The United States Men's National Team takes on Peru and Brazil on September 4th and 8th in exhibitions that hopefully help prepare the team for success against Mexico on October 10th. The US meet El Tri in October at the Rose Bowl with the winner advancing to the Confederations Cup in Russia in 2017.
When we last saw the Yanks in action, they lost to Panama in penalty kicks to finish 4th in the Gold Cup. This marked the first time the United States had failed to make it to the finals since 2003 and ranks as their 2nd lowest finish in the CONCACAF championship since it was re-named the Gold Cup in 1991. Here is the squad (courtesy of US Soccer) and 3 thoughts regarding the upcoming friendlies.
GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), William Yarbrough (Club Leon), Sean Johnson* (Chicago Fire)
DEFENDERS (9): Ventura Alvarado (Club America), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Greg Garza (Atlas), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jonathan Spector (Birmingham City)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Joe Corona (Veracruz), Mix Diskerud (New York City FC), Jermaine Jones (New England Revolution), Alfredo Morales (FC Ingolstadt), Danny Williams (Reading), DeAndre Yedlin (Tottenham Hotspur), Michael Bradley*
FORWARDS (5): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Aron Johannsson (Werder Bremen), Bobby Wood (Union Berlin), Andrew Wooten (SV Sandhausen), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy), Clint Dempsey* (Seattle Sounders)
*- Brazil game only
1. The heat is getting to Klinsy- There were more than a few fans of the USMNT who were calling for Jurgen Klinsmann's head after the Gold Cup. It would appear Klinsmann is a little bit touchy about the subject. This quote, in particular regarding to the team's form when it lost to Jamaica in the Gold Cup semfinals (from a Steven Goff at the Washington Post), got the torches lit on Twitter this week.
"It’s a good thing you have so much comments and opinions because it shows you that a lot more people care," he said. "They care about the game, they care about the national team. They care about saying their opinion. Do they understand really what happened in the Gold Cup? Some of them absolutely do and a lot of people don’t. I take it, it’s not a big deal. But it also explains we have a long way to go to educate people on the game of soccer still in this country."
A lot of people got bent out of shape about this, pointing to the lack of realization of Klinsmann's proclaimed vision of a more 'proactive' style, and the fact that we are regularly out shot even by teams considered to be inferior. The torch bearers have an excellent point. Perhaps Klinsmann was trying to shield his players (unlikely), or he may be just expressing himself poorly when defending dismal results (probably). Regardless, if this seems familiar, this feels pretty similar to the state of the team prior to the 'Snow Classico'. I am willing to give some leeway to Klinsmann for the Gold Cup as he was missing some useful pieces to the team (I still believe Beckerman had no business playing a minute in that tournament), but I also think some of that is of his own doing. Which brings me too...
2. Benny is dead (to the National Team)- You can certainly make individual cases for Dax McCarty, Perry Kitchen, Matt Hedges, Charlie Davies, and Ethan Finlay meriting a look before the big game in October, but no name missing from the list of call ups is more confounding than that of Benny Feilhaber. Feilhaber has followed up a strong 2014 season with a monstrous 2015. The fact he wasn't given a sniff leading up to Brazil 2014 may not have sounded alarm bells, but with Michael Bradley skipping the Peru game and seemingly less in-form options as Joe Corona and Mix Diskerud called in, it is fair to ask if there's something more going on with Feilhaber's omission. Having remedied his fitness and defensive questions, it's almost unthinkable that Klinsmann would not call in a player who is arguably in the best form of any American field player at the moment. Lucky for Klinsy, he may be ok without him thanks to...
3. Welcoming back old friends- Wood, Cameron, Williams, and Jones are 4 players that I think would have made a huge difference in the Gold Cup. Wood would have helped address the lack of speed in attack. Even though Klinsmann sees him as more of a centerback option, I believe Cameron would have been an upgrade at either of two weak points (defensive midfielder, right back) during the Gold Cup. Danny Williams provides a huge upgrade in range at defensive midfield over Beckerman. Jermaine Jones is a polarizing figure for certain (especially at center back), but there's no question that he adds toughness to a team that seems to be lacking it at the moment.
Jonathan Spector returns to the fold for the first time since the Ukraine match in 2014 and will be seeking his first cap since Februarty 2012. Spector can provide cover at either left or right back or central defense and has generally shown well in his national team appearances. He's been an established regular for Birmingham for several years, and yet, is kind of a forgotten man when it comes to the National Team. Spector's absence is a pretty good synecdoche for fans opinion of Klinsmann. Has Klinsmann broadened the pool to the point Spector can no longer count on a regular call or is Klinsmann a bad judge of talent? The results in the next 3 matches will go a long way towards determining my opinion on this question- what about you?