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Which “8 or 9″ U.S. campers may land on next World Cup qualifier roster?

Jan 11, 2013, 12:00 PM EST

CONCACAF CS Herediano Real Salt Lake Soccer

When Jurgen Klinsmann says “8 or 9” of the talented Americans taking part in the January camp will land on the World Cup qualifier roster for a trip into Honduras, we understand it’s a ballpark number subject to injuries or other fluid factors.

Still, it’s a number, one that gives us something to grab hold of and build some speculation around.

So let’s have some fun with an exercise that falls somewhere between forecasting and guessing, and look at which players might find their way that list.

Some fall under “no-brainers,” a guy like Graham Zusi, for instance. Others will be determined by performance in the ongoing camp and in the Jan. 29 friendly in Houston against Canada.

So here’s an early look at which “8 or 9” Klinsmann may ultimately name:

  • GK Bill Hamid / or Sean Johnson: Because this will be a clear No. 3, and because at this point, these guys seem to remain interchangeable for purposes of the role (which amounts to “Break glass in case of emergency), it’s hard to make a distinction.  (Klinsmann, by the way, recently talked about the need for taking a third goalkeeper on qualifier trips. Basically, what if Tim Howard is hurt in training a day before the match, or during pre-game warm-ups? In that case, they need a game-day backup, most likely for Brad Guzan.)
  • CB Omar Gonzalez: If Carlos Bocanegra, Geoff Cameron and Clarence Goodson are healthy, then center back spots are filling quickly. Still, Klinsmann understands the need to begin blooding Gonzalez, so it seems smart to bring him on as many trips as possible. Perhaps this isn’t the best place to make the big change, but bringing the commanding Galaxy center back seems to make sense.
  • DF A.J. DeLaGarza: This is where it all gets a little complicated; Assuming the first choice right backs and left backs are available (roughly speaking, Steve Cherundolo, Michael Parkhurst, Fabian Johnson and Timothy Chandler) ,then there’s little room for all those U.S. outside back hopefuls now in camp: Tony Beltran, Connor Lade, Steven Beitashour and Justin Morrow. In that case, the back line may be full. If anyone makes sense, it’s the versatile DeLaGarza, who can play on the right or in the middle. (Then again, so can Michael Parkhurst.)
  • MF Kyle Beckerman (pictured): He has slipped behind Danny Williams in the playing rotation, but Klinsmann loves the Real Salt Lake veteran’s professionalism and consistency in training, which keeps the collective intensity at high rev.
  • MF Graham Zusi: Pretty much a no-brainer based on his rise in 2012 in the program. Not to mention that Zusi can play centrally or, as he has recently in the U.S. shirt, wide on the right.
  • MF Mix Diskerud: It’s probably down to a choice between Benny Feilhaber and Diskerud. Feilhaber is slightly more attack-minded, with a better ability to pass through packed defenses. But Diskerud may be slightly more versatile, which helps.
  • FW Juan Agudelo: Maybe this should come with an asterisk, since the Chivas USA striker isn’t actually in camp yet. He remains in Great Britain on a training spell – and questions linger about whether he will even return to the States or leave on transfer? But for this list, same difference I suppose.
  • FW Eddie Johnson: The quality of competition is clearly better in this stage, but the Sounders striker was productive in two semifinal round appearances last fall. So, he’s earned it.
  1. dreadpirate82 - Jan 11, 2013 at 12:08 PM

    I read that Agudelo is training alongside Zusi at West Ham this week. According to MLSSoccer.com, his agent tweeted about it. The more exposure, the better. I really like that kid and hope he finds a more stable situation. It’s not like it can get much worse!

  2. theasoccerist - Jan 11, 2013 at 12:29 PM

    What about bringing in Sapong (http://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=7160551253659375700#editor/target=post;postID=8073396693377500056) and now Agudelo.

    Should we not be looking at some of the younger talent-dont you think?

    • bear06 - Jan 11, 2013 at 1:00 PM

      CJ didn’t deserve a callup. Also Jurgen is looking at young talent did you even see the roster? Agudelo, Bruin, Diskerud, Gatt, Morales, Gonzalez, Besler, S. Johnson and Hamid are all young talent.

      • wesbadia - Jan 11, 2013 at 2:05 PM

        Arguably so is Sapong, albeit he’s a couple years older. He’s a natural finisher, and he could’ve been a good addition to the strike corp. If he was given the chance, he might prove he’s the player that Altidore never amounted to with the Nats. One will never know until he gets a call up. I fail to see how he doesn’t deserve it, though.

      • tylerbetts - Jan 11, 2013 at 3:16 PM

        Wait. What? wesbadia … are you okay?

        Sapong might prove he’s the player Altidore never amounted to with the Nats?

        Really? We’re already writing off that Altidore will never amount to the striker the Nats need? Really?

        Wait, let me check something here … Yup. That’s what I thought. Jozy is 23. Plenty of time to develop into the striker the Nats need. And, based on club form, a good bet to do so for both this WC Cycle and the next. Sapong? Oh, wait, he’s OLDER than Altidore.

        Although I get it if you’re a Sporks guy. I’ve had to stop myself of lamenting the lack of choice of Eddie Gaven for this camp. Seems like the kind of “Glue guy” that would be phenomenal for the National Team. And has earned a call up to a “junior” camp. But, he’s my guy from my team, so my view is a little clouded.

      • bear06 - Oct 27, 2013 at 7:50 PM

        “Sapong might prove he’s the player Altidore never amounted to with the Nats”

        lmao!

      • wesbadia - Jan 11, 2013 at 4:31 PM

        You’re right. Altidore IS younger. But my opinion is that his performance with the Nats has been lackluster at best. He’s had his goals, sure. But he’s streaky, and Klinnsman agrees apparently. Lest we not forget that Jurgen tossed him for awhile there, included some sharp words about his play and passion.

        I’m not saying Sapong is a sure-fire thing. But why not call him in? Especially over the likes of Buddle or Agudelo. Both of those guys have gotten multiple opportunities to show what they can do. Again, streaky at best.

        Altidore may prove one of the best players in the Eredivisie. I hope his scoring streak keeps up. But you can’t deny that there’s a potential that his quality for international duty doesn’t translate. We’ve seen it with Wondo. We’ve seen it with Gomez (albeit he seems to be proving some of us wrong now). We’ve seen it with others as well.

        All I’m saying is that players need looked at. And if Jurgen is keen on calling in people like Brad Evans, then why not Sapong? Isn’t that what Camp Cupcake is about?

        And, for the record, I’m not a Sporting fan :-)

    • dreadpirate82 - Jan 11, 2013 at 1:55 PM

      As someone who wears a Sapong jersey to SKC games, I would have brought him into camp ahead of Buddle, but I’d say he’s a fringe guy at this point. He could be helpful at the Gold Cup, but I’d say he doesn’t create anything for himself. His holdup play has been solid. He really needs to finish better if he wants to get a real shot with the national team.

      • wesbadia - Jan 11, 2013 at 2:07 PM

        He does finish. If anyone on SKC can be condemned as “not finishing” chances, it’d be Kamara…

      • pctrips - Jan 11, 2013 at 9:14 PM

        No one on Sporting last year could be considered a good finisher. Certainly Sapong and Bunbury have shown flashes and have the potential to develop but they aren’t good finishers yet. I would rather see Sapong in this camp rather than Buddle. CJ showed good improvement from year 1 to year 2 so his trajectory is positive. Buddle has done nothing over the last year and he’s on the wrong side of 30.

  3. danielofthedale - Jan 11, 2013 at 4:47 PM

    I like most of your list, but I am not that high on De la Garza. He looks like a decent MLS talent and nothing else. I also think Gatt will crack that list. I think he is the next Donovan. Speedy, willing to take defenders on, can create or score himself from starting out wide. No one in the US player pool can really say that except for Shea and who knows where he is health wise

  4. schmutzdeck - Jan 12, 2013 at 12:44 PM

    wesbadia,

    Re Buddle- JK has said this is not a tryout camp so much a prep camp for the qualifiers. He’s looking for help with depth and maybe even a new starter.

    Gordon, JK’s MLS target man of choice is hurt. Buddle is a very skilled big man who has a lot of experience. If Gordon is not available for Honduras JK needs to see if he can turn to Bruin and Buddle in a pinch.

    In addition this camp is short on experience and Buddle has plenty of that to pass on to the younger guys. He also provides someone who can test the two center backs, Gonzo and Besler in practice.

    Re Sapong- Kljestan recently said in his discussions with JK that he was told he was playing well for Anderlecht but JK did not want to make changes. But Sacha kept playing well in the Champions league and eventually through a combination of that and injury he got his chance and appears to have a shot at sticking with the team.

    The point is with a national team you always have a chance as long as you are playing somewhere but you have to excel. Sapong is interesting and a good player but hardly exceptional.

    If Sacha was getting left out even though he was doing well in the Champions League why should Sapong get a free ride?

    If Gomez had to get white hot in Mexico to get a call up why should Sapong get in?
    Just because he might be a good player? For an unknown quantity, a US cap should be a reward for exceptional performance, something that separates you from the pack. And that starts at your club.

    I like Sapong but he needs to do more. If he wants to play for the US let him tear the league apart and earn his way in. It should be dammed hard for an unknown to get a call up.

    • wesbadia - Jan 14, 2013 at 11:50 AM

      This is a camp, not a cap. And a camp that has traditionally seen unconventional call-ups for. No one on this camp is guaranteed a cap for the Canadian friendly, and anyone on the outside looking at the camp should expect anything beyond what we’ve already seen from JK or the players. Regardless whether or not JK says this isn’t a tryout, it is. It’s always a tryout. If you do poorly and fail to live up to the expectations that JK and his staff have, you’re usually not called back in, at least for a while. We’ve witnessed this with various players so far over the last year and a half.

      I agree that Buddle is in because of his experience. But isn’t that proof that it IS a tryout? Especially for the younger guys. As you say, JK is looking for depth for the WC Qualifiers. Buddle is not that depth. Bruin? Maybe. By, to ask the opposite of what you did in reference to Gomez, (and to clarify my own point more) why not Sapong? He’s shown well for a college product of his age and tenure in the league over the past two years. Why not him over Gomez or Bruin or even Kljestan (if the last of these really has found his way into the good graces of JK)?

      I’m not defending Sapong as a striker, but I am suggesting that he get a look. If not now, then when? At the next camp when Klinnsy is attempting to solidify his lineup for the upcoming games? When he could be taking a risk at upsetting the chemistry that has already formed over the previous six months? When?

      My take is that if he’s willing to take a risk with Sapong given the kid’s age by leaving him off now, then he’ll probably never call him in. And, honestly, I consider that a mistake. Not because he’s the next whoever, but because you passed on a kid that has shown he can contribute at the club level in a system that USSF has been trying to implement for the past six years or more. The worst that could’ve happened was that he really was awful at camp and in a friendly against a team who is in flux, and he’s never welcomed back.

  5. schmutzdeck - Jan 14, 2013 at 10:57 PM

    wesbadia,

    “The worst that could’ve happened was that he really was awful at camp and in a friendly against a team who is in flux, and he’s never welcomed back.”

    No. The worst could have happened is the USMNT staff could waste valuable time and energy on a player they don’t really believe in, time and energy they could have spent on a player they do believe in.

    You act like the USMNT staff has endless resources, that this camp is some kind of open casting cattle call. There are a finite number of players that a staff can look at over a limited period of time and still do a good job of evaluation.

    My interpretation of what JK meant when he said this was a prep camp not a tryout camp per se was that the players invited had a chance to make the roster for Honduras qualifier i.e. impress him and he might put you on that roster.

    That means the guys not invited either cannot make it for any number of reasons or JK and his staff are not considering them for the Honduras qualifier. My assumption is Sapong is in the latter category.

    “My take is that if he’s willing to take a risk with Sapong given the kid’s age by leaving him off now, then he’ll probably never call him in.”

    So what? JK has made it clear he wants hungry players, guys who are dying to improve themselves, to prove to everyone how good they are. If you are a new guy, a guy without a track record like Buddle, Davis, EJ or Benny then you really have to make yourself stand out. Sapong is a nice player but I don’t see anything exceptional about him at least not on a consistent basis.

    “a kid that has shown he can contribute at the club level in a system that USSF has been ta kid that has shown he can contribute at the club level in a system that USSF has been trying to implement”

    You can say that about a lot of players. Is CJ the only American kid to do this? Has he been consistently outstanding? Are the European clubs lined up at his door? Has anyone described him as the next Drogba?

    Where is the compelling case for calling him up now? JK called up EJ, Juan and Gordon and had all three play well. You can’t tell me that he hasn’t been keeping a close watch on MLS forwards.

    National team managers don’t have the time and resources to develop players.

    Sapong is either ready to play for the US with a little adjustment or he’s not.

    And he may never be which would be too bad for him but that is mostly on him. If he’s smart he will start off the upcoming season with a bang. He still has time to make an impression.

    • wesbadia - Jan 15, 2013 at 8:46 AM

      Wasting “valuable time and energy on a player they don’t really believe in” is already happening with Buddle, is it not? As you said yourself, you don’t believe Buddle is being considered for the roster, but instead was brought in to give some sort of guidance. As if no one else in the position at camp has guidance to give. You’re making a great case of canning Buddle and replacing him.

      We’re also not producing Drogbas in this country. We’re producing Bruins and Sapongs and Bunburys. No one here or anywhere else is comparing Sapong to Drogba. That’s a silly comparison and I don’t see why you even made it. That’s a straw man. And so is the rhetorical question of Euro clubs lining up at Sapong’s door — another straw man.

      Name three other young, skillful players at the striker position that have played in the USSF’s preferred 4-3-3 formation that is at the caliber JK is demanding of his forwards. Why Buddle? Why not Ching, as you’ve referred to in other posts? Why not Casey or Wondo or any other B- or C-level striker to “test out rookie CB’s” and hand down wisdom to the younger forwards?

      Also, like you’ve said, if a player is either read to play or not, then why a holding midfielder like Larentowicz or Clarke when there’s an obvious glut of holding defensive midfielders (that also have attacking prowess) on the US roster already? If there’s any one position we’re stocked at, it’s holding mid. What of Conor Lade, a player that had a VERY questionable season with NYRB and which saw him play at three different positions during the course of the season. Why him?

      Resources ARE scarce, and ARE in high demand. That fact is not lost on me, contrary to what you may think. But it’s hard for me to see why a player like Sapong isn’t called up for such an experimental camp such as this one when there seems to be an imbalance of skill and personalities on that camp roster.

      My point is not merely about Sapong; it’s about any young American striker that has seen even moderate success for their club, especially those playing in MLS. This is not an advocacy for Sapong, it’s a questioning of JK’s mentality and thought processes behind the players he’s picked. Sapong might not be the answer, but you NEED to question why he’s not getting looked at when other players (even at other positions) that have had much less successful performances have been called in. We can say this about a lot of players; Sapong is not the only one. I chose Sapong partially because another commenter suggested it (and I ran with it), as well as to create dialogue like this.

      Making up straw man arguments is not appreciated though, as it misrepresents my points (very clearly I might add) and strays the conversation to areas that it wasn’t intended to go. Staying on point would be much more conducive to sharing this dialogue.

  6. schmutzdeck - Jan 15, 2013 at 5:24 PM

    wesbadia,

    “As you said yourself, you don’t believe Buddle is being considered for the roster, but instead was brought in to give some sort of guidance. As if no one else in the position at camp has guidance to give. You’re making a great case of canning Buddle and replacing him.”

    Mr. badia,

    No, I’m not. This is what I actually wrote:

    “Re Buddle- JK has said this is not a tryout camp so much a prep camp for the qualifiers. He’s looking for help with depth and maybe even a new starter. Gordon, JK’s MLS target man of choice is hurt. Buddle is a very skilled big man who has a lot of experience. If Gordon is not available for Honduras JK needs to see if he can turn to Bruin and Buddle in a pinch.”

    Later on I add:

    “My interpretation of what JK meant when he said this was a prep camp not a tryout camp per se was that the players invited had a chance to make the roster for Honduras qualifier i.e. impress him and he might put you on that roster. That means the guys not invited either cannot make it for any number of reasons or JK and his staff are not considering them for the Honduras qualifier. My assumption is Sapong is in the latter category.”

    JK has always liked and respected Buddle so if he can show he is healthy and past the issues that led to his poor second half of the season then JK will consider playing him against Honduras.
    The pool for the four forward spots for the qualifiers is already established.

    They are Jozy, Boyd, Gomez, Gordon, EJ, and Juan.

    And EJ and Juan are in this camp. So Buddle ,Bruin and Wondo need to impress here and then someone needs to lose form or get hurt before the Honduras game.

    “No one here or anywhere else is comparing Sapong to Drogba. That’s a silly comparison and I don’t see why you even made it. That’s a straw man. And so is the rhetorical question of Euro clubs lining up at Sapong’s door — another straw man.”

    In a strawman argument, “the author attacks an argument different from (and weaker than) the opposition’s best argument.” Your best argument is that JK’s player choices are questionable. The exclusion of Sapong is your evidence for that argument.

    Comparisons to Drogba , who is something of a measuring stick for powerful forwards and talk of transfers to Europe are merely another way of saying a player is highly thought of.

    The lack of said conversations ( “Drogba comparisons/euro transfer talk”) in Sapong’s case is a way of saying Sapong is not as highly regarded as, for example, Juan Agudelo, who has had such comparisons made and transfer talk said about him. And he is on this roster.

    The point is Sapong is not that highly regarded which goes directly against to your best argument, that Sapong’s exclusion proves JK’s mentality and thought processes re player choices are questionable.

    “This is not an advocacy for Sapong, “

    It wasn’t? You sure could have fooled me.

    You may have intended your original post to be about – “a questioning of JK’s mentality and thought processes behind the players he’s picked” –but if so, its validity depended on whether Sapong’s exclusion could be regarded as some sort of grave injustice.

    Now you find there is no tidal wave of outrage over Sapong’s exclusion, that he is not the best player to make your argument.

    “it’s a questioning of JK’s mentality and thought processes behind the players he’s picked. Sapong might not be the answer, but you NEED to question why he’s not getting looked at when other players (even at other positions) that have had much less successful performances have been called in. We can say this about a lot of players; Sapong is not the only one. I chose Sapong partially because another commenter suggested it (and I ran with it), as well as to create dialogue like this.”

    So now you are backtracking off of that, trying to deflect attention away from your original lame proposition which was that Sapong’s exclusion is proof that JK’s mentality and thought processes should be questioned.

    What makes you think people do not question JK’s choices?

    I have read most of what JK has said, and that is a lot, about his mentality and thought processes behind the building of this team. His stated rationale can be read in the “breakfast interviews series “on this site. And before he took the USMNT job, I saw JK play a lot with Germany and with Spurs. I also saw his German team in the 2006 World Cup. And he has always been a pretty open character. So I like to think I understand I have an idea as to what he is getting at.
    Of course I question his choices, since he often picks guys I don’t know that much about or haven’t followed for a while. But once I research those players, given what I saw from the teams he played on and managed, most of the time, his personnel choices make sense to me.
    Now you may not agree with his rationale but if you are going to criticize it and expect that criticism to be taken seriously, then you really should read and try to understand the entirety of those interviews.

    “Staying on point would be much more conducive to sharing this dialogue.”

    So would you knowing what JK’s views on these topics actually are. You clearly don’t understand JK’s “mentality and thought processes”. How can you credibly criticise something you know nothing about?

    Right now, what you are writing is like throwing stuff on the wall to see what sticks. For example you talk about JK’s preferred formation but he says quite often that the USMNT needs to be able to switch between a number of formations given the circumstances.

    So yes he may need a big Moose like Gordon, Buddle or maybe even Sapong.

    “Why not Ching, as you’ve referred to in other posts? Why not Casey or Wondo or any other B- or C-level striker to “test out rookie CB’s” and hand down wisdom to the younger forwards?”

    I have not mentioned Ching or Conor Casey anywhere, at least not for a few years. And Wondo is in this camp. Personally, I want to see Lenhart capped mostly for the outrage it would provoke from all quarters.

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