By IVES GALARCEP
Amid all the talk about who won’t be going to the upcoming U.S. Men’s National Team training camp, something getting lost a bit is the fact that the squad preparing for June’s qualifiers is very much a stacked squad by U.S. standards.
Injury issues with Steve Cherundolo and Timmy Chandler (and Landon Donovan’s absence) will keep Jurgen Klinsmann from having a full-strength team, but he will bring in a group that includes the nucleus of the squad that recorded four points from two World Cup qualifiers in March along with the return to health of Jermaine Jones and Fabian Johnson.
There are certainly still some concerns about the attacking quality in midfield, and whether there is enough of it, but Klinsmann sounds confident he can construct an effective midfield with the options on the roster.
Here are some more thoughts on the roster, and some more comments from Klinsmann on his decisions:
What is my take on the Landon Donovan omission? As even he states, it was his decision to miss the qualifiers earlier this year. It wasn’t an injury, but his own decision to take a break. The team had to go on without him and other players stepped in and carried the slack. Now that he is ready to return Klinsmann has to consider the team chemistry dynamic, and the very real possibility that Donovan’s absence didn’t go over well with the team.
Donovan has to earn his way back, and even he acknowledges that.
So what will the U.S. team do for wing options when Donovan, so clearly a good flank option, isn’t called up? Graham Zusi is clearly a player who should take on a starting role in the coming weeks, but Klinsmann also mentioned Joe Corona as a right wing threat as well. Corona has been gaining invaluable experience with Club Tijuana in Copa Libertadores and is poised to have a very big summer.
So why six goalkeepers? Klinsmann plans on rotating the MLS goalkeepers throughout the match, and will let the ones who aren’t being used go back to their club teams to play in MLS matches. Here is the rotating schedule: Johnson (May 26-30), Hamid (May 30-June 2), Hall (June 2-June 8), Rimando (June 9-19)
For those not noticing a trend in the goalkeepers taken. Not only are these keepers Klinsmann has called in before, they all fit in conveniently with the schedule the team is on in those weeks. Johnson will train in Cleveland, Hamid in Washington, Hall will travel to Jamaica and Rimando will stay with the team for the qualifiers in Seattle and Salt Lake City. Based on the schedule, only Hamid is scheduled to miss a match.
If you are wondering about some players who missed the cut, and who seem like good bets for the roster, Klinsmann mentioned several candidates by name as good options for July’s CONCACAF Gold Cup squad:
“There are definitely some 50-50 cases for players that we moved toward the Gold Cup where we want to have a very strong roster as well, and we are very excited about that tournament. A player like Kyle Beckerman could be in this camp, but having him in the Gold Cup is a tremendous value. We have players like Josh Gatt, Mix Diskerud, and Alejandro Bedoya, guys that are doing really well who could be ready for the upcoming camp, but will also be in a full rhythm for the Gold Cup, so in that moment we shift them over to that roster.
“Another player we have a very close eye on is Aron Johannsson, who’s playing now with Jozy Altidore at Alkmaar and is coming off an injury. He has dual citizenship with Iceland and the United States, and we want to have him with us in the near future.
“There are a lot of players out there on our radar screen. We want to watch the Under-20s play in Turkey for the FIFA U-20 World Cup. We have some players there on the list that we want to introduce to the senior National Team program one step at a time, so we work on all fronts.”
So why Stuart Holden and not Donovan? This isn’t an either/or situation. Holden is a player Klinsmann sees as a strong long-term option for the team, and Holden is coming off a year-and-a-half injury layoff. He only recently returned a few months ago. The last thing he needs is rest right now, and Klinsmann knows that so he sees an opportunity to help Holden continue his recovery. His call-up is basically an investment. He is not costing anybody a roster spot. There are 26 players in camp at any one time, and only 23 dress for matches, so there is room for a player like Holden.
Brek Shea’s situation is somewhat similar, though he’s also a player who has been with the team for recent matches. He didn’t get many minutes at Stoke City, but he is as close to fully fit and recovered from foot surgery as he has been since his transfer and the next three weeks will give him a chance to show just how far he has come.
The absences of Cherundolo and Chandler opened the door for Michael Parkhurst, who seemed destined to miss out after falling out of favor at German side Augsburg. He has experience in important U.S. matches and will serve as Geoff Cameron’s back-up at right back, though Klinsmann could go with the option of playing Fabian Johnson at right back and DaMarcus Beasley at left back.
Carlos Bocanegra was getting minutes for Racing Santander, but still couldn’t break back in to the squad. Klinsmann clearly prefers Clarence Goodson as his veteran centerback to go with the tandem of the future, Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler. With Geoff Cameron providing cover, Klinsmann can keep Bocanegra on the sidelines and based on what Klinsmann said about European-based players not factoring into the Gold Cup if they aren’t in the May-June squad, Bocanegra seems unlikely to be in the Gold Cup either. His days might be numbered, though a move to MLS could make him a viable Gold Cup option.
Remember last summer’s fiasco with Jozy Altidore being held back by club team AZ Alkmaar, which forced him to miss the USMNT training camp in May, a move that wound up costing him his fitness and starting place on the team? That scenario doesn’t look like it will play out again. Altidore is set to report to USMNT camp on May 26th
What is a reasonable selection for a first-choice lineup for qualifying? Here is one projection:
What do you think of the projected first-choice lineup? Excited to hear Klinsmann has his eye on some U.S. Under-20 players and Aron Johannsson? Not a fan of the goalkeeper rotation? Think this U.S. team can rack up 6 or more points in June’s qualifiers?
Share your thoughts below.