Klinsmann: Dempsey, Bradley, Altidore, Jones, Howard form “spine” of U.S. Men’s National Team

IMAGE, MLSSOCCER.COM

As expected, a European-heavy U.S. Men’s National Team roster is set to take on Ukraine for their March 5th encounter. Of the 24 roster spots filled, only two were awarded to Major League Soccer players — Seattle’s Clint Dempsey and Toronto’s Michael Bradley.

Why these two players? Despite standing mere days from MLS competition, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann says the U.S. veterans are too vital a component to leave off of the team with precious few matches left to prepare for the World Cup.

“The core group of the team is Tim Howard and then Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones in midfield, Clint Dempsey in front of them and then Jozy Altidore up front,” Klinsmann explains. “These five players build our spine.”

If you want to measure the gravity of Klinsmann’s words, just look towards Jermaine Jones. The German-American has not played a single match with Beşiktaş since injuring his hamstring prior to a transfer from Schalke 04. Nevertheless, he does represent a major component in Klinsmann’s midfield and has earned a call to the match based on the team’s needs — not his form.

Labeling their coming friendly “a huge game,” Klinsmann is looking to not only eyeball fringe European players for the coming World Cup, but also expects a competitive performance out of his side in one of the few remaining games before they travel to Brazil. In order to keep competitive, Jones, along with Bradley and Dempsey, have to be a part of his plans moving forward. “I often mention our team is defined in its spine,” Klinsmann says.

“Having Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey in for Ukraine is very important to us. Clint has played these two months at Fulham and Michael is coming off preseason camp with Toronto, so for us, it’s very important to see both back in the team and putting their stamp on the game.”

Despite falling out of World Cup contention, the U.S. boss is not looking past Ukraine, and holds hopes that his players don’t either.

“I expect a very difficult game,” Klinsmann says. “If you look at [Ukraine], it’s a very high-quality team that they have. Obviously, they are highly disappointed in not going to Brazil, so when they get the opportunity to play against teams that are going to Brazil, they want to beat them, so they want to beat us badly.

“We need to be prepared for that and to prove again away from home that we can play with the good teams of the world.

“It’s going to be a great benchmark for us and a difficult game,” he says, “but those are the environments that we need to go to in order to mature and improve.”