The United States Men's National Team eases into the 4th round of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying today with a match against St. Vincent and Grenadines. The Vincy Heat won't have the Yanks quaking in their boots, but a trip to Port-of-Spain on Tuesday against Trinidad and Tobago should prove more daunting. In all honesty, 6 points from the first 2 should be expected. Grant Wahl has even suggested that Jurgen Klinsmann may be terminated if this fails to happen.
Here's my thoughts and the roster, courtesy of US Soccer.
U.S. Roster By Position:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Tim Howard (Everton)
DEFENDERS (8): Ventura Alvarado (Club America), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Matt Miazga (New York Red Bulls), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana), Tim Ream (Fulham FC), Brek Shea (Orlando City SC)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Mix Diskerud (New York City FC), Miguel Ibarra (Club Leon), Jermaine Jones (New England Revolution), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), DeAndre Yedlin (Sunderland)
FORWARDS (5): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Alan Gordon (LA Galaxy), Jordan Morris (Stanford), Bobby Wood (Union Berlin), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)
Youth is served. Of the 23 players called into camp, 10 will get their first taste of World Cup Qualifying and travel to the hinterlands of CONCACAF. For what's it worth, I was hoping the number of newbies would be closer to 15, but I'll take it. The introduction of Nagbe should be exciting, and if there's one thing Klinsmann needs to do during this break, it's to cap-tie Miazga so he doesn't end up playing for Poland (He's eligible for them, and Boniek's calling on him). I hope almost all of the qualifying rookies get a taste on this trip.
I wish I could quit you. Although Klinsmann did omit Dempsey and call in a fairly young team, Beckerman and Jermaine Jones remain in the team to my chagrin. Of the 3, I think Dempsey probably still is the best bet to play in Russia (provided we qualify), and Becks and Jones haven't been great in the last 6 months for the USMNT. I understand the lack of experienced options there at the moment, but you have a right to grouse about Klinsy not putting more effort into developing a Plan B and C not named Alejandro Bedoya.
Speaking of Klinsmann, he sure did make up with Fabian Johnson quickly. After throwing Johnson on the bus for asking off during the Mexico game, and after the angry mob came after Klinsmann with their torches claiming he'd probably had something to do with the injury with his beserk training methods, and Fabian Johnson played 90 minutes that following weekend for his club team, Borussia Mönchengladbach, that drama seems to have disappeared. Johnson, for his part, scored in BM's draw against Juventus in Champions League and appears to be the
only best candidate to play right back during the break. I'm glad they made up; Fabi's in for a busy week.
It's always darkest before the dawn. It goes without saying that it's been pretty grim around the USMNT. A subpar performance at the Gold Cup was followed by a disappointing extra time loss to Mexico (Klinsmann's first loss ever as a player or coach against El Tri) and a steaming turd of a loss to Costa Rica. If this seems familiar, it's probably because the team was in similar flux and form right before 'La Guerra Fria' when the US beat Costa Rica in the snowy Rockies. Shortly thereafter, the US went on their longest winning streak in history (12 in a row), and a lot of the noise disappeared. That said, this run of form also closely resembles the fade that occurred at the end of Bruce Arena and Bob Bradley's respective tenure, so it would seem the axe may be in the process of being sharpened.
Former FC Dallas player and current ex-FC Dallas player bard emeritus in Scandinavian exile, Bobby Warshaw, wrote this fine piece of analysis on Jurgen Klinsmann this week. It's a fresh, snark-free, and pretension-free analysis of Klinsmann's strategic outlook as a coach which I strongly recommend (if for no other reason, Bobby's an excellent writer). Given the assertions, the questions I would ask in gauging Klinsmann's value going forward (outside World Cup qualifying which is not a given, but certainly a must) would be:
1. To what extent has he improved the mentality and confidence of the team and the player pool with respect to other soccer powers?
2. To what extent has he successfully assessed talent and brought in players capable of realizing his vision?
3. Will his style of man management and tactical approach be judged to have advanced or set back the cause after Russia 2018?
Without strong positive results starting today, there's a good chance that Klinsmann will get the answers to these questions in short order, and they will not be the answers he was hoping for when he took over for Bob Bradley in 2011.