We’re now 2 months from the day after Nigeria, which means we’re 2 months away from the Yanks flying south for the summer for the winter that will feel like the summer (winter in Manaus). In the last 2 friendlies, a few Nats confirmed their spot on the ’14 roster with strong performances, and a few indifferent performances left questions about the roster and the XI that will face Ghana. Klinsmann has intimated that there will be an expanded roster for pre-tournament, so here’s my best speculation through the milky haze in the crystal ball as to who will be in the 30 pre-cup.
GK: (3)Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Nick Rimando, (Sean Johnson, Bill Hamid)
Too easy- you’ve got 1a, 1c, and a fallback if something horrible happens. Sean Johnson looks the better of the alternates at the moment. As in years past, we need not worry about having a top class option protecting the space between the pipes. This is the one roster spot where we have a pipeline of world class talent.
(John Anthony Brooks, Oguchi Onyewu, Jonathan Spector, Matt Hedges, Eric Lichaj, Timmy Chandler, DeAndre Yedlin, Tony Beltran, Gregory Garza, Edgar Castillo, Tim Ream, Carlos Bocanegra)
We’re 1-2-2 in our last 5 international matches, and our back line is clearly subject to the most scrutiny in the run up to the World Cup. Parkhurst’s performance against Mexico clinched his spot. Check off all boxes for positions played in a 4 man back line and best sweeper in a 3 man back line and you have Parkhurst. I’d prefer him not having to defend set pieces in front of the goal mouth, but he definitely has the most utility across the back line of any player in the pool.
As for the rest, a 4 man back line looks like this:
I do not see this changing, nor do I think it should. If we’re running 4, we have a physical and somewhat quick back line to handle some tough attacking sides in our group. We need these guys to get as much time together before Brazil as possible. Goodson can be the experimental variable, but aside from that, keep it simple.
I think Yedlin’s the heir apparent…in 2015. He’s so close, but he still has to learn how to deal with the livewires of the soccer world (please give Nagbe citizenship now). Can we develop a pure leftback in the next 4 years?
Injuries will determine a lot with this unit. Chandler and Yedlin offer high upside, and Castillo might have use in D as a wingback in a 3-5-2 (or a mid in other formations). Beasley and Fabian Johnson offer similar versatility. The back end of the roster in defense will be dependent on injuries to make a late run for the team. Our biggest test this summer will be getting cohesion this summer from our back line, which is why I will continue stumping for Bocanegra’s inclusion on the roster.
(Paul Arriola, Alfredo Morales, Bennie Feilhaber, Jose Francisco Torres, Sacha Kjlestan, Julian Green)
Michael Bradley, please do not get hurt. His 1st half performance in Glendale was easily in the Top 5 all-time performances from an American field player. The diamond was a big hit for 45, and everyone is wondering if Jermaine Jones can shield the back line as well as Beckerman. Given your choice of normal Jones and normal Beckerman, many are picking Beckerman. What would you say if Jones could re-calibrate his game? What would you say if Osvaldo Alonso got a hardship to play for the US this summer?
The truth is that Bradley’s stay in Toronto may be short. He looks PRIME to place his stamp on this year’s World Cup. The cries of nepotism could not be completely mute today, and yet, Bradley will never have a bigger opportunity to show his quality. What will his legacy look like if the Yanks succumb to the group?
It’s blood sport for so many CM’s in the next 2 months. Corona and Bedoya are showing themselves to be functionally and flexibly competent. They’re on their way to Brazil Feilhaber needs to be in the conversation, and I think he may end up as the late surprise add to the roster. But the wings? Brad Davis, Brek Shea, Julian Green, Paul Arriola? I think one of these 4 will be the random wildcard width players to the ’14 World Cup Squad.
All of the aforementioned offer a unique skill that make them legitimate prospects, and yet all of them offer shortcomings. Whether it be lack of top line speed, experience, current form, or preference at the club level, all of the last roster spot flank options lack a little something. If I had to pick today, I’m going with Shea based on his combination of upside and experience.
F: (5) Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, Terrance Boyd, Aron Johannson, Chris Wondolowski, Eddie Johnson
(Juan Agudelo, Mike Magee, Herculez Gomez)
Despite Altidore’s recent demotion from Sunderland’s senior team, I think the top is pretty well settled. Altidore will be the target. Boyd will be his understudy. Dempsey will be the captain and will continue to ramp up. Johannson will continue to be the first attacking sub off of the bench. Wondo has shown his value as a pure poacher over the last 9 months, and EJ scores the winner in Glendale if it were a neutral venue. Honestly, I’ll be hard pressed to keep any of these 5 off of the plane.
The alternates need an injury to shoulder their way in. That said, how badly are Revolution missing Agudelo this year? JA has the unique wiggle to make himself useful as a deep bench alternative. I like Magee’s game, but he has almost no chance without a Wondo injury, and ’10 veteran Gomez needs a lot to happen to make a return trip to the Cup.
Overall, the bellyache about the draw has to stop. I see advancement from the Group of Death of this cycle as more than a fanciful aim. We have never had as deep a pool to choose from going into a tournament of such importance. I’ll elaborate about other advantages in future posts, but the fact is we can revel in our depth like no time in our history. Can we beat Ghana this time?