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With two World Cup qualifiers remaining, how will the United States handle things?

Sep 11, 2013, 10:00 AM EDT

Jurgen Klinsmann has the likes of Altidore, Dempsey, Donovan and Bradley to choose from. Reuters

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Qualifying for a World Cup with two games to spare provides players, coaches and the entire program with choices they would not otherwise have.

Only, U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann sounds not a bit inclined to exercise these added options. This is serious business and there will be no messing about, Klinsmann said late Tuesday, once official qualification for World Cup 2014 had been achieved.

The United States has a home match remaining with Jamaica (Oct. 11 in Kansas City) and at Panama (Oct. 15). Klinsmann makes the calls, of course, and he called this “serious business,” almost looking a bit surprised at the question of whether booking official passage changes things.

“No. This is serious stuff, World Cup qualifying,” he said. “You need to use those games in the right way. It’s not like we have that many preparation games before the World Cup. So we take this very seriously, the last two games. We want to beat Jamaica and then go into Panama and beat Panama. So we take this very seriously, so this doesn’t change anything in terms of compromising players. This is business.”

That aligns with Klinsmann’s overall message to the players, fed repeatedly over his two-plus years in charge: only through ultimate professionalism and the dogged pursuit of individual and team improvement will the United States push through the current sticking point in terms of World Cup success.

Klinsmann is right about the lack of matches. Now that they know for 100 percent certainty that they have dodged that November play-in series with New Zealand, U.S. Soccer officials can schedule friendlies for the month. (Scotland, perhaps, as reported last week?) There will be precious few FIFA dates between then and next May, when the World Cup training camp will open.

As for player selection, the problem is on the other end. Does a team like Stoke City want Geoff Cameron traveling halfway around the world for a pair of October qualifiers that could certainly impact the CONCACAF standings but are virtually meaningless to the United States?

Eleven players from Europe were called in for the two just-completed qualifiers; there are more still with a chance, at least, to make the 23-man World Cup roster.

U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard, whose 51st victory leaves him just two behind Kasey Keller’s all-time U.S. national team best of 53, also said he wouldn’t miss any opportunities to suit up for the national team, regardless of the travel involved from Europe.

“I have no idea what’s going to happen with selection,” he said late Tuesday. “But clearly, I’m available. The other guys will be available. Of course [the remaining games] are important.”

They are certainly critical as Klinsmann continues to fill holes in the roster. Fabian Johnson started at right back against Mexico, but that has the look of yet another stop-gap choice. Steve Cherundolo, 34, remains in the picture, but advancing age and his own choices regarding the national team cloud that picture significantly. In fact, he’s probably still in the conversation only because no player has grabbed hold of the position.

Left back remains a trouble spot as well.

  1. gsalamone01 - Sep 11, 2013 at 10:42 AM

    I think you need to play these games at full strength. There just aren’t enough games to take these games off. Plus we haven’t played with our theoretical starting eleven yet.

    The game in Panama would be a great test for those guys.Take off the Scotland game if you want.

    • merinarj21 - Sep 11, 2013 at 10:54 AM

      I agree. I’d still call up my starting ten. Hopefully Bradley is back by this time we can have our actual A team. I’m waiting to see how awesome Bradley combining with Dempsey (who will have had time to settle in to Seattle) and Donovan and Altidore up top will be.

    • takethelongview - Sep 11, 2013 at 10:57 AM

      I think (and I am often wrong), that the planned Scotland match is away. Friendly dates in Europe are usually designed to include our European players…so they won’t be taking that one off. MLS players whose teams are in the play-offs, on the other hand, would certainly not be called in.

    • braxtonrob - Sep 11, 2013 at 4:07 PM

      @gsalamone, I agree with you. NOW is the time to start playing our ‘theoretical’ lineup for Brazil. Use the immediate games onward to try and let the same 11 play together as much as possible.

      Tryouts are over.

    • mikeevergreen - Sep 12, 2013 at 7:22 PM

      No. SMASH Sco’Land. And whoever else they schedule.

  2. takethelongview - Sep 11, 2013 at 10:51 AM

    The travel for European players is certainly a relevant concern…but let us not forget this season is providing us with an unusually congested MLS play-off chase. When the October qualifiers roll around, RSL, SKC, LA, and Seattle will all be chasing the Supporter’s Shield (presumably) and ALSO be keeping a wary eye on the teams chasing them just to ensure they stay above the red line. As has been noted ad nauseam, MLS doesn’t break for FIFA dates….But this year, more than most, call-ups to an “unnecessary” qualifier hold the potential to affect the play-off chase. These teams have sacrificed multiple players for the US all year…If they’re not needed in October why call them in?

    • randomhookup - Sep 11, 2013 at 2:47 PM

      One thing that will get in the way for MLS… the *other* CONCACAF teams that elect to call in MLS players. As the league has done a great job of scouting the region for good talent, that means they have added players who get called into their NTs for games that may (or may not) matter.

      I do think the league has hit a maturity point where they shouldn’t play through CONCACAF WCQ dates anymore. Too many players will be away.

    • braxtonrob - Sep 11, 2013 at 4:12 PM

      @takethelongview, “why call them …”
      Because it’s time to fully focus on Brazil. As of yesterday, I don’t give a DAMN about the EPL nor MLS.

  3. takethelongview - Sep 11, 2013 at 10:55 AM

    Another issue is yellow card accumulation. I don’t know the rule, so someone please clarify: If a player carrying a yellow card prior to Match Day 10 gets booked in the last game, will he be suspended for the next match? Because the next COMPETITIVE match would be Game 1 in Brasil. (Do they count friendlies for such suspensions?) If this is the case, I would hope JK doesn’t put any of our card-carrying stars anywhere near the field in Panama. Send a B team!

    Just as FIFA wipes out World Cup yellows before the semi-finals, so that no one has to miss the Final for yellow cards, CONCACAF should probably wipe out all the yellows after Match Day 9. By that time, the 2-card-and-you’re-banned rule will have served its purpose, and there’s no need to harm the region’s winners by shortchanging them at the big tournament. Maybe they’ve already thought of this?

    • notaretard - Sep 11, 2013 at 2:29 PM

      there’s this crazy little thing called google that can answer all of those questions for you

    • randomhookup - Sep 11, 2013 at 2:49 PM

      Yellow card accumulation stops with qualifying. Since each confed has a different rule on suspensions, there is no attempt to enforce them in the WC.

  4. davidwhidden - Sep 11, 2013 at 11:00 AM

    Does the possibility of World Cup seeding matter here? My understanding is that FIFA hasn’t decided the method for seeding, but if they were to seed the top team from Concacaf, wouldn’t it be to our advantage to make sure that we were at the top of the table?
    Though I think Klinsmann is right about wanting to win — it’s as much a habit as losing is and you want the players to expect to win every time and to prepare accordingly.

    • jimmycrackcorn99 - Sep 11, 2013 at 11:44 AM

      More than 1 person told me that it is based on FIFA rankings. If anyone knows that this has not been decided on the part of FIFA, please include source.

      • talgrath - Sep 11, 2013 at 12:16 PM

        Here is all FIFA officially has on the final draw. As you can see, there is no mention on how, exactly, it will be done. Last time the draw was based on rankings, but that was a change from the traditional method. FIFA has not officially said how the draw will be conducted.

      • tariencole - Sep 11, 2013 at 7:20 PM

        Typically, the method has been some combination of FIFA rankings+performance in FIFA competitions. Note, this has nothing to do with finishing in the Hex, as such. We topped the Hex in 06, after winning a Gold Cup and beating Mexico in the 02 World Cup in South Korea…and Mexico was still seeded over top of us.Which led to us drawing a Group of Death and ending Arena’s tenure.

        Seeding will have effectively nothing to do with it, as FIFA ranks FRIENDLIES we play against UEFA teams at a higher coefficient than WC Qualifiers. It also ranks the Gold Cup Win at a higher coefficient. I can’t make this stuff up. But WCQ are rated below all of those, ostensibly because of the ‘weakness’ of CONCACAF.

    • talgrath - Sep 11, 2013 at 11:58 AM

      Long story short, we don’t know how the seeding will work for the next World Cup, it changed for the last World Cup. In the last World Cup, the seeding was based on FIFA ranking only, who knows if they’ll stick to that system.

      • tariencole - Sep 11, 2013 at 7:21 PM

        The ranking will have ‘something’ to do with it. Just how much of a percentage is the open guess.

  5. huberttseng - Sep 11, 2013 at 11:01 AM

    These games are tricky. I’d rather see the European guys get these games off so they can focus on having good seasons, that’ll be the best prep for Brazil. I’d like to see MLS guys get these games because they’ll have less soccer between now and Brazil, but they’ll be in a playoff race. Either way, Klinsi should use these games to opportunities for guys on the fringe to win tickets to Brazil, not just to have the first-stringers play.

    • randomhookup - Sep 11, 2013 at 2:52 PM

      How ’bout we just bring in a heavily LigaMX roster?

  6. soccerjohn - Sep 11, 2013 at 11:30 AM

    Anyone else wanna see what the US looks like in a 4-3-3?

    Dempsey Altidore Johannsson
    FJohnson Bradley Donovan
    Beasley Besler [Gonzales/Brooks] [Evans/Chandler]

    • jimmycrackcorn99 - Sep 11, 2013 at 11:47 AM

      I would like to see some (extremely offensive) experimentation like this, but I am not convinced about F Johnson at left mid. Maybe LD on the left and Zusi or Corona on the right?

    • braxtonrob - Sep 11, 2013 at 4:19 PM

      @soccerjohn, (Except for right back, maybe) I like your lineup A LOT! Well done.

  7. galaxycontrol - Sep 11, 2013 at 11:30 AM

    Will most likely get to see Aron Johannsson get playing time.

  8. notaretard - Sep 11, 2013 at 2:28 PM

    i vote that if panama can come out of the azteca with a point, and honduras can get one at costa rica, we should just tank the game in panama to ensure they finish in 4th and mexico doesn’t go. i know we don’t have a lot of games but now that we’re in, i’d love to make sure mexico stays home

    • mikeevergreen - Sep 11, 2013 at 4:18 PM

      That could get US banned from the cup.

    • braxtonrob - Sep 11, 2013 at 4:21 PM

      @notaretard, Mexico not going to the WC is bad (i.e. horrible) for CONCACAF. Your idea is malicious and horrendous all at the same time.

      • tariencole - Sep 11, 2013 at 7:23 PM

        Meh, more horrible is Mexico going to the World Cup and playing like the listless side they are now. Especially if they get seeded over us, which is very likely.

    • sfrunning - Sep 12, 2013 at 8:20 PM

      Absolutely disgusting idea. Repulsive in the extreme.

      Neither USA or Mexico are ever going to get a WC medal without the other being at a reasonably high level. If they aren’t good enough to get to WC, really too bad, but it would be totally offensive to throw a game to achieve that result. Illegal, shameful, completely appalling.

      Go “support” some other national team, USA doesn’t want the likes of you!

  9. mikeevergreen - Sep 11, 2013 at 4:17 PM

    My take is that Klinsmann may still think a seeding is doable. In that case I’d play the front-line against Jamaica and Panama, and if you win both, against whatever friendlies are played in November. If they’ve already booked Scotland, I’d book something tougher, like getting the muscles into Brussels for a Belgium rematch.

    • tariencole - Sep 11, 2013 at 7:25 PM

      I’d prefer at least one of the November friendlies (assuming we play 2 matches, which we may not) be against someone we didn’t just play. Also, given the Scotland match is (rumored) to be played in the States, you’re talking about traveling overseas on short rest to play a UEFA team on their turf?

      No profit. Not unless you call in 2 completely different sides, which defeats the purpose.

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