We are just one month away from the final U.S. national team training camp before the World Cup, the decisive camp that will help Jurgen Klinsmann determine just whom he will take to Brazil, and who will suffer the fate of missing the final cut.
Before we even get to that final cut of 23 players heading to the World Cup, there will be the cut to decide which players even get to travel to Northern California in May for that fateful training camp. Klinsmann will call in anywhere from 26 to 28 players and when you start trying to come up with a roster for that camp, you start to realize just how deep the U.S. player pool really is.
No, the team isn't stacked with Champions League players, and options from the world's best leagues like Germany, but what the currently player pool does have is depth in terms of comparable options. Players who are very closely matched. Players who will make Klinsmann's selection process even for the training camp a difficult one.
Klinsmann is going to have to make some tough calls on the traning camp roster, and it could mean leaving behind some players he has called on regularly through his tenure. Players like Brek Shea, and more recently Brad Davis.
Then there is the Julian Green situation. Green is all but assured of being a part of the training camp, but his inclusion will likely mean the exclusion of a player like Shea and/or Davis. Green's participation won't really surprise anybody, and the real question at this point is whether Klinsmann will actually use a World Cup roster slot on the 18-year-old Bayern Munich prospect. That decision will bear significantly more scrutiny.
Some might suggest that Klinsmann should just invite some extreme number of players, like 35, or even 40. For practical purposes, working with such a large group would make preparing the team for the World Cup more difficult, and wouldn't really be fair for those on the fringes trying to play their way into the final 23.
So even though the official preliminary World Cup roster list can include 30 players, don't assume Klinsmann will bring quite that many players in for the final camp. A total of 28 would make sense, and would provide some wiggle room in the event of injuries during the early portion of training camp.
So who will Klinsmann bring with him to that final pre-World Cup training camp? Here is a projected 28-player squad we could see making the trip to Stanford University in May to take part in that camp, as well as those players who look set to miss this initial cut:
Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Nick Rimando
The top three goalkeeper slots are essentially locks at this point as long as Howard, Guzan and Rimando stay healthy, so bringing a fourth goalkeeper isn't really necessary. If Klinsmann were to bring one, Johnson would appear to have the edge based on recent call-ups and appearances.
Missed the Cut- Sean Johnson, Tally Hall, Bill Hamid
Geoff Cameron, Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez, Fabian Johnson, Michael Parkhurst, Clarence Goodson, DaMarcus Beasley, Michael Orozco, Brad Evans
A group of nine defenders is a pretty solid group to bring to camp, and all nine on this list have a solid chance of playing their way into the final 23. John Brooks just misses out despite having earned some valuable playing time in the past few weeks at Hertha Berliin. Klinsmann will have to decide to go between a player like Orozco, who has started all year for Puebla and is a more technical central defender option, or Brooks, who is more similar to the likes of Gonzalez and Goodson in the player pool.
Could we see a surprise inclusion? It seems unlikely, but you have to wonder if Klinsmann is considering using Cameron as a central defender at the World Cup given the underwhelming form of Omar Gonzalez. Even if that happens, it will probably be tough to break into this group.
Missed the Cut- John Brooks, Tony Beltran, Oguchi Onyewu, Tim Ream, Edgar Castillo, Tim Chandler, Eric Lichaj, DeAndre Yedlin
Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Landon Donovan, Jermaine Jones, Graham Zusi, Alejandro Bedoya, Kyle Beckerman, Maurice Edu, Mix Diskerud, Julian Green
Some of the exclusions from this group will turn some heads. Brad Davis started against Mexico, and against South Korea, but with Julain Green brought in, Davis will lose ground on the left wing depth chart. Brek Shea has long been a Klinsmann favorite, but he hasn't played much in months so he misses the cut here. Danny Williams has played very well for Reading FC, but fall just short.
And what of Mexican-based options Joe Corona and Jose Torres? Both are playing well in the Liga MX Clausura, but both still appear to be on the outside looking in. You could make the argument that he is just as deserving as Mix Diskerud, but Diskerud appears to be higher up on Klinsmann's depth chart than Corona.
Missed the Cut- Danny Williams, Joe Corona, Brek Shea, Brad Davis, Benny Feilhaber, Jose Torres, Luis Gil, Sacha Kljestan
Jozy Altidore, Aron Johannsson, Terrence Boyd, Chris Wondolowski, Eddie Johnson
The group appears pretty straightforward, with Juan Agudelo narrowly missing out on an invitation. If there is an injury in the next month then we can see Agudelo slippig in, but given Klinsmann's past preferences among this group, it is difficult to see any of these five players not invited. This group will be one of the ones worth watching the most closely given the fight here for the final World Cup roster slots.
And what of veteran Herculez Gomez? His lack of playing time appears ready to doom him to miss out on this training camp, let alone the World Cup.
Missed the Cut- Juan Agudelo, Herculez Gomez
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