All but Klinsmann's 'spine' is still unsettled

[WORLD CUP COUNTDOWN] The USA begins its three-game World Cup send-off series with a match against Azerbaijan Tuesday night at San Francisco's Candlestick Park (live on ESPN2, WatchESPN, UniMas at 10 p.m. ET). Except for Jurgen Klinsmann's "spine" -- the five players he considers the core of the team -- all positions have been up in the air. For a look at what changes might have been made during the Stanford camp on Tuesday.

The only sure things in the U.S. lineup are Tim Howard in goal, Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley in midfield and Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore up front.

Who'll start at outside back? German-Americans Fabian Johnson and Timmy Chandler will likely start though on the opposite sides from the last time they were paired on the outside in the disastrous Hexagonal opener at Honduras in 2013. Johnson says he's been playing at right back in camp -- the position he finished the Bundesliga season at with Hoffenheim. Chandler played five straight games at left back early in Klinsmann's tenure. Chandler's return meant the end of the road for Brad Evans, Michael Parkhurst and Michael Orozco, who all played at right back in qualifying, and may mean DaMarcus Beasley, who started in seven of the 10 Hexagonal matches at left back, has been relegated to the bench.

Who'll start at center back? Matt Besler says he's been working with Omar Gonzalez, Geoff Cameron and John Brooks in training. Besler will likely start, though his partner is anyone's guess. Besler and Gonzalez were the first-choice pairing in the Hexagonal but Gonzalez struggled big-time the last time out against Mexico in April. Besler has played once beside Cameron -- the 2-0 win over Jamaica in October -- but never played with Brooks.

Who'll start at outside midfield? Graham Zusi and Alejandro Bedoya alternated as the starter on the right side through much of qualifying. The USA had some of its best success in qualifying with Johnson on the left side of midfield -- he set up Altidore for winners against Panama and Honduras and created the penalty kick at Costa Rica -- but he's now slotted to start on the backline. None of the other nominal starting left midfielders in the decisive stages of the Hexagonal -- Eddie Johnson, Herculez Gomez and Landon Donovan -- are still with the team. Look for Zusi and Bedoya to share the duties on the outside with help off the bench from Brad Davis and Julian Green.
15 comments about "All but Klinsmann's 'spine' is still unsettled".
  1. Colborns , May 26, 2014 at 8:30 p.m.

    I believe that any team with today's Donovan on it is better than the same team without him. Spine in Klinsmann would be not to stand his ground but to reconsider.

  2. Pat Sharp, May 26, 2014 at 8:38 p.m.

    you are so right! But he won't unless someone gets hurt, I think. He is too stubborn

  3. Eric R., May 26, 2014 at 10:29 p.m.

    The issue to me isn't even whether or not he'd play. I sure wouldn't start him. But damn! He's a hell of a lot better off the bench than any of those German kids (Chandler, Green, Brooks, etc) he selected who have done NOTHING to deserve being at the WC.

    I'm gonna move past this though. If he's recalled, so be it. If not, I need to focus some positive energy on this team.

  4. beautiful game, May 26, 2014 at 10:31 p.m.

    If LD had Giuseppe Rossi's passion and commitment at each game, there would be no argument today or yesterday.

  5. Cristian Deseanu, May 26, 2014 at 10:56 p.m.

    I think he still has the passion, even if took that time off because he wasn't sure.. And despite how much I like JK, he was so wrong for not calling London!
    I'm gonna be on Red Bulls Arena on Sunday to seek that positive energy that someone mentioned it earlier..

  6. Zoe Willet, May 26, 2014 at 11:05 p.m.

    Beasley is not in the 'spine'? Can't be! He's awesome, gives his all, and is dependable.

  7. John Richardson, May 26, 2014 at 11:07 p.m.

    Ok ok ok. Let's all understand that LD is gone and not coming back. Long live LD - yes it was a bad sending off but let's focus on trying to prepare for the up coming games, and trying to steal 3 or 4 pts in group play. We need to get behind the team we have. USA USA USA !

  8. Ramon Creager, May 26, 2014 at 11:09 p.m.

    I doubt LD would be recalled even if someone is injured. Klinsmann has made his break with Donovan. And it clearly isn't because Donovan can't play anymore. As a fan I feel cheated. I know who Donovan is. I don't know half this team, or what they possibly could have done to merit inclusion and a trip to the WC.

  9. Reuben Valles, May 27, 2014 at 2:09 a.m.

    Hey Nowozeniuk, the only problem is that Landon has 5 goals in 3 World Cups and Rossi has never even been to one. Poor example, but i get what your saying. Maybe if Landon had just lied and acted enthusiastic he could have played the part that he was into it 2 years ago and he might be on the plane to Brazil. However, I dont think Landon Donovan has to pretend to be into a tournament. He has earned that right to be on the team with all his accomplishments and tournament MVPs (like last summers Gold Cup) He shouldnt have to fake anything. He of all Americans has earned and deserved his spot on that plane (in my opinion anyway)

  10. Cesar Sastre, May 27, 2014 at 7:57 a.m.

    We must be so incredibly good, talented and deep so as to not need Donovan that I am now expecting us to easily get through group play.

  11. Devon Duncan, May 27, 2014 at 10:25 a.m.

    As a Jamaican I am big fans of LD the best American player I ever watched play.It's sad I will not get to see him play in the world cup one last time thanks to JK.LD you will surely miss ,I enjoyed all your games including the times when you beat the Jamaican national team aka Reggae Boys.I hope JK get fire after the world cup .

  12. Chris Sapien , May 27, 2014 at 2:02 p.m.

    Well said Reuben! I see this squad as woefully inexperienced, and I think we will watch as a couple players have a serious "deer in the headlights" moment! (hopefully not, of course) With only four field players who have even been to a WC, we might be in for a long couple of matches! Donovan has never been a rah rah guy, but did his talking on the pitch! Even on the bench, he would of helped the young first timers with their nerves and all the distractions! If Chandler gets the nod in the back, he is the first to crack! (again, hope I'm wrong)

  13. beautiful game, May 27, 2014 at 4:36 p.m.

    Reuben, I beg to differ, I was talking about passion and commitment and you bring up LDs WC goals and attention...passion and commitment, and which one shows up for every game?

  14. Vince Leone, May 27, 2014 at 5:28 p.m.

    I know it's off topic, but anyone who has seen Giuseppe Rossi play in La Liga or Serie A knows that I w Nowozeniuk is correct.Rossi is exceptionally talented, but above all he consistently plays with full commitment. Easily the best American-born offensive player in my book--LD is not even close.

  15. beautiful game, May 29, 2014 at 5:50 p.m.

    Vince L, you see the difference loud and clear; how can anyone else not see the obvious.

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