I am pretty confident that these 17 players are cinches to make the roster. Despite Donovan’s recent comments that he wasn’t a lock, I think his overall quality and experience thriving in the big moment means he’s a sure thing. Like Donovan, I won’t waste a lot of eye strain making an argument for anyone else on this list getting on the plane barring an injury. That leaves 13 players to fill out 6 spots on the roster. Here’s my best reading of the tea leaves.
DEFENDERS (6): DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla/Mexico), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/England), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim/Germany), Michael Parkhurst (Columbus Crew)
Looking at the locks, I see 2 more forwards (mainly because Donovan slides back in to the midfield very easily...Dempsey as well), one more pure centerback, one more defender on the wing, and one more wing attacker that Klinsmann will definitely add to the team. Here's the group who are fighting for the last 6 spots:
I: The Young Turks- Brooks, Yedlin, Johannson, Boyd, Green, Diskerud
II: The versatile- Chandler, Corona, Edu,
III: The MLS guys- Wondolowski, Evans, Goodson, Davis
On the forwards, you look at the attributes of the candidates, and Boyd has the easiest path to make the team. He's a like-for-like replacement for Altidore, and he's coming off of a good club season. Much like Altidore, his value to the team will be judged by a lot more then just scoring, so I think he makes the plane. That leaves Wondo and Johannson fighting for the last spot. Both play a little more withdrawn. I think Johannson's edge in technical ability might be matched by Wondo's intangible nose for goal. I also think Wondo has an edge dealing with the heat which will be crucial, although not as much for what will likely be a 2nd half sub. If forced to make a pick, I'm swallowing what pride I have in shared Polish and Native American heritage I have with Wondo and putting Johannson on the plane based on his ability to deliver a strike from distance. One of these guy's isn't going to make it, and it's a shame because they both deserve it.
As for the pure centerback, it's all about Goodson versus John Anthony Brooks. If not for the struggles in San Jose this season, I would say this is would be a slam dunk for Goodson. It's cover for the first choice, and when it comes to experience and ability to cope with the heat, Goodson has the advantage in spades. Ultimately, I think Brooks is one for the future and Goodson will hold his spot, but Brooks did have some good performances for a Hertha club that played above their Bundesliga 1.5 status this year. He was recognized as Bundesliga player of the week recently and he offers raw talent at the centerback position that is unique in the pool. The former FC Dallas man needs to make sure he's sharp over the next 2 weeks if he wants to make his first world cup.
Hearken back to past Cups, and the theme was Steve Cherundolo is awesome...if only we could find someone comparable on the left. Well, good news, we have not 1, but 2 who are better than past options defending the left defensive flank- too bad we don't have a sure thing on the right. The rightback options called into camp indicate:
1. Klinsy's uncertainty with Cameron at the position despite his strong season at Stoke.
2. The numbers in the pool who might work well there.
I think Cameron ends up starting in the opening match against Ghana, and his backup? Parkhurst will be available in a pinch or we have one more option. Evans offers one option. Sure he's a mid at the club level, but he's played at the back on the youth level enough for this not to be considered a duck out of water. Yedlin, well he plays rightback all of the time. I like him for the future, but I've seen him torched enough in the last month to have major reservations about him making this tourney. So that leaves Chandler...Timmy Chandler. He's been so polarizing and so half-hearted when impressing himself on the national side. But...
1. He can play both wings.
2. He can also play in the midfield.
3. He is more of a natural wing player.
4. He is getting ready to go to Schalke despite playing for a relegated side. (Update- maybe Eintracht Frankfurt...somewhere in the Bundesliga).
If he has a good camp, he's going to make it. Yedlin's got the upside. It's hard not to cheer for Evans, but are we really going to send a player back to Germany who is on the cusp of entering the top-tier of talent and who will have the opportunity to face off against his 'other' home country. I'll swallow the bitter pill and congratulate the Sounders for getting back to crucial pieces to their team during the World Cup- Chandler, with some controversey, will make the final roster.
We come to the wing attacker, and I'm going to break convention by including JB Corona in this conversation. The conventional wisdom here is that Green enters camp holding a leg up despite never playing regularly in a top league. Like Eddie Johnson, I'll say what if when considering Green's perceived value is judged by the recent USA-Mexico game (obvious foul on Green, obvious goal for EJ). Corona's versatility is a plus. Green's unknown is a plus. Brad Davis's set piece and pk prowess is a plus. How to pick here? I have no idea. I'm going to break ranks here and go with youth...in the form of Corona. Here's the best of all worlds. He can set piece. He can play centrally. He can play on the wings. Of the trio, he's showed the most value on the international stage. Joe Benny shows the best value for this slot....unless.
Klinsmann decides to take Diskerud. Although Mix is naturally running in the middle, his skill set as a wide player has been used late in international matches, and he's got a pretty good track record for delivering the cutting edge on the international level. Oddly enough, one of the examples of what Mix adds to the pool is a pass to a rival. I think Mix is making it.
That leaves only one roster spot, and it's between JB and Jules. Barring injuries, here's who I have making the plane:
DEFENDERS (8): DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla/Mexico), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/England), Timmy Chandler (Nürnberg/Germany), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim/Germany), Michael Parkhurst (Columbus Crew)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes/France), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg/Norway), Julian Green (Bayern Munich/Germany), Jermaine Jones (Besiktas/Turkey), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
That's my best guess- what do you think?