Commentary

Projecting U.S. roster for September qualifiers -- five changes in 23

By Ridge Mahoney
(@ridgemax)
 
The aftermath of a fourth-place showing in the Copa America Centenario is a mixed bag for the U.S. national team and head coach Jurgen Klinsmann.

Three group matches and three knockout games didn’t transform midfielder Darlington Nagbe into a lock-down starter, but they certainly confirmed the credentials of defender John Brooks and forward Bobby Wood, and also dealt out some rebuttal to those observers critical of Clint Dempsey.

Glimpses of Christian Pulisic were enticing as well as cautionary. Fans on this side of the Atlantic can only hope that the coaches and staff of Borussia Dortmund make the right use of club resources to continue his development. That he will be on the plane to Russia for the 2018 World Cup -- if the USA qualifies -- seems extremely likely but wide-open is the question of how much experience he will take with him.

Jermaine Jones can make no valid excuse for receiving his first red card while playing for the USA and the same can be said for the cautions that ruled out Alejandro Bedoya and Wood for the quarterfinal against Argentina. Yet Jones’ mix of ferocity and experience is still invaluable and by not using Perry Kitchen, who played only in a warm-up game against Puerto Rico, in the tournament Klinsmann delayed the process of grooming a replacement for Kyle Beckerman.

There’s also the issue of what to do with Michael Bradley, who is being evaluated by Toronto FC team doctors for a knee injury. While his absence for the September qualifiers would not be a major issue, the onset of Hexagonal matches in November greatly alters personnel decisions.

Klinsmann is not bound to a 23-man squad for the two September qualifiers. He can add and discard players between games and probably will if the Americans clinch Sept. 2 by doing better against St. Vincent & The Grenadines than Guatemala does at Trinidad & Tobago. A match against T&T Sept. 6 in Jacksonville concludes the semifinal round.

European-based players will just a few weeks into their league seasons, and Klinsmann will evaluate their club situations and fitness levels. As rosters change during the transfer windows so too will the status of several players.

Since 23 is a good working number, here’s a projected list of players for the games in September:
 
GOALKEEPERS. Brad Guzan (Aston Villa/ENG), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake).

Guzan was anointed the starter for the Centenario and played well but Howard’s return to MLS could shift the dynamic if Guzan doesn’t change clubs and struggles with Aston Villa in the League Championship.

Ethan Horvath is the man for the future yet the timing of these games probably means the No. 3 keeper will be a domestic option who can play for his club if the top two are healthy.

Bill Hamid could get called for the second game after he plays for D.C. United against New York City FC Sept. 1. (Rimando's Real Salt Lake plays on Sept. 7.)
 
DEFENDERS. Matt Besler (Sporting KC), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin/GER), Tim Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/ENG), Fabian Johnson (Borussia M’Gladbach/GER), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca/MEX), DeAndre Yedlin (Sunderland/ENG).

Brooks and Cameron are the preferred central pairing with Besler the obvious third choice, but Klinsmann needs to decide going forward if he keeps Gonzalez in the mix or opts instead for Matt Miazga of Chelsea, and who to groom as Yedlin’s back up.

Birnbaum can play on the outside, but Klinsmann needs another alternative to Johnson at left back. Tim Chandler was in the original 23 for the Centenario. Miazga is still adjusting to life at Chelsea but if he gets playing time will deserve consideration for the Hexagonal.

Edgar Castillo, who replaced an injured Chandler on the Centenario squad of 23, and Kitchen were the only field players not to appear in the Centenario. Klinsmann chose to play Michael Orozco (suspended for the SVG game) rather than Castillo at left back in the third-place game, and Chandler’s ability to play on both corners gives him an edge.
 
MIDFIELDERS. Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes/FRA), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jermaine Jones (Colorado), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund/GER), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy), Graham Zusi (Sporting KC).
 
Beyond the obvious choices, Brad Evans can also play in the back and Klinsmann admires his spirit, plus the Sounders do not play a league game from Aug. 28 to Sept. 10.

The other wild card at this position is Mix Diskerud, who’s not established his place at NYCFC and has been the subject of transfer rumors this week. Nagbe’s performances with the Timbers have moved him ahead of Diskerud in the pecking order, yet with Hexagonal games starting in a few months he’s far from assured of getting a start in a competitive match.

Pulisic’s status at Dortmund will be closely monitored by the U.S. Soccer staff. He played many games last season for the club’s U-19 team that won its championship and it’s not likely he’ll get a lot of time for the first team, though he scored two goals in nine appearances.

Yet if he stands up well to the travel and fatigue required for European-based players he’s a probable callup. Much hinges on what Klinsmann elects to do with Zardes, whose speed and robust workrate are offset by clumsy touches and poor decisions.

By rejecting an offer to stay at Fulham and sign instead with Premier League club Bournemouth, Emerson Hyndman has made a crucial decision of which Klinsmann approves. A good start at Bournemouth will move him into contention for competitive matches. Like Kitchen, he played against Puerto Rico.
 
FORWARDS. Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Bobby Wood (Hamburg/GER).

The September qualifiers present Klinsmann with an excellent opportunity to bring Morris back into the fold and perhaps use Dempsey only in the first game.

Wood faces a tough jump up to the Bundesliga level and Altidore has to shake off yet another injury setback, but in a perfect world both are playing well and battling for playing time.

Wood did enough during the Centenario to at least equal if not supersede Altidore as a starter. Wood brings mobility and bite to the front line, Altidore is the bigger, more experienced choice.

Morris and Zardes tend to slash through the channels from slightly wider positions. Most of the U.S. players struggled in the 4-0 loss to Argentina but it was an especially rough outing for Chris Wondolowski, who was subbed at halftime.
30 comments about "Projecting U.S. roster for September qualifiers -- five changes in 23".
  1. Kevin Sims, June 29, 2016 at 6:44 p.m.

    Would love to see another MLS player merit attention with his play the next 10 weeks or so. Who might that be?

  2. Eric Dibella replied, June 30, 2016 at 11:21 a.m.

    Lleget at the Galaxy

  3. Allan Lindh, June 29, 2016 at 6:59 p.m.

    Missed opportunity in not starting Pulisic and Nagbe against Columbia. Time to experiment with moving Cameron up to Holding Mid, give Besler time in the center with Brooks, increase options when injuries or suspensions hapapen. Reality is that our midfield cannot hold or move the ball against a good team, and Nagbe and Pulisic are the obvious players to get a real look.

  4. Ric Fonseca replied, June 29, 2016 at 9:35 p.m.

    Alal and everyone else: It is C-O-L-O-M-B-I-A. Gracias! Also, I nominate Ragin' Ridge Mahoney as the next US MNT Head Coach, because golly gee, and willikers, he seems to have all of the answers!!!

  5. Kent James replied, June 30, 2016 at 9:21 a.m.

    I think Cameron's best position is defensive center mid, and I like Besler paired with Brooks in the center.

  6. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, June 30, 2016 at 10:32 a.m.

    Finally JK settled on a CB pairing that seems to be working well and you guys immediately want to change it. Leave Cameron back there - if there's one spot we have reasonable depth it's defensive mid. No need to move Geoff there.

  7. cisco martinez, June 29, 2016 at 7:07 p.m.

    I heard Birenbaum is getting looked at by PSV, if that's the case we could eventually play a 3 in the back Birenbaum, Brooks, and Besler, or add Ywdlin/Johnson on the right side and move Cameron in the middle. I am not a fan of the 3-5-2 but considering our strengths on the wings and the lack of defensive midfielders we have, it looks like a good option that Klinsmann should look at.

    Howard

    Birenbaum Brooks Besler

    Yedlin Cameron F. Johnson

    Bedoya Bradley

    Dempsey Woood/Altidore

  8. Daniel Clifton replied, June 29, 2016 at 7:14 p.m.

    I have to agree with Cisco. A 3-5-2 would be a good option for this team to go with given the strengths and weaknesses. Fabian Johnson and Deandre Yedlin would both be better off in this formation on the outside of midfield.

  9. R2 Dad replied, June 29, 2016 at 8:11 p.m.

    So is this a 3-2-3-2 where the Dmids have to run a 10K before half time? Could be good for JJ and Cameron.

  10. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, June 30, 2016 at 10:33 a.m.

    Why does moving to 3-5-2 (sounds reasonable to me) depend on Birnbaum moving to PSV?

  11. R2 Dad, June 29, 2016 at 8:14 p.m.

    As far as keepers go, I don't think Hamid or Rimando are the future so lets build on Horvath on these Concacaf matches. Likewise, Beckerman, Bradley and Zusi have served their purpose and are also not assets for 2018 so should be released in favor of younger more technical players.

  12. Wooden Ships replied, June 30, 2016 at 11:06 a.m.

    I agree R 2, but I don't see that happening with JK.

  13. Nick Prodanovich replied, July 3, 2016 at 9:16 a.m.

    Hamid not the future! Are you kidding? Hamid since he has come back from injury has been fantastic. He is keeping United in games that should be blowouts. I watch a lot of games on direct kick and Hamid is the best keeper in MLS.

  14. Will Lozier, June 29, 2016 at 8:18 p.m.

    Ridge, please proof your articles for spelling errors and missing words!

  15. cisco martinez, June 29, 2016 at 9:34 p.m.

    Dan and R2, 3-1-4-2 or 3-2-3-2, and even play Matt Miazaga if he improves at Chelsea. My only concern is this lineup IS asking f.Johnson and yedlin to run flank to flank which is tough to do, so i would recommend is if the ball is on the right side, have the opposite winger pinch in and have one of the two defensive mids play as a left back and visa versa. Whether you agree with Van Gaal or not, this worked with a 3-4-3 for AJAX when they won the champions league, I think it could work with our National Team. This formations main weakness is the flanks, so having a defensive mid slide back and the winger drop in the midfield prevents a 2v1 that otherwise would occur.

  16. Wooden Ships replied, June 30, 2016 at 11:16 a.m.

    It is worth considering for sure and we probably are more suited to this alignment. Getting Fabian more involved in possession and play making is vital to me. My opinion prior to the Copa was that he is more valuable as a left mid than a defender. Yedlins pace and attacking instincts would also make us more dangerous. The switching or rotation of defensive mids is an easy concept. However, whomever plays those two spots need to be able to man mark and not just zonal. I can't see MB effective in that role. For the foreseeable JK and MB are joined at the hip.

  17. Chris Omolo, June 30, 2016 at 12:11 a.m.

    No Manneh? C'mon "SHOW ME THE MANNEH"!

  18. Ridge Mahoney replied, July 5, 2016 at 3:31 p.m.

    Not eligible yet.

  19. Bob Ashpole, June 30, 2016 at 12:58 a.m.

    Ridge, why list Beckerman and not even mention 24 year old Perry Kitchen? While I understand that Beckerman has a lot of experience in CONCACAF qualifying, I would think these two matches would be an excellent time to give Kitchen some minutes or some other young holding midfielder.

  20. Wooden Ships replied, June 30, 2016 at 11:18 a.m.

    Absolutely Bob.

  21. Alexander Lozano, June 30, 2016 at 1:23 a.m.

    Pretty solid group...though, I might go with Miazaga over Omar & find ANYBODY but Chandler! In the midfield, I'd go with Kjlestan over Diskerud, as a possible addition to the roster. Everything else looks pretty good to me.

  22. Adam Tondowsky, June 30, 2016 at 8:06 a.m.

    What's wrong with John Brooks? He's playing well.

  23. beautiful game, June 30, 2016 at 10:31 a.m.

    I'd like to see Pulisic as an attacking #10 MF. He has the technical skills and soccer IQ to bring cohesion to the squad.

  24. Wooden Ships replied, June 30, 2016 at 11:27 a.m.

    I w, that is definitely worth exploring. I'm still hopeful that Nagbe can exhibit some 10 tendencies. CP along with technical abilities he does seem to have the cerebral requirement too. If we still go forward with JK, I just don't see him committing to either of those options. He has a real reluctance to going young or his definition of experienced.

  25. Kevin Leahy, June 30, 2016 at 12:26 p.m.

    Would rather have Howard still in goal than Guzan. He will have a hard time living down the performance against Argentina. Have not seen Horvath play but, Hamid is formidable when healthy. Can we move on from Chandler, Beckerman & Zusi. I believe there are better options.

  26. Ridge Mahoney, June 30, 2016 at 1:23 p.m.

    Kitchen is mentioned in fourth paragraph. If he stays in the lineup with Hearts he's got to be considered.

  27. Fire Paul Gardner Now replied, June 30, 2016 at 6:29 p.m.

    I think Kitchen is a decent player but Hearts/SPL is a step down from MLS.

  28. VIC Aguilera, June 30, 2016 at 7:11 p.m.

    JK still has no idea what to do with his players. In the game with Colombia he goes with Orozco at left back, who 90% of the time plays right back. Castillo is a natural left back and was playing consistently with Monterey of LigaMx. WTH. As far as Omar is concerned, he should stay with Pachuca. He is tall but very slow footed and his touch is as bad as Jozy and Zardes.

  29. Nick Prodanovich, June 30, 2016 at 8:42 p.m.

    Ha if is a great young keeper. He gets hurt foa a few months and he's not in the conversation?

  30. Kim Littleton, July 5, 2016 at 8:52 a.m.

    WHY is Emerson Hyndman still even in the mix?? He had plenty of chances at the U-23 level and never performed. Yes to Pulisic and there are two COLLEGE midfielders (one a rising senior and the other a rising junior) who dance with the ball at their feet and who were overlooked for U23 but should be considered for any camps moving forward because their games are short, precise passing games that could work so well for this team of everything long ball.....Come on Klinsmann enough with your buddy's grandson!!

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