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WHO’S WHO: Breaking down US forwards on the 30-man World Cup roster

May 12, 2014, 4:58 PM EDT

Donovan of the U.S. celebrates with teammate Boyd after scoring  against Scotland during their international friendly soccer match in Jacksonville

Six forwards made the list of 30 players on the United States provisional roster for the 2014 World Cup, and now we finally have an answer as to whether Jurgen Klinsmann considers Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey among that group, or as midfielders.

There are loads of question marks on the list, not for their inclusion but for what their presence will give the States. Jozy Altidore has struggled mightily in the Premier League, drawing some praise for his physical play but scoring just one goal for the Black Cats. To be frank, he’s looked out of place, uncomfortable and ineffective just one year after lighting the Eredivisie on fire with goals upon goals.

Two months ago, a USMNT supporter would’ve laughed at someone who thinks Clint Dempsey may be the most surefire thing in this bunch. The Seattle Sounders man had just completed a lackluster loan spell at Fulham after a tough readjustment to Major League Soccer after transferring from Tottenham last year. But he’s back, looking closer to the tenacious world-beating leader we saw at Fulham than anything since.

Landon Donovan is a wild card, still waiting for his record-breaking MLS goal with the Galaxy but also still a question thanks to his soccer sabbatical. It seems foolish to ever doubt the relentless and respected Donovan, but at 32-years-old there will always be whispers of whether age has had its way with the man.

Playing in Austria isn’t exactly the recipe for high praise, but Terrence Boyd has scored 20 goals for Rapid Wien and five of those goals came in Europa League. He’s been quick, physical, deft and clinical for the Vienna club.

And speaking of “lesser” leagues, we’re back in the Eredivisie with Aron Johannsson. He started red-hot for AZ Alkmaar before petering out a bit down the stretch. The Icelandic-Alabaman is a threat and a bit of an unknown for Klinsmann. If he has his form in camp, starting is not out of the question.

Finally, the feel good story of the roster in Chris Wondolowski. All the man does is score goals and is set to compete for that spot in Brazil despite not making his USMNT debut until late in his 20s. He has scored two goals for the States in 2014, and if we’ve learned anything it’s not to count out a man with “Wondolowski” or “Wondowlowski” on the back of his US shirt.

For takes on the forwards who didn’t make the cut, read our “Who got snubbed?” post here

How could Klinsmann deploy this unit? Obviously the answer is any way he wants, but Altidore and Wondolowski are more than capable of holding the ball up-top, and there’s no shortage of men who can run off them. The other European players on the list are capable of playing a strong post-up as well. We have plenty of time to break down the “how,” but this is our take on the “why.” What say you?

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

  1. dws110 - May 12, 2014 at 5:27 PM

    Everybody but Wondo.

  2. rokemi - May 12, 2014 at 5:43 PM

    Hard to say no to Wondo. The evidence is at least there. He may not be ideal, but he’s a poacher and a poacher up top in the right place at the right time is better than what we’ve had.

  3. talgrath - May 12, 2014 at 6:42 PM

    I think that Klinsmann is going to drop just one of these guys, if I were a betting man I’d go with Boyd. Donovan, Dempsey and Altidore, barring illness or injury, are definitely going; they’re relatively known qualities, even if Altidore and Donovan have struggled a bit for club lately. Wondolowski is probably going, even if only as a sub. That leaves one spot between Johansson and Boyd; Boyd has yet to score for the USMNT in 13 appearances, often as a starter, Johansson has only scored once, but most of his appearances were as a sub rather than a starter and 1 in 7 is still better than 0 in 13. Johansson is likely the fifth choice on the depth chart, but he’s still going, if only for the experience.

    • dws110 - May 12, 2014 at 7:17 PM

      I don’t know, Klinsmann isn’t shy about dropping LD based on form. I think Donovan could be a surprise bubble guy right now, and he needs a fantastic camp to prove he’s up for this one. How much extra credit does LD get just for being LD, or is form uber alles?

      I think I’d be shocked but not terribly surprised to see Landon cut. That is a weird thing to say.

      • jimmycrackcorn99 - May 18, 2014 at 7:25 PM

        If you look back at the Gold Cup, Donovan was the only light on the horizon as far as creativity goes. A guy who has 50+ goals and 50+ assists is a no-brainer in my book, and I think that JK wants him to fight for his position.

    • mknow406a - May 13, 2014 at 1:19 AM

      According to USSOCCER, Boyd has played in 12 matches, starting only 1, and averaging ~20 minutes per appearance… not sure how that qualifies as “often as a starter”.

  4. mknow406a - May 12, 2014 at 10:08 PM

    Most seem to be missing full picture when comparing Wondo and Boyd… Wondo starts when neither Jozy or Boyd are called in. Being based in Europe, Boyd ONLY gets called in when Jozy will get the start. Don’t forget it was Boyd to Johansson that won the match in Panama. In fact, the last two US goals both came after Boyd was introduced into the mix. Boyd is the best pure target man replacement for Jozy, (which the style JK wants to play) in the player pool. Yes Wondo has gotten more USMNT goals in the past few months, but he’s also started more matches (when Euro players were not invited).. and against lesser opponents. Is scoring against the South Korean “B” team really all that impressive? Yes he finished Bradley’s lovely set-up against Mexico, but until we see Boyd in a run out with Zusi, Bradley and Dempsey supporting him you can’t really make any firm conclusion. Also, there is NO way Wondo is ahead of Johansson on the depth chart (unless AJ’s injury rules him out).

  5. granadafan - May 13, 2014 at 2:04 PM

    It’s about scoring goals on the international level, not the club. Wondo’s a proven commodity and has earned his spot.

    • mknow406a - May 13, 2014 at 9:18 PM

      I love how nothing ever has to be based on reality… Here’s your “proven commodity” Wondo: 1/29/13 v Canada Start (subbed) – No goals, 7/16/13 v Costa Rica in Gold Cup – Start (subbed) – No goals, 7/21/13 v El Salvador Start (subbed) – No goals, 7/24/13 v Honduras Subbed in – No goals. (Gold Cup final, didn’t even step on the pitch), 11/15/13 v Scotland Subbed in – No goals, 11/19/13 v Austria Subbed in – No goals…. If you eliminate Belize, Guatemala and the South Korean “B” squad, you’re left with 1 goal against a legit opponent in Mexico. He has certain not “proven” to be a “commodity” against anything resembling World Cup quality opposition…

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