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This week, the United States men's national team will assemble for a series of friendlies in and against Denmark and Switzerland on March 25 and 31, respectively. It'll mark the first time since November that head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has his full national team at his disposal, courtesy of official FIFA match dates, as he prepares for the 2015 Gold Cup in July.
Both of those opponents are currently on course to qualify for Euro 2016, and both sport young and exciting talent. Both, in fact, are ranked higher than the United States in the FIFA World Rankings. (In the ELO Ratings, however, the USA places highest of the three.)
This, then, is a fine opportunity for Klinsmann to begin shaping his team for this summer and the three that will follow it through the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
But this is also a strange year. Coming on the back of a World Cup, this is a time to rebuild and reassess and reinvent, a time to try out new players and systems. Yet it's also the year when the biennial Gold Cup really counts. Every other edition, it coincides with the home stretch of World Cup qualifiers and teams send the second string. In the post-World Cup years, however, the A teams show up and regional supremacy is contested properly. It's a tricky equation finding the balance between an opportunity to blood new players and try things while also performing under pressure.
So in his last major camp before an important summer, Klinsmann has chosen to call in a real mishmash of players. While he could pick any player he liked, just 11 of the 23 he called in were on last summer's World Cup roster. A few have aged out and goalkeeper Tim Howard is on a national team sabbatical of sorts. But even considering that, this is a very green team.
Defender Ventura Alvarado and goalkeeper William Yarbrough are first-time call-ups. Fellow goalie Cody Cropper still hasn't made his debut. Eight others have yet to reach double digits in U.S. caps. And just six players on this team have made more than 20 appearances. This has been a trend under Klinsmann. Since the World Cup, he has called in 55 different players. His track record before the World Cup was comparable.
It's a fairly strange blend of players to call in. In a Q&A with USSoccer.com, Klinsmann pointed out that his Major League Soccer players are only just beginning their seasons, meaning they lack match fitness. So he only called in one defender from MLS – Brek Shea, who is being retooled into a left back for both club and country. Fair enough. But then he also brought in five MLS midfielders and forwards, who are just as much at the start of their years and therefore short on reps. What's more, Miguel Ibarra plays in the North American Soccer League, which hasn't even begun its season yet. But then this certainly isn't the first time Klinsmann's actions haven't synced up to his words exactly.
When the senior team was announced on Sunday, the latest under-23 and under-20 rosters were unveiled as well. Both of those teams look ahead to big years, too, with the Olympic qualifiers and the U-20 World Cup, respectively, in the offing.
Several players on the youth national teams have already featured in the senior team. Bringing these teams closer together is a policy of Klinsmann's to smoothen the transition as players progress through the program, and it's certainly sensible.
"As we juggle the rosters for the different groups, we maybe even have players go between teams at a certain point," Klinsmann explained. "Julian Green is a good example. He's one of those players that can also play for the U-23s. He can play for the U-20s.
"It's similar for other players like a John Brooks and a DeAndre Yedlin, Emerson Hyndman and Rubio Rubin. Those are all players that we consider for each of those teams, and we want to make the best decision over the next couple of months with these players in order to get the right results when it really matters in the upcoming tournaments."
The thing of it is, creating one vast, fluid player pool also makes the task of teambuilding a lot harder. Klinsmann says now is a time for players to "showcase yourself."
"We have a lot of options now trying things out, but I think we just also need to grow as an overall group, building chemistry and building spirit towards the Gold Cup," Klinsmann said. "Because we're going to get closer to the summer and we really need to zoom in and become a very united national team that is very hungry to win the Gold Cup."
Those would seem to be contradictory notions – again, hardly out of character.
Consider, after all, that Klinsmann, who is forever hounding his players to seek out the highest possible playing level, left out the only man at his disposal who is regularly active in the Premier League: defender Geoff Cameron. "Geoff is obviously in a good swing with Stoke City and the Premier League," Klinsmann explained. "But I had a long conversations with him and explained that just now I would love [to] see other players coming in and proving to us how good they are."
That's the thing with Klinsmann, the search for players who might prove how good they are is never-ending. The churn of players is constant. And while this is a year that offers him some justification for testing new talent, his insistence on maintaining such a big headcount muddles the all-important hierarchy and almost certainly complicates team- and chemistry-building. That has led to plenty of disjointed performances from a team with so many changing faces that they might as well carry nametags at the start of each camp.
Klinsmann always seems to want the latest, shiniest toy. But his collection has now grown so large that he can't seem to make up his mind which ones he really wants to play with. Or how to get them to complement each other.
Leander Schaerlaeckens is a soccer columnist for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.