More depth means lots more close calls

[USA MEN] What do you take away from the roster U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann named for the World Cup qualifiers Sept. 6 at Costa Rica and Sept. 10 against Mexico in Columbus, Ohio? He has considerably more players to choose from than he did at the beginning of the year or even for the June qualifiers. Six September call-ups weren't even in the picture in June.

There were few surprises in Klinsmann's selections -- perhaps Michael Orozco over Clarence Goodson and Mix Diskerud over Sacha Kljestan -- except to say that by his own admission he had a lot of "50-50 calls" to make.

There were at least seven players who were in the team earlier this year without playing themselves out of the picture: Michael Parkhurst, Brad Davis, Jose Torres, Joe Corona, Chris Wondolowski, Goodson and Kljestan.

"It’s a very tricky and difficult selection," said Klinsmann in a conference call with reporters Thursday afternoon, "because there are a lot of players that deserve to be on this roster as well. Think about Clarence Goodson, Jose Torres, Sacha Kljestan, Joe Corona and many others that deserve to be there. The good part about all of our work over the last 6-8 months is we deepened our roster, we deepened our possibilities in selecting specific players and all the players not called into Costa Rica are still in the loop going forward."

With eight players in his 23 carrying yellow cards into the Costa Rica game, Klinsmann said others have been told they are on stand-by in case they need to be called in for the Mexico game as replacements for players who have been suspended.

Short- or long-term injuries would have excluded a half dozen players: Stuart Holden, Steve Cherundolo, Terrence Boyd, Herculez Gomez, Brek Shea and Maurice Edu.

Only a couple of players -- notably German-Americans Timmy Chandler and Danny Williams -- have seen their stock fall this year. As Klinsmann noted, the huge change in 2013 from his first two years in charge is how much more competition he has than before. Of the 20 field players he called up a year ago for the twin qualifiers against Jamaica, only eight will be in Miami for the camp that opens Sunday.

And since the June qualifiers -- when the USA swept the three games -- six players without any prior appearances in the 2013 Hexagonal have played their way on the first 23: Michael Orozco, Mix Diskerud, Alejandro Bedoya, John Brooks, Aron Johannsson and, of course, Landon Donovan.

For another way to look at how much the picture has changed since June, every one of the unused field players from the June 7 game against Jamaica isn't in the 23 for the September qualifiers: Boyd, Corona, Holden, Davis, Parkhurst, Kljestan and Goodson.

Asked who has looked good since the start of the new European season, Klinsmann said, “I think when you ask that question, it takes us back to John Brooks with Hertha Berlin, Aron Johannsson with [AZ] Alkmaar and Alejandro Bedoya who had an amazing debut with Nantes against Paris St. German where he almost scored a goal. Michael Bradley has had an outstanding start to his season at Roma, Tim Howard as well [at Everton]."

For all the competition for spots on the 23-player roster, the starting XI for the Costa Rica game is almost set. The USA won its last three qualifiers to take control of the Hexagonal -- and takes a team record 12-game unbeaten streak into the Costa Rica game -- and Klinsmann hasn't changed up his lineup much when the USA has been winning.

He came out and said DaMarcus Beasley, who was suspended for the Honduras, is set at left back, and Fabian Johnson, who moved back to left back against the Catrachos, is "set in the left winger role, for right now."

That would leave the question of where to play Donovan if he starts. The only likely spots would be in place of one of the two starters who currently have fitness issues. Klinsmann said he expected Graham Zusi, who has played on the right side of midfield, and captain Clint Dempsey, the second forward, to be fully fit by next week -- and he even discussed Dempsey's 100th cap, which he'll earn in his next game.

All that leaves is and where to start Donovan -- in Zusi's place? -- the major talking point of the next week.

U.S. Roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), *Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS (8): DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Matt Besler (Sporting KC) John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), *Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), *Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Michael Orozco (Puebla)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), *Michael Bradley (Roma), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), *Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), *Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04), Graham Zusi (Sporting KC)
FORWARDS (4): *Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), *Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Aron Johannsson (AZ), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders)
*Carrying yellow cards.
19 comments about "More depth means lots more close calls".
  1. James Froehlich, August 29, 2013 at 7:07 p.m.

    No complaints at all. I am sorry that "Gringo" Torres didn't make it. While I still think highly of his technical skills, I don't think he plays with the "fire in his belly" that JK is looking for and I can live with that.

  2. R2 Dad, August 30, 2013 at 12:31 a.m.

    Wish we played more frequently in something other than a 4-4-2, in order to get more of that attacking quality on the pitch. Hope JK keeps experimenting, as I agree Torres has good qualities that we will certainly need against more technical teams.

  3. Chris Connelly, August 30, 2013 at 8:57 a.m.

    Swap Jermaine Jones for Torres, or any other player for that matter, and I'm good.

  4. Eric Schmitt, August 30, 2013 at 9:09 a.m.

    R2 Dad, we've been playing in a 4-5-1 for every game of the Hexagonal so far.

  5. Walt Pericciuoli, August 30, 2013 at 9:18 a.m.

    Agree with all the choices.These were tough calls to make. Torres as well as a few others will get in there eventually. They are young and there's a ways to go yet before 2014.I do like that he is bringing in youngsters Brooks and Johannsson.

  6. Chris Hasbrouck, August 30, 2013 at 10:06 a.m.

    Still don't understand why Klinnsman is enamored with Jermaine Jones. He played terribly against Bosnia-Herzegovina.

  7. Charles Stamos, August 30, 2013 at 10:42 a.m.

    I see a lot of firepower and depth with these 20 field players. Howard starts in goal. The keys are picking the correct 4 backs and having both Altidore and EJohnson on the field upfront. Then the US needs Donovan as the most atttacking middie, Bradley, FJohnson, and one other midfielder behind him, and that leaves no room for Dempsey! I can not see him starting unless one of the others come out. He may start over EJohnson or Donovan, but I don't like that. Maybe, he subs in at halftime, leaving the other 2 subs for midfielders or an injury sub. At least we have a lot of options and plenty to discuss. Either Klinsmann goes with the attacking lineup or he backs down and leaves EJohnson out to start. I don't have a best back four yet, they have hardly all played together; so 4 or Beasley, Evans, Besler, Gonzalez, Orozco, or Cameron

  8. Walt Pericciuoli, August 30, 2013 at 10:57 a.m.

    Charles, you pick EJ over Dempsey? Chris
    Jones is still needed for now, but I look forward to the day when he won't be.

  9. Charles Stamos, August 30, 2013 at 11:01 a.m.

    I can see two of EJ Dempsey and Donovan starting and the third is the sub for one of the others. Tough decisions.

  10. Charles Stamos, August 30, 2013 at 11:14 a.m.

    My gut feeling is Donovan is the odd man out and comes in at halftime for EJ. That's OK, you can tell EJ to empty his tank in the first half. Klinsmann needs to show he's in charge by weaning Donovan back onto the starting 11.

  11. James Froehlich, August 30, 2013 at 11:55 a.m.

    No matter how technically oriented a coach is, my gut says that they still like to have a "hard man" around and Jones fills the bill.

  12. Charles Stamos, August 30, 2013 at 12:17 p.m.

    I would guess one of Bedoya, Zusi or Jones gets the start. Jones is the defensive minded one. Good to start him and take him out at halftime after he gets his yellow. Hopefully, he doesn't get a red or give up a PK.

  13. Kent James, August 30, 2013 at 12:36 p.m.

    If we need a "hard man" it should be Beckerman, not Jones. Jones covers more ground (his best attribute is his ability to recover), but Beckerman is quicker (and smarter in his tackles), and has much better passing skills. Personally, I'd rather see us use Bradley in the defensive center midfield role (letting him storm forward on occasion, rather than playing farther up and trying to distribute), to allow us to use more offensive minded players (LD, Dempsey and EJ all on the field at once). Bradley covers the ground that Jones does, and has gotten much better about making rash challenges.

  14. Chris Sapien , August 30, 2013 at 1:48 p.m.

    Kent, you mentioned almost exactly what I have said in several other of my posts the last week. We should move away from a hard #6, get Landon and Michael to own the middle of the pitch from 6yd to 6yd. Klinns needs to show the team we are going into September's qualifiers to get the six points!! Both General Mike and Lando can save some gas and switch off "finding" the ball in front of our CDs, and attacking forward into Ricas/Mex penalty areas. Start EJ & Jozy up top, Dempsey,Landon/Bradley, Zusi (if fit)across the middle, with Fabian, Besler, Gonzo (hope he steps it up) & Evans in the back. Howard or Guzan are both #1s to me. Bottom line, I want our best eleven out there when the first whistle blows, and that will put us into Brazil on Sept. 10th! Ultimately though, I think we will see either Lando or EJ start on the bench in the first half, as Jurgen goes back to the lone striker mentality, at least in CR.

  15. Jeanine Valadez, August 30, 2013 at 1:58 p.m.

    I mostly agree with Kent and Chris. Jones has no place on this team anymore. His "skills" are better covered by others now, his "costs" are huge with yellows and reds and PKs virtually certain, and his "brand" does not mesh with what we have seen our team become. As for EJ, I say he is most scary and awesome when he comes in as a sub. He can literally take the breath away from tired opponents when they see his quality come off the bench. He also seems to have a mature and working-man attitude such that his ego won't be tinged by bench duty as long as he knows he is coming in to score soon enough. Some of the others, Dempsey and LD, Jozy, etc., don't seem (to me) to have the same humility/patience such that they would come off the bench storming. There is also the issue of age with Dempsey and Donovan...they are best when they are onto the pitch hot from know, mature legs and backs need to be warm!

  16. Chris Sapien , August 30, 2013 at 2:32 p.m.

    Look at it this way, with Zusi providing both width and service, you would virtually have a third target on the backside with Deuce. Landon's at his best when he has room to create centrally and he usually diagonal attacks when you play him wide anyway. Dempsey can take on his defender 1v1 and cut-in for his varied strikes alternately as he sees fit. Bradley is a beast and can do everything Jones & Beckerman do, and usually better! Also Lando has the pace to thwart counters if he is allowed to stay in the middle of the pitch. My real concern is Gonzo, and I was somewhat disappointed when Goodson was left off, but Castillo was called in.

  17. Ferron Brooks, August 30, 2013 at 10:13 p.m.

    Why, what, where does Kyle Beckerman fits in on this team? Slow player doesn't read the game well, there fore covers slowly. Torres would be a better pick.
    4-3-3 with a mid of Zuzi, Bradley and London and forwards being Deuce, Jozy and EJ. could also move LD to forward and bring Mix to mid dropping EJ

  18. Chris Sapien , August 30, 2013 at 10:28 p.m.

    Wow, nice passion FB..... but we're not quite there yet........4-3-3 is a very hard sell to most here.....someday, though

  19. Chris Snyder, August 30, 2013 at 10:31 p.m.

    Excellent group...all solid pros though I haven't seen Brooks or Johansson yet. I would have liked to have seen both Goodson and Corona selected but Jurgen Klinsmann in in his position for a reason. We should all respect that. Still, we are all allowed our opinions and her goes mine in regards to a first eleven: Howard as GK, a back four of Cameron at RB, Beasley at LB, Gonzalez and Besler at CBs, the midfielders playing tight in somewhat of a triangle with Beckerman and Bradley behind Dempsey, Donovan and F. Johnson playing as flank midfielders/wingers and Altidore as the center forward (or striker, depending on how old you are and your preferred terminology). Regardless, let's hope the boys get it done!

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