Philly Sports Live

Up Hill Struggle: Klinsmann Names Qualifying Roster


United States Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann today named the twenty three man squad that will face Costa Rica in Denver and Mexico at the Azteca in the next two hex matches.  With a series of injuries to high profile players, the list has the look of a roster for a friendly, and will be hard pressed to grab the Americans’ first points of the 2013 Hex in these must-win games.

This round of qualifying is shaping up to be one of the most difficult for the stars and stripes in the modern era.  The US will be without their captain, their starting goalkeeper, their all-time leading scorer, their starting left & right backs and their backup left & right backs.  Four of their players, including their field general are a yellow card away from a suspension and the face of the team has played 45 minutes in the last month.  Welcome to the Hex everybody.

The team will return nine players from the roster that beat Mexico in the Azteca for the first time last August, but it also brings back a defender who only lasted 46 minutes against a Canadian B team.

The roster is as follows:

GOALKEEPERS: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

For the first time in a long time, The United States will not have the safety blanket of the best goal keeper in CONCACAF to rely on.  They may have to settle for the best active one.  Tim Howard’s back injury opens the door for Aston Villa keeper Brad Guzan to see his first national team action in over two years, and he arrives in Denver in the midst of the best run of form in his career.  The only thing keeping Aston Villa from relegation, The Worm took the starting job from Irish National Team starter Shay Given earlier this year and ran with it, starring behind one of the weakest back lines in the EPL.  This situation may make him the right man at the right time for the US, whose own backline is considerably unsettled.  Guzan’s last start in a qualifier was in Honduras in the spring of 2010, winning the game that stamped the Americans’ ticket to South Africa.  Nick Rimando will back up Guzan, with Sean Johnson in the press box.  Both are admirable MLS keepers, and Johnson possibly the future of the position for the Yanks, but if either one sees the field, the Americans will have serious problems.

DEFENDERS : Tony Beltran (Real Salt Lake), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Justin Morrow (San Jose Earthquakes)

Klinsmann’s selection features the youngest and least experienced defensive corps to feature for a national side in a qualifier since 1989.  Geoff Cameron, who played his first game with the national team last January, leads the backline in qualifying caps with six, but his budding centereback partnership with Omar Gonzalez may be put on hold, as the stoke man is expected to shift out to the right fullback slot, where he plies his trade for his club team.  That leaves Matt Bessler (zero caps), Maurice Edu or “Clearance” Clarence Goodson to line up at RCB, and Justin Morrow (zero caps) to play on the left.  A least Brad Evans won’t be playing.

MIDFIELDERS: DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Roma), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Maurice Edu (Bursaspor), Jermaine Jones (Schalke), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Brek Shea (Stoke City), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

The midfield remains largely unchanged form the squad that took the field in the hex-opening loss in Honduras.  Joe Corona, Brek Shea and DeMarcus Beasley return to national team duty, with the latter two providing some width for a US team the has shown an inability to move the ball forward through the middle of the pitch.  Graham Zusi will hope his strong early season form for Sporting Kansas City will carry over to the national team, as he does his best Landon Donovan impression.  Michael Bradley should get the armband.

FORWARDS: Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Clint Dempsey (Tottenham Hotspur), Herculez Gomez (Santos), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders FC)

The US roster actually boasts one of the strongest American strike forces in recent memory.  Jozy Altidore recently set a record for most goals by an American in Europe, and is third in scoring in the Eredivise.  Hercules Gomez could complement him as a liminal striker and taking set pieces.  Eddie Johnson can provide a physical force either up top or out on the wing, and Terrence Boyd has more natural physical skill than any player on the roster.

Notable Omissions: GK Tim Howard (back injury), MF Landon Donovan (vision quest), CB Carlos Bocanegra (tilting at windmills), LB Fabian Johnson (hip injury), RB Steve Cherundolo (Hannover City Council Meeting), LB Edgar Castillo (Non-Hallady-related broken face), D Michael Parkhurst (lack of playing time), MF Jose Francisco Torres (hamstring), D Timothy Chandler (hamstring), MF Daniel Williams (flu), CB John Anthony Brooks (too tall), MF Alejandro Bedoya (recent transfer), MF Mix Diskerud (inexplicable)

Stick with Philly Sports Live for continuing coverage leading up to this weekend’s World Cup Qualifying matches.  Also College Basketball.  People like that.