Four questions for Wednesday's Ukraine-USA game

[USA MEN] This will not be a World Cup at which European-based players dominate the U.S. national team. Indeed, U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann heads into Wednesday's game against Ukraine in Cyprus with lots of questions about his mostly European-based players, not least of which is the form of three key players in the middle of what he terms the spine of the team.

How does the spine look?
Klinsmann calls Tim Howard, Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore -- back to front -- the spine of the national team, but he finds himself in the inconvenient situation of having had all four field players -- Jones, Bradley, Dempsey and Altidore -- change clubs in the last six months -- in the case Dempsey twice as he went from Tottenham to Seattle and then back to London on loan to Fulham.

The upshot of the moves, though, is that Altidore has endured a season-long slump, though at least he is playing -- and playing better in recent weeks. Dempsey hasn't played since Feb. 4 as Fulham has fallen into last place in the EPL, Bradley, transferred from Roma to Toronto FC, hasn't played a competitive match since Dec. 22, and Jones hasn't played since Dec. 21 and hasn't even dressed since his transfer from Schalke 04 to Besiktas.

That's a lot of inactivity Klinsmann will have to take into account as he assesses their performances on Wednesday. Barring some sort of fitness issue, there is no way he doesn't start Dempsey, Bradley and Jones.

Where does Geoff Cameron play?
Of the seven players U.S. Soccer listed as defenders on the roster for the Ukraine game, only Geoff Cameron is a sure bet to go to Brazil. For none of the others are the odds as high as even 50-50. But where Cameron starts if at all at the World Cup remains to be seen. In his last five starts for the USA, he's played at center back three times and at right back and defensive midfield once each.

Cameron's experience would make him a natural choice to marshal the backline from the middle on Wednesday, but Klinsmann will likely want him to play at right back, the position at which he plays for Stoke City and he has the best chance of starting for the USA at the moment.

Where does Fabian Johnson play?
Fabian Johnson is another jack of all trades, used by Hoffenheim at left midfield, left back and now right back, all positions he played at for the USA in the 2013 Hexagonal.

Klinsmann has plenty of options on the wings in midfield against Ukraine, so Johnson will likely start at left back. DaMarcus Beasley, back in Mexico with Puebla, holds the starting job at left back for the moment, but Johnson's best chance of claiming a starting job is, for the moment, at left back.

Who will step up?
Of the 20 players permanently based in Europe and eligible to play in Wednesday, only eight would be considered sure bets to go Brazil: Brad Guzan and Howard in goal, plus Cameron, Johnson, Jones, Altidore, Alejandro Bedoya and Aron Johannsson. Mix Diskerud is very much in -- well -- the mix, but after that is less than 50-50 for everyone else.

Klinsmann called the game "a huge opportunity" for the European-based players and it will take a huge game from the likes of John Brooks, Sacha Kljestan, Brek Shea or Terrence Boyd to snatch what must be one or two remaining tickets to the World Cup that have not yet been punched.

U.S. Roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Cody Cropper (Southampton), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton)
DEFENDERS (7): John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Tijuana), Alfredo Morales (Ingolstadt), Oguchi Onyewu (Sheffield Wednesday), Will Packwood (Birmingham City), Tim Ream (Bolton Wanderers)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Jermaine Jones (Besiktas), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Brek Shea (Barnsley), Danny Williams (Reading)
FORWARDS (6): Juan Agudelo (Utrecht), Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Aron Johannsson (AZ).
7 comments about "Four questions for Wednesday's Ukraine-USA game".
  1. Dan Phillips, February 28, 2014 at 11:08 a.m.

    Jozy Altidore sucks! He should be left off the team. he's a psycho case. Panics in pressure games and basically does absolutely nothing. Juan Augudelo? Another stupid pick. Basically never scores either, and gets ball stripped from him in in the box every time.And Oguchi Onyewu? Please! the guy is a has-been! I can't wait until Timmy Chandler and Stuart Holden get healthy. They have far superior talent and can make a difference!

  2. Chris Sapien , February 28, 2014 at 6:55 p.m.

    Whoaaaa, Danny-boy time-out......Jozy, may not be to your liking, but he scored 8 goals in 13 starts and one sub appearence, scored in five straight of those, and has the pace and ability to hold-up play and bring our middies into the foray!! Not something to be overlooked going into our WC Group come June.....Like to know who you think would better fill that role when the Germany/Portugal sides are pushing our backline deeper and deeper relentlessly? In regards to Gooch, I think this may just be obligatory, and face it, TC has to do more and say the right things, a la Donovan last summer, to even get on Klinn's radar at this time. I'm with you on Holden at some point though.....although with the international game he may never have the post-operative strength to be effective through the midfield, like a Bradley or to a lesser degree Jones does.....

  3. Dan Phillips, February 28, 2014 at 8 p.m.

    Altidore needs to go "out the door"! Who is better? Johansson, Gomez, Wondo, Terrance Boyd. I would take any one of those over Alt no more! Holden would be good off bench. And Timmy Chandler has been playing great ball (until recent injury) for FC Nurnberg. JK needs to get over his llitle tiff with him and bring him back. We have No better Right Back. And we desperatley need one!

  4. Bruce Gowan, February 28, 2014 at 8:22 p.m.

    I agree that Altidore does not look comfortable up top for the US. I have never seen him generate his own offense. He seems to score when he can run onto a ball while running toward goal or when he is a target in the box and only has to turn and shoot. Why then is he being played all alone up top and expected to receive and hold? He does not receive or hold very well. Johansson does receive and hold well and he can create is own scoring opportunities.

  5. Shane Watkins, February 28, 2014 at 11:31 p.m.

    Altidore, my be going through a little slump, but there is no better, stronger, faster front runner we have that can do what he does. Even when he doesn't score, he always causes problems fo defenders. He will never be left 1v1, and will always attract 2-3 defenders when he has th ball. He will hold the ball up for the likes of Donovan, Dempsey and bradley to join the attack. Wondo is a good mls striker who scores trash goals from rebounds and half chances. Boyd still un

  6. Shane Watkins, February 28, 2014 at 11:44 p.m.

    Boyd still unproven at the highest level. I would like to see mor of johnasson, and julian green from bayern. If there is a major problem I see that Klinsman does not, it is jermaine jones. He is a liability. He's a reckless hack who will give up at least one goal and possibly be ejected from one game. He loses the ball way too often taking stupid risks I the center midfield, and then he tackles someone from behind cause he's trying to make up for he dumb mistakes. I don't know how Klinsman doesn't see how bad jones is. I would much rather have edu or beckerman in the middle with bradley. Holden would be awesome, but I'm afraid he is just about done with his injuries.

  7. Alan Brommel, March 1, 2014 at 6:45 p.m.

    Yes, Jones is going to he the reason this team fails to get out of the group. I have seen all the games he has played this year and he has the lowest % of completed passes of any projected starter with no one close to his ineptness. Klinsman is stuck on blinded by his "toughness" on tackles, which is no more than having to recover from getting beat or just poor positioning to begin with. He also tries to attack too much forcing Bradley to hang back and cover for his eventual giveaways. I just cannot believe JK watches film and thinks JJ is playing well.
    Also believe that if Altidore doesn't score in any of the final games before Brazil then he needs to be sat in favor of AJ.

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