We have been hearing for quite some time about the impressive depth on the U.S. national team, but when Jurgen Klinsmann was able to trot out a team mostly of reserves in Panama and watch that team score a tough and impressive victory, it provided a very clear reminder of just how tough the competition for places on the World Cup roster is going to be.
What we can see pretty clearly now is that there are going to be several, and I mean several, U.S. players who miss the World Cup because they can’t break into the 23-man roster. In the past World Cups, there was usually one or maybe two players who were widely seen as snubs or players good enough to have made the cut. Next May, Klinsmann will make a roster announcement that will leave a half dozen or more viable candidates home.
There are still seven months between now and when Klinsmann will select that World Cup roster, and plenty can happen between now and then, but it is a good time to take a look at the state of the U.S. national team roster after completing a record-setting run through the CONCACAF Hexagonal.
If recent comments by Klinsmann make anything clear, it is that he doesn’t really expect many surprises in the player pool between now and May. He has left the door open for someone to emerge, but he has also consistently shot down suggestions that younger players (like members of the most recent U.S. Under-20 World Cup team) could break into the team.
In short, if you haven’t already been a part of a few U.S. camps during Klinsmann’s tenure, chances are you aren’t going to break into the mix between now and May. That spells bad news for players like Eric Lichaj, who have yet to take part in any squad called in by the current U.S. coach.
As far as Klinsmann is concerned, he has taken a thorough look at the player pool, and between World Cup qualifying and the Gold Cup, he had a very good look at a deep pool of options. Now, here we sit, with several players having made the most of their opportunities to impress.
With that in mind, here is a rundown of the 23 players we see making the 2014 World Cup team as of right now:
PROJECTED U.S. WORLD CUP TEAM
Selection: Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Nick Rimando
Howard remains the starter, while Guzan has entrenched himself as a solid number two. Rimando remains a respectable third option who also gives the team a good locker room presence.
Missed the cut: Sean Johnson, Tally Hall, Bill Hamid
Selection: Fabian Johnson, Brad Evans, Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez, Clarence Goodson, Geoff Cameron, DaMarcus Beasley, Edgar Castillo
As of right now it’s tough to project Steve Cherundolo on the squad considering his recent injury history (but a strong spring with Hannover 96 could catapult him back into the squad). Evans has taken over the starting right back job, while Cameron and even Fabian Johnson provide cover there. Michael Parkhurst's lack of playing time in Germany has cost him his place in the group.
Center back is a very hotly-contested position, with young German-American John Brooks likely to put pressure on the current established regulars. If any of them slip up, or if Brooks continues to improve at a rapid rate, Brooks could definitely take a spot away from someone like Goodson.
Edgar Castillo remains an enigma. In a pool lacking viable left back options, Castillo makes the cut because he’s a serviceable option there.
Missed the cut: Steve Cherundolo, Michael Orozco, John Brooks
Selections: Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Graham Zusi, Kyle Beckerman, Mix Diskerud, Alejandro Bedoya
This group has really taken shape, with Diskerud, Bedoya, Beckerman and Zusi really taking hold of their places in the squad. Donovan’s return to the fold adds versatility and experience to the group, which could allow Klinsmann to go in a variety of directions with this group.
This is a position that could certainly still have plenty of change. Jones isn’t getting any younger, and if he breaks down physically, we could see a Torres, Kljestan or even Danny Williams benefiting. Also, if Corona can regain his regular starting place for Club Tijuana, he could still push a Bedoya or Zusi for a spot.
One player facing scrutiny these days is Clint Dempsey, who has struggled since making his move to MLS. We see him being right where he belongs once he has an off-season, and a pre-season with the Seattle Sounders.
Missed the cut: Joe Corona, Jose Torres, Sacha Kljestan, Brad Davis
Selections: Jozy Altidore, Aron Johannsson, Terrence Boyd, Eddie Johnson
Two players stand out in this group and that’s Altidore and Johannsson. Altidore is the clear-cut lead striker, while Johannsson looks like a very good option to start alongside him in a 4-4-2. Johannsson’s rapid ascent will make it that much tougher for someone like Herculez Gomez to make the final squad.
The other spots aren’t quite as solidified. Boyd continues to be a promising prospect, but if a veteran like Gomez can find his form next spring, Klinsmann could consider going with experience. Eddie Johnson has had his share of injuries lately and he’ll need to find a way to stay consistently healthy or risk falling behind someone like Gomez or even Juan Agudelo, assuming Agudelo can earn playing time at Stoke City come January.
Missed the cut: Herculez Gomez, Juan Agudelo, Chris Wondolowski