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Thoughts on John Brooks, Jozy Altidore and others ahead of U.S. – Austria on Tuesday

Nov 18, 2013, 11:55 PM EDT

John Brooks 2
  • Hoping for a John Brooks sighting

We know what Omar Gonzalez is all about as an international center back.

And by now, we also know Geoff Cameron’s ups and down at that spot.

But what about John Brooks? Do we know? Can he hold his own? Or was that promising Sarajevo evening back in the August friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina more about youthful naiveté, that odd condition of not quite being old and wise enough to know that you are supposed to be nervous?

Either way, the 20-year-old Hertha Berlin center back and recent U.S. debutante certainly shows a lot of promise. Which is what I’d love to see him in Tuesday’s lineup against Austria.

The Cameron-Omar Gonzalez duo looked OK against Scotland’s strikers; not great and not bad. Just OK. Which is probably about what we would have expected.

(MORE: ProSoccerTalk’s U.S.-Austria preview)

Again, we know what both of those guys are about. Not so much with Brooks (pictured above), who certainly has all the physical tools.

But can he solve problems? Can he adjust during the match? Can he bounce back from a shaky moment? These are the questions that Klinsmann is also asking.

Oh, and this one, too: Can he do all this better than Michael Orozco, the man Brooks will probably need to beat out for that roster spot in Brazil?

By the way, Austria’s Bundesliga-heavy team will pose a test. But none of the men Brooks (or whichever U.S. center backs line up against Tuesday at the Ernst-Happel-Stadion (2:45 p.m. ET on NBCSN) won’t be named Edin Džeko, the strong and skillful Bosnian and Manchester City striker. Brooks mostly dealt well with Dzeko that day, which made for a very promising start.

  • Who else needs a big night?

We talked about Sacha Kljestan earlier. Kljestan has always seemed at ease about this stuff, equipped with the understanding that every player has to go out, do the very best he can and not worry about it from there. The choices are out of his hands and feet.

So I’d love to see the Anderlecht fixture assigned a more familiar role Tuesday for the United States, a position where he can potentially excel rather than one where he’s figuring things out on the fly. Either way, a big night in Vienna will surely help his cause – and might even be the last test, the one he absolutely must pass.

(MORE: Klinsmann’s thoughts on Kljestan against Scotland)

Brek Shea may only be getting chances (even though he’s not playing a bit for Stoke City) because the United States has pretty much zilch in terms of wide play right now – but the fact is, he’s getting chances. That’s a bottom line bonanza, any way you look at it.

It’s on Shea to exploit this golden goose of an ongoing opportunity. It seems quite possible that he’ll get just 25-or-so minutes once again, which has been a familiar MO under Klinsmann. Make it happen, kid. A few more big. bold, fearless dashes down the left and, well, that seat on the plane into Brazil will pull firmly into view.

Eric Lichaj, like so many others, may have played in cautiously at right back on Friday. But he’s not like a lot of others, whose spots in Brazil are more or less secure. He cannot just hold serve. Klinsmann already has guys who can play defense along the right. Lichaj is getting an opportunity in this short camps because the U.S. manager needs someone who can play defense and go add some pressure up the right flank on the attack.

  • Jozy Altidore’s big year

U.S. first-choice striker Jozy Altidore has had such a fabulous year in the national team shirt, with eight goals in 2013, including four in World Cup Qualifiers. He established that team record by scoring in five-consecutive games, a remarkable feat in international soccer. Plus, Altidore had a memorable hat trick against a good team from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

But around all that, Sunderland happened.

So what a great place this would be for Altidore to add a little sunshine into his soccer days. Things may slowly improve at Sunderland … but realistically there are still tough times ahead around the Stadium of Light. Here’s hoping Altidore puts away a couple of the chances that may come his way Tuesday.

(MORE: Why were we surprised at U.S.-Scotland on Friday?)

  1. jimmycrackcorn99 - Nov 19, 2013 at 1:12 AM

    Being a friendly against AUT, I think that JK owes Brooks the nod. What could it hurt? Lots to potentially gain. I agree that Shea has earned his 20-30 minutes, again lots to gain and little to lose.

    As I have said before, I would like to see more of JA & AJ together up front. Again, lots of potential in a friendly to see if there might be some chemistry there.

    The $64,000 question is who plays creative midfield and can he produce chances…

  2. tr3y11 - Nov 19, 2013 at 3:46 AM

    A bit off topic, but I feel it should be said about the good writing on the USMNT that you guys do. Thanks

  3. dfstell - Nov 19, 2013 at 5:44 AM

    I’d like to see Brooks get a shot too. I think we generally play our first team too much. Except for our January friendlies, we almost never have a B-team. I know there is something to be said for letting the guys play together more, but I’m pretty sure that the regulars all know how to play together at this point.

    Let’s send out the B-squad.

    • Steve Davis - Nov 19, 2013 at 7:25 AM

      Hmmmm. Gold Cup? That was an entire tourney of almost exclusively B-teamers for the United States, with the noted exception of Landon Donovan.

  4. supercoop8 - Nov 19, 2013 at 10:49 AM

    If the US manage a lead by half I wouldn’t also mind seeing Boyd getting more than stoppage time minutes. Brooks definitely deserves a look as would any up and coming central defender; Omar Gonzalez shines in certain areas but is caught ball watching often and at times is much too hesitant to step up and make a tackle. I guess most of the US back line is usually more willing to back pedal and concede a 20 yard shot stead of getting beat.

    If Kljestan does start hopefully he will be slotted behind Bradley; maybe start Diskerud out wide. EJ doesn’t deserve another look at winger maybe Mix can fill that role.

  5. hildezero - Nov 19, 2013 at 1:22 PM

    @dfstell,

    Do you not watch any US Soccer games?

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