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By IVES GALARCEP
There are 594 days between now and the 2014 World Cup. That may seem like a long time, but for the players with aspirations of being in Brazil representing the United States, the clock is ticking very fast and those 594 days will be gone before we know it.
Less than two years remain until the World Cup, meaning players hoping to maintain their standing or establish themselves on the national team radar have to take full advantage of the upcoming seasons if they are going to impress Jurgen Klinsmann enough to book a place on the plane.
There are 23 spots up for grabs, and for the next 19 months SBI will offer one take on how the U.S. Men’s National Team roster could look when the World Cup begins in June of 2014. Yes, the U.S. still has to qualify for the World Cup, and that won’t be guaranteed in what should be a very tough Hexagonal group, but you can let this be your place to discuss the state of the national team pool, and which players have rising or falling stock as we get closer to the 2014 World Cup.
The first projected roster will look a lot like the rosters we have seen in recent months for the national team, save for a few new faces. Plenty can change between now and May of 2014, when Klinsmann will select his roster, but this won’t be the place for highly-speculative picks of young players who haven’t really proven themselves on the club level, let alone the national team level.
Young faces will emerge (hopefully) and some older players will begin to fade out of the picture. With that in mind, here is the projected 23-man USMNT roster we see heading to Brazil in 2014.
PROJECTED USMNT WORLD CUP 2014 ROSTER
GOALKEEPERS– Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Sean Johnson
Outlook– Howard is a lock, and safe bet to start in 2014 if he’s healthy. Brad Guzan could play well enough to push Howard, but should solidify the No. 2 spot. Expect one of the young goalkeepers to take the third spot, and Johnson, Bill Hamid and Zac MacMath should all be in that mix.
DEFENDERS– Steve Cherundolo, Fabian Johnson, Geoff Cameron, Omar Gonzalez, Clarence Goodson, Matt Besler, Eric Lichaj, Edgar Castillo
Outlook– Cherundolo could drop off between now and 2014, but at the moment he still looks very strong. Carlos Bocanegra isn’t quite as lucky as he falls short behind some younger options. Michael Parkhurst missed the cut but is playing at a high level right now and shouldn’t be ruled out.
Gonzalez is still working his way back from knee surgery, but he projects as a quality national team option and should make his way into the national team mix in 2013. Besler is a solid left-footed centerback who doesn’t boast the same size and athleticism of some others here, but his poise, ability to read the game and strong left foot make him a good candidate to make the team.
There are some promising teenage prospects in the pipeline, like Will Packwood, Sean Cunningham and John Anthony Brooks, but it’s very presumptuous to think they will improve enough in the next year and a half to make this team. Some players who could work their way into the mix at fullback include Chance Myers and Steven Beitashour.
One obvious wild card is Timmy Chandler, who would be a lock to make the team if he were clearly committed to the USMNT. He won’t be projected here until he does make his way back into the fold.
MIDFIELDERS– Michael Bradley, Danny Williams, Landon Donovan, Graham Zusi, Josh Gatt, Brek Shea, Maurice Edu.
Outlook– I’m not buying Donovan’s talk of potentially retiring just yet. If he’s still playing he will be on that roster. And if not? Joe Corona is a player on a good track of growth. Brek Shea hasn’t had the best run of form lately, but he has plenty of time to put it all together. Sacha Kljestan and Mikkel Diskerud should also be options, as is Chris Pontius.
Gatt is the youngest player on this roster, and his speed on the right flank makes him a very intriguing prospect. Jermaine Jones misses the cut because he’ll be close to 33 when Brazil rolls around. Could he still be playing at a high level by then and make the team? It’s entirely possible, but we’ll give the edge to the younger and more versatile Edu, who also gives the team cover at centerback.
One player who hasn’t played lately, but who will have time to play himself on the squad is Stuart Holden. We won’t project him onto the 23 just yet, but if he can return to his pre-injury form, when he was one of the more impressive central midfielders in the English Premier League, you can rest assured he will earn a place in the squad.
FORWARDS– Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Eddie Johnson, Herculez Gomez, Terrence Boyd
Outlook– Klinsmann will need five forwards if he plans on sticking with the 4-3-3 and this group gives him a variety of options. Jozy Altidore may be in the doghouse now but he’s too good not to work his way back into the mix.
Gomez has worked hard to become a starter, but he will be 32 when the next World Cup kicks off. If he loses form and slows down then you could see Klinsmann going with another midfielder. It would certainly improve Boyd’s chances to make the team.
Young forwards like Juan Agudelo, Teal Bunbury and C.J. Sapong have time to play their way onto the radar.
This is just one person’s take, and opinions on players, and rankings, and the overall roster will change from month to month. You can feel free to agree or disagree. Let the 23 for 2014 be a starting-off point for a discussion on the state of the pool.
What do you think of this group? Which player are you happy to see make our projected 23-man roster? Who didn’t make that you think should be on the squad?
Share your thoughts below.