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Position-by-position: Breaking down the U.S.’s squad for Mexico

Mar 26, 2014, 5:07 PM EDT

Belgium v United States Getty Images

The most impressive part of this U.S. squad: the depth, particularly compared to the team assembled in Frankfurt ahead of the team’s match against Ukraine. Where that team ended up starting the likes of Sacha Kljestan, Edgar Castillo, and Oguchi Onyewu, the lineup that will start next week against Mexico will feature locks for this summer’s World Cup. In stark contrast to the squad that Bob Bradley took to South Africa, this summer’s team will be built around North America-based talents.

The most notable of which are Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, and Landon Donovan, but they’re not why this camp is important. This camp is about Michael Parkhurst and DeAndre Yedlin. It’s about Brad Davis, Maurice Edu, and Luis Gil. And yes, it’s about Julian Green.

Though Jurgen Klinsmann’s sure to relish an opportunity to get so many of his regulars together, the real drama of next week’s out-of-window camp is about the 30-man preliminary roster – the one the U.S. will submit to FIFA mid-May. Who can cement their place on that list? Because without that, you’re out of the fight for the 23-man team that will leave for Brazil.

That’s what this camp all about, so position-by-position, here’s where each everybody stands ahead of next week’s test.

Goalkeepers: Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

It’s amazing how clear the goalkeeper depth chart is. Then again, when we’re talking about a position where only one person can play at a time, perhaps there’s no room for ambiguity. Tim Howard (Everton) and Brad Guzan (Aston Villa) are clearly numbers one and two, after whom we get Rimando (a consistent call up), Johnson (Rimando’s backup, when the big two aren’t around), and Hamid. One through five: no debate; no doubt.

source: APDefenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes), Michael Orozco (Puebla), Michael Parkhurst (Columbus Crew), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders FC)

Five of these guys are going to Brazil, and given how highly Klinsmann spoke of Michael Parkhurst after the January camp, the versatile Columbus defender seems very close. Add Geoff Cameron to the mix and whether there are spots available may depend on a.) what Klinsmann plays to do at left midfield (and how that affects Fabian Johnson), and b.) whether versatility within the squad means the U.S. can take more than eight defenders.

The most obvious candidate to snare that extra spot is in Europe, but center back John Brooks is staying with Hertha Berlin during this out-of-window friendly. But between his struggles against Ukraine, Cameron’s versatility, and DeAndre Yedlin’s (right) continued improvement for Seattle, the 20-year-old Sounder seems to have a shot, even if that would make five players who can play right back (Evans, Cameron, Parkhurst, Fabian Johnson being the others). It’s a long-shot, and in light of that depth it doesn’t make a lot of sense. But it’s a shot nonetheless.

As much as anybody on this team, Michael Orozco seems to have the thinnest chance of making this summer’s squad. Even on a roster without European call ups, the Puebla defender may be the team’s fifth-best center back.

source:  Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Maurice Edu (Philadelphia Union), Luis Gil (Real Salt Lake), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

The stakes are highest for Davis, Edu, and Gil. The rest of the guys are, presumably, on the plane, with Bradley and Zusi having served as regular starters throughout the qualifying cycle.

Edu has the longest odds. His lack of playing time at Stoke City left him on the outside looking over the last two years, but after an impressive start with the Union, Edu can play his way into consideration for a “what id Jermaine Jones, Bradley, or Beckerman get injured” spot. Even then, with Geoff Cameron and Brad Evans also capable of playing in the middle, the U.S. already has other options embedded in the squad.

Gil’s path is slightly different. His competition is more likely to be players like Mix Diskerud and Sacha Kljestan – midfielders who will can come off the bench and give the team a different look. Ultimately, this may cast the 20-year-old into the pool with Yedlin and Brooks – players Klinsmann my take for experience rather than purpose.

Among the people who could be hurt by the Julian Green switch is Brad Davis (right). Klinsmann already has a number of options who can play on the left, among them being Landon Donovan. It’s unclear what Davis would bring to the team that Donovan does not, and with players like Fabian Johnson, Eddie Johnson, Beasley and Green also capable of playing that side, Davis is a good bet tog et squeezed out. He needs to impress next week.

source: Getty ImagesForwards: Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Eddie Johnson (D.C. United), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

All eyes will be on Julian Green, who starts his transition from unknown to what U.S. fans hope will be a regular fixture in the squad. Expectations are unreasonably high for a player who most fans have never seen in action, but come next week, those expectations will become grounded in fact, one way or another. Based on how Klinsmann uses him alone, we’ll get a much better idea of where Green ranks against the other players vying for spots in Brazil.

And then there’s Chris Wondolowski (right), the player who has usurped Kyle Beckerman as the most debated part of the national team picture. For some, he’s an exemplar of the limits of Major League Soccer success. For others, including it seems Klinsmann, he’s somebody whose continues to defy doubts to keep himself on the edge of the World Cup squad.

It’s easy to look at the U.S. roster and ask “why would they make a place for Wondo,” but here we are, a little over two months ahead of the final roster announcement, and the San Jose captain has another shot to impress. His odds of getting to the World Cup are still long, but merely by being in this squad, he’s defied expectations. Like Edu, he could keep himself in frame as a backup plan should injuries befall players going to Brazil.

  1. mdac1012 - Mar 26, 2014 at 9:04 PM

    I was thinking how Beckerman used to be the guy that we used to constantly discuss, now I think it’s pretty much accepted that Beckerman has earned a spot on the roster as a back up.

    It’s no secret that I am not the biggest Wondo fan when it comes to him playing on the international level. I will say though, if there is anyone who has gotten the most out of what talent they have it’s Wondo. He is limited in many ways as a player, but if you took his heart and football IQ and put it in Brek Shea or Jozy you would have one hell of a player.

  2. mknow406a - Mar 26, 2014 at 11:19 PM

    I just don’t see it. These articles continue to go on about how Beckerman has a ticket. He doesn’t have the pace to compete at the elite international level (e.g. Germany and Portugal). He is an adequate stop gap at best and nothing more. It does not seem too hard to notice that Danny Williams was brought back into the fold, and didn’t look too bad, against the Ukraine. Now Edu (or simply “Mo” as JK likes to refer to him) has found his way back into the mix based on what? 3 MLS matches? Both of those moves show that Klinsman is aware of Beckerman’s limitations and is still hoping somebody better steps it up. Beckerman will be in the 30 going to camp, but if either Williams or Edu continue to perform for their clubs and have a good camp, he won’t be on the plane. KB only goes by default if nobody else looks better.

    • Richard Farley - Mar 26, 2014 at 11:51 PM

      I can see that. I think there is a type of cognitive dissonance with players like Kyle Beckerman and Brad Evans, though. When assessing whether he’s going to Brazil, it really doesn’t matter what you think, or what I think. What matters is what Jurgen Klinsmann thinks.

      Should Beckerman go? It would make an interesting post, especially if somebody really looked at what, for both club in country, he does compared to what he’s asked to do (in both cases: they’ll be impressed). But does it ultimately matter? No. Only Klinsmann’s opinion matters.

      When we’re looking at rosters like these and trying to assess who needs to do what to make it to Brazil, you have to have a good idea of who is and who is not likely to be in the final team. Then means putting your personal evaluations aside and putting yourself into Klinsmann’s shoes.

      And those shoes like Brad Evans. They like DaMarcus Beasley. They love Jermaine Jones, and they certainly like Kyle Beckerman enough to make him a lot.

      Agree? Disgaree? Everybody’s got their opinion. That doesn’t change Beckerman’s odds of being in Brazil.

      • mknow406a - Mar 27, 2014 at 12:34 PM

        There is a lot of psychology in leading groups which doesn’t always lead to full openness or disclosure and not wanting to ‘rock the boat’ prematurely. Beckerman and Evans both remind me of that person at the office that gets the ‘interm’ promotion tag… yet, the boss doesn’t take down the help wanted sign and continues to recruit new people. The boss does not tell the ‘interm’ candidate (and certainly not publically), “If we can’t find anybody better, it’s yours by default.” But you can often get a clue about where the ‘interm’ person REALLY stands based upon how aggressively the boss recruits and interviews other people… Yes Beckerman established himself as the top of the MLS class last year… but how long did it take Donovan to earn a call up after his break? Yet Edu has only had 3 matches in the past 1.5 years and he’s back already? As you pointed out, he’s certainly not competing for Jones’ place. As bad as Castillo played against Ukraine, JK has not brought in anybody to compete for LB. Yet in Evans, Parkhurst and Yedlin there are 3 players that have played RB for the USMNT recently (say nothing of bringing Spector back or Chandler’s name before the injury and Cameron). Obviously, Beasley’s place is much more settled than Evans… but that conclusion is based on JK’s actions rather than words. There are no new LBs in this group, no new GKs being thrown into the discussion and no new forwards (with the obvious exception of Green)… yet there IS a new DM (and not a young one that’s being brought in just to gain exposure to the side) and 3 capable RBs on this roster. For me, that is the true indicator that neither Evans or Beckerman have tickets written in permanent marker, And yes I understand that my interpretation (aka opinion) does not mean anything… trust me my wife reminds me of that everyday. LOL.

    • mdac1012 - Mar 27, 2014 at 1:39 AM

      He doesn’t have the pace, he also doesn’t win one on one challenges against physical midfielders and makes bad decisions with the ball when pressured. But despite that, I think Klinnsman likes him and feels comfortable with him on the roster as a back up. With the WC right around the corner, I don’t know how if other players are going to have enough chances to change Klinnsmans mind.

      • midtec2005 - Mar 27, 2014 at 10:22 AM

        I’m with Klinnsman on this one. I will agree that Beckerman used to look bad at this level, but he has adjusted and figured it out. Recently he’s been very solid.

        I also think he’s less prone to egregious errors than Mo. I’ve seen one to many inexcusable passes in the defensive third from Mo.

  3. rafibomb10 - Mar 27, 2014 at 8:47 AM

    I know it won’t happen, but Id like to see the fringe players get their time against MX. I understand that the players are mostly judged on the camp as a whole, during training mostly, but I don’t get to sit and watch them train…so for selfish reasons I want them to play.

    Also I might be in the minority, but I do not want Rimando on the plane to Brazil. He is a fine keeper, but if we are down to our 3rd goalie during the WC, what are our chances of actually winning the trophy? Id like to see Johnson or Hamid get the call, experience the event on the bench, learn behind Guzan and Howard, and begin their clock for 2018.

    • midtec2005 - Mar 27, 2014 at 10:20 AM

      Rimando might be better than Howard. We are a lucky country in that if we are down to our third keeper, it doesn’t matter.

    • dws110 - Mar 27, 2014 at 5:36 PM

      I think if we’re down to our 3rd keeper, and it’s Rimando, we’re in pretty good hands.

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