Slim pickings for Klinsmann in Europe these days

[USA MEN] In a game that is designed to be a test for his European-based players, U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann called in just 12 players (out of 22) from first division European clubs for Wednesday's game against the Czech Republic in Prague -- and only three of them started in league play last weekend. The slim pickings underscore how much the sphere of influence on the national team has switched from Europe to MLS. Here are four takeaways on Klinsmann's first roster of his second cycle.

Reduced numbers in Europe. Just six players Klinsmann called up played in the 2014 World Cup, and they include three players who played a combined 82 minutes: John Brooks, who played 45 minutes against Ghana, Jozy Altidore, who went off after 22 minutes against Ghana with a hamstring strain and did not return for the rest of the tournament, and Julian Green, who played 15 minutes against Belgium.

Geoff Cameron
is currently injured (minor abdominal strain) and unlikely to play against the Czechs, so that leaves Fabian Johnson and Alejandro Bedoya as the only two World Cup regulars who should be available.

The team in Prague is basically all Klinsmann now has to choose from outside MLS. Aron Johannsson and Terrence Boyd are the only other European-based players from the World Cup short list of 30 players, but both are out injured.

European-based players who have been called up in the last year but are not headed to Prague include Sacha Kljestan, Eric Lichaj, Jonathan Spector and Danny Williams (who is injured). Kljestan's role at Belgian champion Anderlecht has been greatly reduced, while the others play for second division clubs in England. (Juan Agudelo would have likely been in the squad but he has failed to find a club since Stoke City couldn't secure a British work permit for him.)

That doesn't mean Klinsmann won't reach into the second division (or third division for that matter) for help. Alfredo Morales (FC Ingolstadt) and Bobby Wood (1860 Munich) play in the 2. Bundesliga, while Joe Gyau plays for Borussia Dortmund II in the 3. Liga. From the League Championship, Klinsmann recalled Tim Ream and invited 18-year-old Emerson Hyndman after only two appearances for last-place Fulham.

End of the line for Castillo and Torres? The last cycle saw Klinsmann start three Mexican-based players in his first game in charge: Michael Orozco, Edgar Castillo and Jose Torres. Orozco is back in the team after missing out on the World Cup camp in Stanford with a hamstring injury, but Castillo and Torres have seemingly faded from the picture after playing on the 2013 Gold Cup championship team just 14 months ago.

Also not recalled was another Gold Cup champion, Herculez Gomez, though unlike Castillo and Torres, he doesn't play much these days. Of the three, Castillo's exclusion is perhaps the biggest surprise. He is playing well -- and for a winning team. His new club, Atlas, is tied for second place in Liga MX.

The call-ups for Greg Garza, who has taken over for Castillo at left back at Tijuana, and Xolos teammate Joe Corona are not unexpected. Both are younger than the other Mexican-based players, and they are playing regularly for Tijuana, though it has been a struggle so far this season for Xolos with one win in six games.

Just one MLS player. Nick Rimando is the only MLS player Klinsmann picked. With a single game on a Wednesday, it made no sense to bring in MLS players. Rimando, who plays Saturday with Real Salt Lake in San Jose, is an exception. With Tim Howard's hiatus, Rimando now finds himself in a battle for the No. 1 job with Brad Guzan. The only other European-based keeper Klinsmann had to choose from was 21-year-old Cody Cropper, who is still looking to make his pro debut at Southampton and will come in as the No. 3  keeper.

Lots of new faces. Garza, Gyau and Hyndman are among the five players who earned their first callups. Like Hyndman, 18-year-old Rubio Rubin just made his pro debut, starting for FC Utrecht in his second game a month after officially signing with the Dutch club.

The big surprise, though, was the inclusion of Stanford University sophomore Jordan Morris. No collegian has played for the USA since UCLA's Ante Razov in 1995 though in the early 1990s collegians regularly got looks from Bora Milutinovic, who tried out dozens of players in the pre-MLS days.

(Claudio Reyna made the 1994 World Cup after his junior year at Virginia, and Mike Sorber, who started at the '94 World Cup, was still at Saint Louis when he debuted for the USA in 1992. Bob Gansler took three collegians -- Kasey Keller, Chris Henderson and Neil Covone -- to the 1990 World Cup but did not use them.)

Morris, who came out of the Seattle Sounders' academy program, is widely regarded as the best American in the college ranks -- he was called up for the U.S. U-23s' recent trip to the Bahamas -- but he also benefited from being in the right place at the right time as Klinsmann got to see him during the national team's pre-World Cup camp at Stanford.

Of the five newcomers, Garza is the most experienced, but he plays at left back, where Klinsmann can call upon veterans like Johnson and Timmy Chandler. But with Altidore as his only experienced option up front, it is not inconceivable that Klinsmann might give a few minutes to a player like Gyau, who has gambled he has a better future moving to Borussia Dortmund and starting out with the reserves in the German third division than staying at Hoffenheim.

U.S. Roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Cody Cropper (Southampton/ENG), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa/ENG), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake).
DEFENDERS (7): John Brooks (Hertha Berlin/GER), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/ENG), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER), Greg Garza (Tijuana), Fabian Johnson (Borussia M'Gladbach/GER), Michael Orozco (Puebla), Tim Ream (Bolton Wanderers/ENG).
MIDFIELDERS (7): Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes/FRA), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg/NOR), Julian Green (Bayern Munich/GER), Emerson Hyndman (Fulham/ENG), Alfredo Morales (Ingolstadt/GER), Brek Shea (Stoke City/ENG).
FORWARDS (5): Jozy Altidore (Sunderland/ENG), Joe Gyau (Borussia Dortmund II/GER), Jordan Morris (Stanford Univ.), Rubio Rubin (FC Utrecht/NED), Bobby Wood (1860 Munich/GER).

3 comments about "Slim pickings for Klinsmann in Europe these days".
  1. Dustin Johnson, August 29, 2014 at 7:25 a.m.

    Although it's slim pickings, Rubio, Green, Garza and Hymdman just might form the core of the future Men's National Team. I am very excited to see how these guys do. We are a transition point. Now is the time for these kids to step up. The future is now. It's up to them to prove they deserve a place. World soccer powers routinely use opportunities like this to blood players for the future. Its also great that Klinsman is not settling for players like say Sasha Klgeston just to get by and expanding the pool. So much better to force Julian Green into a leading role than stay mired in the past.

  2. James Froehlich, August 29, 2014 at 11:19 a.m.

    Totally agree, Dustin! I would hardly use the term "slim pickings" for a group that includes Brooks, Green, Hyndman, Bedoya, etc. In four years they will all be in their prime; this is who JK should be looking at!!

  3. beautiful game, August 29, 2014 at 4:22 p.m.

    Pretty poor analysis. These friendlies are to identify those players that can handle pressure and deliver the goods on the pitch. The bottom line can be taken from WC 2014; what player had an outstanding game; not moments, but game.

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