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Surprises from Monday’s U.S. national team roster announcement

Oct 8, 2012, 4:25 PM EDT

Alan Gordon 3

The Twitter world being what it is, the bigger surprises in today’s U.S. national team roster announcement were relatively weak noodles in the big bowl of potential shockers.

We already knew – or strongly suspected based on their weekend Tweets – that Eddie Johnson was in and Dutch league scoring leader Jozy Altidore was out.

Those would have been jaw-droppers without early radar warning ahead of Monday’s roster announcement from U.S. Soccer. The Americans play at Antigua and Barbuda on Friday, then meet Guatemala on Oct. 16 in Kansas City to close out semifinal round World Cup qualifying.

(MORE: The week ahead for the United States)

So here are the talkers off Monday’s United States roster announcement; U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann spoke with reporters after Monday’s announcement via teleconference.

Sacha Kljestan gets the call. He’s been stuck in an uncomfortable place internationally since he mans a position of relative strength. As a central midfielder, he’s been stuck behind Michael Bradley and a host of others, even if some of them lean more defensive in their tendencies than Kljestan.

So, Kljestan has languished mostly unused by the United States through 2012, his appearance in the American win over Italy as the notable exception.

Klinsmann mentioned having dispatched assistant Andreas Herzog to watch Kljestan last week against Malaga in Champions League play; they were especially happy with the Anderlecht man’s increasing tendency to play balls vertically and not just side-to-side.

No Jose Torres. No one can say Klinsmann didn’t get the young man plenty of chances. And plenty of warnings, too, that he needed to be more aggressive and find more ways to impact matches in a more substantial ways.

(Update: A U.S. Soccer spokesman just informed me that Torres is injured; I was unaware.)

No Chris Wondolowski, no Terrance Boyd – but Johnson … and Alan Gordon!: Klinsmann said the choice to add Johnson and San Jose’s Alan Gordon was tactical. The coming matches against Antigua and Barbuda and then Guatemala are likely to be gritty struggles against teams that want to dig in defensively. Klinsmann figures that their aerial ability will come in handy as the United States will likely need to spread the stacked back as wide as possible and look to attack in wide areas.

Wondolowski scores plenty with his head but he’s not quite as big as the other two and cannot, perhaps, quite match their athleticism nor their ability in banging around for balls near goal.

Landon Donovan gets the call: There was good news all around Monday morning when Donovan’s knee (injured Saturday in the Galaxy’s loss) responded about as well as it could. When U.S. team officials spoke to Donovan on Sunday night, the plan was to have an MRI on Monday and then make a go-no go decision on the national team.

But according to Klinsmann, Donovan awoke Monday feeling even better than expected. So he cancelled the MRI and got on a plane bound for Miami, where players were arriving all day Monday.

Brek Shea is in: The FC Dallas man is hurt (mostly a combination of several smaller injuries) and still playing at 2011 level. But here he is, probably more a concession to a lack of choices in wide areas as much as anything else.

We’ll have more later on the Jozy Altidore situation.

  1. drmonkeyarmy - Oct 8, 2012 at 4:33 PM

    Klinsmann has more trust (his word not mine) in Alan Gordon and Eddie Johnson than the three castoffs. I don’t know if that speaks to the utter incompetence of the US strike force or the utter incompetence of Klinsmann.

  2. sportsviking - Oct 8, 2012 at 4:44 PM

    I disagree since he clearly worked extremely hard to cap Boyd. I think he honestly believes the players he called in give the US the best chance to qualify right now.

  3. zoophagous - Oct 8, 2012 at 4:47 PM

    I don’t get the gnashing of teeth over Wondo not getting the call. Yes, the guy is a scoring machine in club play. However I haven’t seen anything from him on the National team. The guy’s a ghost when he plays for USMNT. Contrast that with Gomez who isn’t even a full time starter with his club but tears it up with the national team.

    • drmonkeyarmy - Oct 8, 2012 at 4:59 PM

      I think the notion that Gomez “tears it up” for the National Team is complete hyperbole.

  4. dreadpirate82 - Oct 8, 2012 at 5:52 PM

    I know Gordon has the highest scoring rate in MLS per 90, but I don’t understand his inclusion over Altidore or Boyd. He simply doesn’t seem good enough. If it’s for a specialist role late in games, I guess I understand the thinking behind it. Still doesn’t make sense to me that he can offer more than Jozy. Jozy’s lack of production in recent USMNT games could be chalked up to the lack of service from the midfield, as Jones, Beckerman, and Edu haven’t helped the forwards much at all. Hopefully a midfield with more creativity will open things up a bit, as Donovan and Bradley return.

    Hopefully it will be much ado about nothing. Kinda nice that people care enough now to get fired up over this kind of thing. I’ll be screaming til my throat bleeds next Tuesday, regardless of who suits up.

  5. danielofthedale - Oct 8, 2012 at 8:01 PM

    I can’t see how anyone can make the case that Gordon is better for this team than Boyd. If you want to say Jozy needs to be sat for what he said or that he has not shown form the US lately, fine I don’t by but its legit. Taking Gordon over Boyd just reeks of desperation.

    • joeyt360 - Oct 8, 2012 at 11:02 PM

      Gordon has been more efficient scoring than Boyd has. And has good assist stats as well.

      • danielofthedale - Oct 9, 2012 at 12:19 AM

        Lets see here, Gordon is avg. 0.56 goals/game, 0.21 assists/game, 1.9 shots/game and 0.3 goals per shot this season. For Boyd he is avg. 0.54 goals/game .15assists/game (could not find shots for him). So statistically you can not say Alan Gordan is more efficient with any real confidence. Boyd has played in WCQ and in other big games like in the Aztec so he knows what to expect, Gordon does not. Plus Boyd is just more talented that Gordon.

  6. dfstell - Oct 8, 2012 at 8:08 PM

    I know that Jozy hasn’t had a lot of service and I can understand that defense of him, but when I watch those games he doesn’t offer much of anything otherwise. Heck, in that away qualifier at Jamaica, he wasn’t even closing down guys when he came on in the ~70th minute.

    Herc can do some things to get involved even if he isn’t getting service.

  7. tylerbetts - Oct 8, 2012 at 8:27 PM

    Well. At first I was pretty shocked by Jozy’s being excluded. Not so much about Boyd (I’m on the record here at PST for calling that one – I’d like to dap for that one, Steve!). Then, I started to think about the facts.

    At home vs. A&B, Jozy came on as a sub in the 80th minute, and made no impact.
    On the road vs. Guatemala, Jozy came on as a sub in the 63rd minute, and made no impact.
    On the road against Jamaica, Jozy started, played 71 minutes, and was almost a non-factor.
    At home vs. Jamaica, Jozy came on as a sub in the 80th minute, and made no impact.

    Now, some of the non-factor (road vs. Jamaica) was due to a poor midfield unable to distribute the ball. Some of it was due to him coming on late in the game and the US taking their foot off the gas (home vs. Jamaica).

    Still. In qualifying, he’s played four games, started one, and played a total of 118 minutes.

    We’re not talking about Klinsmann leaving off his starting/#1 Striker. We’re talking about him leaving off a guy who’s been mainly a substitute. And, one who hasn’t had a lot of impact in that role. So, why not bring in guys who might have a better chance of making an impact in that role?

    I’m not saying Eddie Johnson is better at soccer than Jozy Altidore. Because he’s not. I’m not saying Alan Gordon is better at soccer than Jozy Altidore. Because he’s not. By a mile. And then some.

    What I am saying is maybe Alan Gordon is better at playing the last five minutes of a game and getting a goal we need against a team parking the bus? Maybe Eddie Johnson will have a bit more familiarity with guys like Graham Zusi and Landon Donovan who might be feeding him a critical ball late in the game than Jozy does, and that gives him just enough of an edge to score a big goal.

    Sometimes, it’s not about your best 24 players. Sometimes, you nee the situation guys, the glue guys, and the guys who have just enough skill that when they sacrifice their bodies, it makes a huge difference.

    We’ve been clamoring for Klinsmann to take more chances on the pitch, so I’m not going to be too upset with him taking some chances off of it.

    • wfjackson3 - Oct 8, 2012 at 11:52 PM

      The coaches job description does not include “pick and field the best 24 players.” It is “pick and field the best team.” So I agree with you.

  8. firewolf777 - Oct 8, 2012 at 9:37 PM

    We have to look at jozy slowly becoming our go to guy and not giving him appearances is just hurting him.

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