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Clear message from Klinsmann’s roster: 2018 is in focus

May 22, 2014, 6:39 PM EDT

Soccer: Friendly-USA vs Mexico Reuters

John Brooks, Julian Green, and DeAndre Yedlin average just over 20 years of age. They not only have a combined 0 appearances in World Cup qualifiers, they haven’t even been to a Gold Cup. As of this afternoon, however, each U.S. prospect has their ticket punched for Brazil, set to take up three spots on Jurgen Klinsmann’s U.S. Men’s National Team roster.

[MORE: Klinsmann reveals 23-man roster; Landon Donovan is not on the roster]

Go ahead and argue those three among the best the U.S. has to offer, but that’s an impossible case to make. There’s a far more likely story, here. In the face of a tough World Cup group and having inherited a long-term project with the U.S., Klinsmann had one eye on Russia 2018 when he named today’s squad. He’s clearly willing to sacrifice the limited benefit of taking a better, likely little-used, player for the experience his young trio will get through this summer’s tournament.

The strategy’s not new, but it’s certainly profound, considering it involves explaining to three worthy players why, despite having claims to being better at this point in their careers, they won’t be going to Brazil. Those players were likely Clarence Goodson, Brad Evans, and, most controversially, Landon Donovan – players who many have long seen as locks for this summer’s squad.

How do you sit Clarence Goodson down and explain this kid from Hertha Berlin, one who looked so poor against Ukraine in March, was going in his place? How do you tell Brad Evans ‘thanks for all your time, but Timmy Chandler and DeAndre have this’?

How do you explain to Landon Donovan that a 19-year-old somebody who looked physically suspect against Mexico has ended his hopes of a fourth World Cup?

What many didn’t anticipate was Klinsmann’s change of course. In leaving off players like Evans and Eddie Johnson, the U.S. boss has shown a willingness to put qualifying performance in an almost irrelevant context. At least, if you didn’t prove yourself indispensable by the time The Hex closed, you weren’t guaranteed a spot.

[MORE from SOCCERLY: Klinsmann’s son deletes cruel Donovan tweet, deletes account]

We also didn’t foresee his focus on 2018 being to great. Luiz Felipe Scolari famously took a 20-year-old Kaka to Japan/South Korea in 2002, but in attack, that Brazil squad was set to rely on Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, and Rivaldo. With those certainties, the back of Brazil’s roster didn’t matter.

For a U.S. team that looked set to leverage its flexibility, those final spots looked precious, particularly when the choices could be Donovan or Brad Davis, Evans or Chandler, Goodson or relying on Geoff Cameron for depth. Instead of avoiding those hard decisions, Klinsmann embraced them in favor of another goal: 2018.

This is why Sunil Gulati chose the former Germany head coach, and given what he did for the Nationalmannscaft  Klinsmann deference to youth shouldn’t be surprising. Germany’s current success owes a lot to Klinsmann’s willingness to embrace its new talent. The U.S. can only hope that the same plan will produce success during a 2018 tournament, because today’s choices have already brought Russia into focus.

  1. dws110 - May 22, 2014 at 6:43 PM

    Yedlin’s inclusion has got to be at least as big a stunner for most people as LD’s exclusion. Did anyone expect DeAndre on the 23? I never did. Congrats to him.

    • talgrath - May 22, 2014 at 7:08 PM

      I thought it was about 50/50. Yedlin was the best part of the U-21 squad for the U21 World Cup (until he got injured) and he played well in the game against Mexico. Yedlin is an aggressive right wing defender, fast as hell with an amazing tank, so he’s great to have in a game where you need to push numbers forward. I’d see Yedlin as more of a “toolbox” sort of sub, where you need a specific sort of right back to get the job done.

  2. chadmoon1 - May 22, 2014 at 6:55 PM

    If this is the case, Klinnsman should be fired today. There is no reason to toss this tournament into the bin to focus on 2018. So we are in the group of death. So what? It is the group of death because we are in it!!!! There is no way that Julian Green needed to be on the 30 man, much less the 23. He is a player in the German 4th Division, and JK thinks he can be better that LD in this tournament? The next cycle, sure bring on the younger kids. But just to give them experience? Do that in the qualifiers for 2018.

  3. talgrath - May 22, 2014 at 7:16 PM

    I don’t think Klinsmann focus is on 2018 with this roster. Evans was always on shaky ground (he was a last ditch replacement during injury spells in the Hexagonal), Donovan hasn’t looked like himself for the last year and a half or so save for a brief resurgence during the Gold Cup and Clarence Goodson is not as good right now as Deandre Yedlin is right now. Let’s be honest, these players were always “on the fringe”, and if I’m looking at subs I’m usually looking for someone young since that reduces the chances of injury or someone who has a very specific set of skills, a master at one particular aspect of the game, preferably someone that has both aspects to them. This roster reflects the realities of where the USMNT is right now.

    • mknow406a - May 22, 2014 at 11:36 PM

      JK has said ALL along Cameron is a CB. The way Omar is playing right now, it is very possible that the back 4 will be Beasley-Besler-Cameron-Chandler. With Fab Johnson in front of Beasley and Zusi in front of Chandler, there is a LOT of offensive upside there. The outside guys can make foward runs, both mids are solid in tracking back and both CBs can distribute the ball. This is the system JK has preached since day 1. And to all of the talking heads on here that have been going on about Cameron being the best RB because he’s in the EPL. Just because the Bundesliga is not on NBC does not make it a crap league. There are TWO starting Bundesliga RBs on this roster. If the only requirement to being the ‘best’ RB option is playing on a mid-to-low tier EPL team, the drop off to “second best” in the Bundesliga is not that far… (Reality check… Name all the higher teams in the EPL that are rumored to be bringing in Cameron… Zero, that I’ve heard. Why? Because he’s an average EPL RB and nothing more. How much better is an average EPL RB than an average Bundesliga RB?) Also, I said it before, but I will say it again. JK let Chandler self-destruct because Cherundolo was always the starter. It was only AFTER Cherundolo retired that Chandler’s name get brought back into the mix. JK saw Yedlin as a solid alternative to Chandler in 2018, so he was always in. However, is just not ready to be “the” guy in 2014. Hence, Chandler. If Cherundolo is on this roster, Chandler is not.

  4. flwino - May 22, 2014 at 7:28 PM

    I have no problem with bringing the Young Guns – Green, Brooks, and Yedlin – to Brazil whether you’ve given up on the Group of Death and are looking forward to 2018 or not. They’re all plenty talented and have a ton of upside. What bothers me is that Donovan got left off for the equally old Brad Evans and DaMarcus Beasley, neither of whom have the game changing upside that Donovan brings. Similarly, it bothers me that the rather old poacher, Wondo, is going ahead of not only Donovan, but the much more talented and red-hot (not to mention young and prime for 2018) Terrence Boyd. There’s no chance Wondo gets in a game and if he does I guarantee that he will have no impact.

    • talgrath - May 23, 2014 at 1:41 PM

      Evans didn’t make the roster. Both players play in defense for the USMNT while Donovan is marked as a forward, totally different positions.

  5. r8rbhawk - May 22, 2014 at 7:53 PM

    We are screwed anyway, we are yet again in a group of death, FIFA hates us

  6. midtec2005 - May 22, 2014 at 7:54 PM

    He’s bringing a strong squad still. If LD isn’t cut, no one is talking about focusing on 2018. I have no problem with bringing young guys. But I do have a problem with bringing a guy that refuses call-ups, while cutting a legend that bleeds stars and stripes.

    • dws110 - May 22, 2014 at 7:58 PM

      Thumbs up for you

  7. creek0512 - May 22, 2014 at 10:26 PM

    What’s the point of focusing on Russia? Who knows if we’ll even play in that tournament?

  8. heelfans - May 22, 2014 at 10:38 PM

    Typical US rose-colored glasses worn by US soccer fans! We have two legitimate world class players, Bradley and Dempsey. Donovan stepped away from joining that group when he gave up on Europe. His pre-eminence among US players is unquestioned but his ability compete daily with the world’s best will always remain subject to question. His stints in the EPL were too short to prove anything.
    Given the current status of our team, it will take direct intervention of the soccer gods to get us out of this group.(that’s why I love soccer–the gods can intervene). That is with or without LD.
    Why LD is gone? One word — “professionalism”. JK has been stressing the need for US players to assume the mold of world class professionals. Unfortunately, LD fails on two points: one, he, unlike Dempsey, chose to avoid competing against the best, and two, sabbaticals during WC qualifying are frowned upon!!! Let the young hopefuls pay close attention!!

  9. jaythemandee - May 22, 2014 at 11:43 PM

    I can’t wait to see all of the Donovan disciples wearing Julian Green jerseys in ten years and not understanding that Jurgen set the next great period (first great period?) in US soccer in motion tonight. Green chose the US over Germany because he can play NOW. Ask him to wait four years, and watch him terrorize the world in German kits for years. We have a manager with global vision. Sorry friends of AYSO. Your day is, happily, over.

    • heelfans - May 22, 2014 at 11:55 PM

      Jay………. — you have nailed it with the AYSO reference!

    • braxtonrob - May 23, 2014 at 1:12 AM

      LoL, you think GREEN is going to be the goal-scorer for the US in this WC? That’s funny, lol.
      If we don’t play well against Ghana, we will have NO momentum going into the next two matches.

      We may come out of this tournament with 2 goals (or less?!)

      If I’m wrong and things go well, then it will be Aron Johansson jerseys we’ll all be wearing (not young, green Green’s).

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