By Patrick MacDonald
It’s show time.
Qualifying for the 2014 World Cup starts in exactly one month. It’s time to see if U.S. Soccer’s investment in Jurgen Klinsmann will be well worth it. Some time this week, Klinsmann is supposed to name his squad for the friendlies preceding qualifying as well as the two qualifiers against Antigua and Barbuda and Guatemala. Here are some thoughts on how Klinsmann might choose.
Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Ryan Meara
Tim Howard is a no brainer. Nothing more to be said about him. Brad Guzan hasn’t exactly been playing regularly with his club or country, but he’s been the most consistent of Howards replacements when called upon. If anyone were to replace him, it’d likely be Real Salt Lake keeper Nick Rimando. The third slot I see being used on a young keeper and while those have been Sean Johnson and Bill Hamid, their poor form in Olympic qualifying and with club may put them on the shelf.
That leaves Ryan Meara who is playing lights out for the Red Bulls and may get a call up due to the fact Ireland is trying to whisk him away at the moment and it maybe prudent of the U.S. to keep him home.
Steve Cherundolo, Clarence Goodson, Carlos Bocanegra, Fabian Johnson, Timmy Chandler, Eric Lichaj, Oguchi Onyewu, Tim Ream
Tim Ream is the only player on this list who may not make the squad, in favor of Michael Parkhurst. However, Ream is playing very well for Bolton and has earned another shot. The other seven should definitely make the squad, though with Cherundolo and Bocanegra locked in as starters, it’ll be interesting to see who Klinsmann starts between Onyewu/Goodson and Johnson/Chandler. It also wouldn’t be surprising to see Lichaj or perhaps Chandler get time at right back with questions of how effective a 35 year old Steve Cherundolo will be in 2014.
Maurice Edu, Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Jose Francisco Torres, Kyle Beckerman, Brek Shea, Landon Donovan, DeMarcus Beasley
There hasn’t been a lot of change here since Klinsmann took over. Torres was on the radar when Klinsmann arrived and likely will be again. Now that he’s healed, he gives the coach an added offensive dynamic. Edu, Shea, Bradley, and Beckerman have been mainstays in Klinsmann’s lineups. Jones took charge of the squad in the January friendlies and has earned a spot. Donovan’s a no brainer. Beasley may surprise some people, but he’s been in good form ever since moving from Europe to Mexico. Sacha Kljestan is someone who could get a call, but he’s never seemed to be a Klinsmann favorite and hasn’t exactly impressed for the national team. I wouldn’t be entirely shocked to see a surprise Freddy Adu call up.
Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, Chris Wondolowski, Herculez Gomez
Altidore has been the #1 striker for some time and his season in the Netherlands means that won’t change. Dempsey has played all over the park for the U.S. but has been more of a withdrawn striker/playmaker under Klinsmann. Considering he set records for a U.S. player for goals scored overseas in a season and all time goals by an American in the EPL, he’ll surely be on the field, with the offense flowing through him.
Chris Wondolowski hasn’t exactly shined on the international level, but his 11 goals in 10 games that put him on pace to blow away his previous best of 18, cannot be ignored. Herculez Gomez has been derailed a bit as of late due to injury, but he was on a tear for Santos Laguna scoring 11 goals in 16 appearances across all competitions. He hasn’t been in a Klinsmann camp yet, but he has proven his mettle for the Stars and Stripes. Edson Buddle has been in a funk lately, Juan Agudelo has only just returned from injury, and Kenny Cooper just doesn’t seem to be there quite yet to get a call-up.