit St. Petersburg), Dmytro Khomchenovsky (Dawn Lugansk)
FORWARDS (3): Eugene Seleznev (Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk), Roman Cuckoo (Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk), Marko Devic (Metalist Kharkiv).