Our 23 U.S. players for the Guatemala series

By Paul Kennedy

The USA can clinch its ticket to the Hexagonal if it beats Guatemala in both games of their home-and-home series that begins next Friday and Trinidad & Tobago at least splits against St. Vincent & the Grenadines. Jurgen Klinsmann says the goal is to do just that -- take three points in Guatemala City and in Columbus four days later.

Update: The U-23 roster was announced on Saturday. It did not include John Brooks or DeAndre Yedlin.

Klinsmann's task is complicated by the fact the U.S. U-23s face Colombia in their Olympic playoff series on the same dates. He's going to have to prioritize what he does with four players who are eligible to play for both teams: John Brooks, Matt Miazga, DeAndre Yedlin and Jordan Morris.

As we broke down the choices for the 20 U-23s the USA should take to Colombia, we argued Klinsmann should have them play for the U-23s if their clubs agree to release them (they aren't obliged). The U-23s need them to beat Colombia more than the senior team needs them to defeat Guatemala. It's that simple.

With that in mind, here's our list of 23 players for the Guatemala series ...

Tim Howard (Everton/ENG)
Brad Guzan (Aston Villa/ENG)
William Yarbrough (Leon/MEX)

A few weeks ago when neither Howard nor Guzan was starting, Klinsmann said they still remained his top choices to start against Guatemala. Guzan has since reclaimed the starting job at last-place EPL club Aston Villa.

The only question concerns the choice for No. 3. Klinsmann could call in Nick Rimando, the No. 3 at the 2014 World Cup, or one of the two keepers who played in the two winter friendlies, David Bingham or Luis Robles. But Yarbrough, who was the No. 3 at the 2015 Gold Cup, has recaptured his starting job at Leon, which is second in Liga MX's Torneo Clausura.

Matt Besler (Sporting KC)
Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/ENG)
Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca/MEX)

Even though Brooks and Miazga should be with the U-23s, there is not a lack of options in the middle, where Besler, Cameron and Gonzalez all started at least two games at the 2014 World Cup. Besler and Cameron were Klinsmann's choices in the fall, but Gonzalez has put himself back in the picture with an excellent season at Pachuca in Mexico.

Steven Birnbaum (D.C. United)
Fabian Johnson (Borussia M'Gladbach/GER)
Tim Ream
Jorge Villafan
a (Santos/MEX)

Outside back -- both sides -- remains the problem area for Klinsmann. For the Concacaf Cup against Mexico, he put Johnson, who plays at left wing in the Bundesliga, at right back and convinced DaMarcus Beasley to come out of international retirement and play at left back, reprising their roles at the 2014 World Cup. For the opening of World Cup qualifying, Klinsmann went with Yedlin and then Michael Orozco, who hasn't played a league game for Tijuana since the start of the Torneo Clausura, and Ream, who has played all of 46 minutes for Fulham in the last eight weeks, on the left side.

Klinsmann has hinted that he might continue to use Johnson -- his best option at at least three positions -- in the back. Klinsmann was very pleased when Birnbaum, a center back at D.C. United, filled in at right back against Canada. The only doubt is whether Klinsmann decides to call up Villafana. He has rarely called in U.S.-bred players who have not first attended January camp, but Villafana would have likely attended January camp if he did not move to Santos, where he is starting for the fifth-place team in Liga MX and Concacaf Champions League semifinalist.

Like Birnbaum, Ream gives Klinsmann an option on the outside or in the middle.

Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake)
Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes/FRA)
Michael Bradley (Toronto FC)
Mix Diskerud (New York City FC)
Ethan Finlay (Columbus Crew)
Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers)
Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution)
Brek Shea (Orlando City)

The main issue Klinsmann has to deal with is the absence of Jermaine Jones, whose MLS suspension carries over to national team duty. Jones started at central midfield for the first of the two winter friendlies, the 3-2 win over Iceland, then played in the back against Canada. Diskerud started against Canada and is one of a couple of options Klinsmann has to team with Bradley in midfield. The likely starter for the away game against Guatemala, though, will be Beckerman, who is off to a very good start in 2016 with Real Salt Lake.

On the outside, Klinsmann went with Finlay and Nguyen and then Gyasi Zardes and Nguyen against Iceland and Canada, but he also gets back Bedoya, who has been sensational this winter for Nantes -- mostly in a central playmaking role. Klinsmann didn't give Nagbe much playing time against Iceland and Canada, but the Portland Timbers midfielder is very much in Klinsmann's plans. Back in the picture -- and an option at left back or on the left wing -- is Shea, who is healthy again.

It's uncertain what Klinsmann will do about Tony Tchani, who played against Canada but has been called up by Cameroon for its Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against South Africa on March 26. If he played against South Africa, he'd be cap-tied to Cameroon.

Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC)
Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders)
Bobby Wood (Union Berlin/GER)
Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)
Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)

After a great January camp, Altidore suffered another hamstring injury and hasn't played in either of Toronto FC's two MLS games. He is expected, though, to join the national team ahead of the Guatemala away game, at least to be evaluated.

The USA has no other center forward with Altidore's presence, but Wood is red-hot in Germany and will likely start against Guatemala. Dempsey hasn't played for the USA since October, but Altidore's uncertainty makes it likely he'll be called back in along with Wondolowski, who has scored in both of San Jose's MLS wins.

Zardes started up front against Iceland and then moved back to midfield against Canada. He could start in that order in the two Guatemala matches.

7 comments about "Our 23 U.S. players for the Guatemala series".
  1. Wooden Ships, March 19, 2016 at 11:30 a.m.

    In the mid I'd sure like okay Fabian out wide left, Finlay right, Ngyuen, Nagbe, Bedoya inside. Wood up top, if using one forward. Birnbaum, Besler, Omar and Ream in back. Howard in the nets.

  2. Wooden Ships replied, March 19, 2016 at 11:33 a.m.

    Don't know how okay got in that first sentence.

  3. beautiful game, March 19, 2016 at 4:30 p.m.

    Some of these names (Jozy, Dempsey, Zardes, and Wondo) bring inconsistency to the pitch more so, than not. So why stick with the same issues.

  4. Wooden Ships replied, March 19, 2016 at 5:33 p.m.

    I agree I w. Consistency is what we need. Some attribute it to JK, me, I attribute it to the players. MB and KB I would include in your group. If MB, who is 50/50 on quality matches, then I'd use him only has a holding mid. The lengthy experiment as to whether or not the aforementioned will get better has been exhaustive. IMO that's been JK's greatest negative. Move on for goodness sakes. If its the same old same old and we don't get the better of Guatemala, which is no damn given, then its time for a change with Jurgen.

  5. Ric Fonseca, March 19, 2016 at 10:15 p.m.

    Bradley, Jassy and Deuce? Really? Ya lo veemos dijo el ciego!!!But y'all know what, it ain't so simple as intimated by the writer.

  6. VIC Aguilera, March 21, 2016 at 10:58 a.m.

    At left back why not call up Castillo who has been olaying consistently in Liga MX and I thought I would never say this, but Borenstein has been playing well at Queretaro ever since he left that a******* Feretti.

  7. Lewie Stevens, March 22, 2016 at 11:27 a.m.

    MB as a holding back, where he is truly quality, would free Bedoya to play the central attack. It would be nice to see that play out. Dempsey is hot or cold. I understand his skill set allows us to have opportunities we might otherwise miss but his lack of sustained effort at other times seems to diminish the development of other opportunities. Would love to see some consistency out of the back and keep Johnson at mid on the wing. Apparently Castillo plays well in every game other than the ones I see because he looks in over his head when on the pitch for the U.S.

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