Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By DAN KARELL
The initial shock from the announcement of the U.S. Men’s National Team roster for the team’s upcoming qualifiers lay with the inexperience and overall lack of natural defenders on the roster.
Three of the six listed defenders on the U.S. squad have just one cap to their names, as coach Jurgen Klinsmann had to scramble after losing eight players from his last group to injury, many of them defenders.
The makeshift group of defenders called in by Klinsmann has U.S. fans across the country nervous, but Klinsmann tried to allay those fears on Monday ahead of what he calls a “must-win” game on Friday night in Denver against Costa Rica.
“The good thing about [the injury situation] is that whenever somebody can come in, that’s a huge opportunity for that player that is coming in to prove a point,” Klinsmann said during a conference call from Denver on Monday afternoon. “We had a chance to look at quite a lot of players (at the January national team camp), and that’s why Tony Beltran and Justin Morrow are in the picture.”
Beltran, Morrow, and Sporting Kansas City centerback Matt Besler are all in the squad, despite their only international experience coming from the 0-0 draw with Canada at the end of January. However, despite the inexperience in defense, Klinsmann doesn’t seem to think it’s as big a problem as others make it out to be.
“You’ll only get experience if you play,” Klinsmann said. “If you don’t have the experience yet, like Carlos Bocanegra (110 caps), then you have to get games under your belt.”
While experience may be lacking in the defensive third of the field, it’s certainly not lacking in the midfield, with Puebla midfielder DaMarcus Beasley earning a place in the squad for the first time since last August, when he helped the United States defeat Mexico at Azteca Stadium for the first time.
“Beasley is just a wonderful player,” Klinsmann said. “He can show you different things in different positions on the field, and we are happy to have him back in the group.”
In addition, Klinsmann spoke repeatedly about the need for players to be in a rhythm, mentioning Beasley and Bursaspor midfielder Maurice Edu as players who finally have it again. On the flip side, the U.S. boss said the reason for cutting Bocanegra was precisely because he hasn’t played enough since his move to Racing Santander in Spain.
“The reason he’s not here is because he’s simply not playing,” Klinsmann said about the U.S. captain. “He has no flow, no rhythm.”
The other obvious non-injury related exclusion to the roster is Landon Donovan, who has still not reported to the Los Angeles Galaxy for training. Though Klinsmann is willing to give Donovan a chance, it was easy to hear the irritation in his voice at the ongoing situation with the 31-year old.
“We spoke at length at the end of January, and he expressed his desire to stay away from the game for a little while,” Klinsmann said. “At the end of the day, I will make decisions for this team based on what I think is best for this team going forward.”
Klinsmann also touched on the status of midfielders Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey, both of whom have recently spent time on the sidelines. The U.S. boss said it was only a matter of time before Bradley worked his way back into the lineup, and that Dempsey would have started against Inter Milan for his club side Tottenham, but the birth of his third child kept the 29-year old in England.
With the current squad at hand, Klinsmann can now work with his team in advance of their match against Costa Rica, who hasn’t lost to the U.S. since a 2005 World Cup qualifier.
“In every game we respect the opponents, and we know they won’t be easy to beat”, Klinsmann said. “We’ve seen certain CONCACAF nations improve over the last couple of years, including Costa Rica, who has had very positive results over the last couple of years.
“But it’s a must win, and we are confident of achieving that on Friday night.”
Following the match against Costa Rica, the U.S. will head for Mexico City on Sunday, ahead of their important game against Mexico in Estadio Azteca on March 26th.