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USMNT Notes: Zusi taking leadership role, date for Honduras roster set, and more

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HOUSTON – In a year Graham Zusi has gone from a player looking to break his way into head coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s plans, to one that is seeing that the next level is well within his grasp.

Zusi entered the 2012 January camp looking to work his way onto the US roster. A year and three World Cup qualifying starts later, he finds himself as an experienced player fresh off a week-long stint with West Ham United.

“Overall, it was a good experience and it was fun to play with that quality of team at that level,” Zusi told reporters Sunday. “Another thing I learned was the jump from here to there isn’t really as high as many people think it is which was reassuring for myself and everyone.”

Zusi, who re-iterated that he has not heard from West Ham, can look back at a year with six caps, and three starts in World Cup qualifying, as help to get to that point. The Sporting midfielder was big for Klinsmann replacing the absent Landon Donovan and now he has taken up the mantle of group leader, which may be odd considering where he was this time last year.

“He broke into the team and played a very important element and you can see he can already pass on that knowledge to the next group coming through,” Klinsmann told reporters Sunday. “You see that experienced players like Graham … they are ready to talk to the younger guys and tell them it is what it is and if you want to get to the next level you’ve got to put a lot of work in.

“Graham’s stepped it up personality wise and became very consistent in his performances and therefore deserves to be where he is.”


Klinsmann reiterated to reporters that there are several spots up for grabs on the roster that will take on Honduras February 6th in the first World Cup qualifier. Klinsmann said that the players from this roster that are held over will convene in Miami Saturday before the European based players are expected to arrive on Sunday. The U.S. boss expects his full roster to be together no later than Monday.


If you are in the Houston area and want a glimpse of the squad the U.S. will hold an open training Monday at 5:00 P.M. CT at BBVA Compass Stadium.


  1. Anyone else think Zusi would of had a better trial had it been after this camp? Maybe West Ham will see how he does in the Canada game before they offer anything.

    • I really hope so. Zusi is at the point in his career where a move like West Ham would be perfect. Just the confidence he’d gain from playing at that level and seeing how he measures up would do wonders for him IMO.

  2. Qualifier Line-Up


      • The roster has not exactly lent itself to people playing in their ideal positions. The team has few options to put out left, what with Shea hurt and Donovan indisposed. Zusi seems to have an adequate left foot, so it wouldn’t hurt to put him out wide to add some width.

        As for Gonzalez, there may not be time for him to “earn” a spot. Bocanegra has just started playing again for Racing, and his form had been slipping even before that. I’d rather gamble on Gonzalez before throwing an out-of-form Bocanegra onto the field.

      • if you really want to play with that XI, it’d make much more sense to me to line them up like this…


        Chandler has played (well) for the USMNT at LB, Zusi has played for the USMNT wide right, and Fabian has been at his best for the USMNT bombing down the LW. This isn’t the lineup I’d choose but it at least has guys in positions we’ve seen them in for the USMNT before.

      • That makes sense as well, but I prefer Zusi’s left foot to Chandler’s. Plus, Chandler’s crossing could be a real asset at RM. If we’re toying with the idea of moving a fullback upfield, maybe Castillo could be used as a LM/LW. I would just hate to see another 3 CM charlie foxtrot like we saw in the loss to Jamaica, and with many of our traditional wingers down for the count, I think using our fullback depth for width might be helpful.

      • ————————-Altidore-————————

        Then for Costa Rica probably Gonzo in for Boca & Chandler in for ‘Dolo (cap tied). Don’t like the idea of those 2 both getting their 1st taste of being on the road in CONCACAF in the first WCQ in Honduras. The Costa Rica lineup is my first XI right now without Donovan tho, just prefer Boca&Dolo’s experience for Honduras. Just my $.02

      • That’s a reasonable lineup, but I just fear a repeat of the Russia game where we couldn’t hold onto the ball. Plus, Williams’ recent form has been abysmal. I can agree with putting Bocanegra in and leaving Chandler/Gonzalez out, but I really think the above lineup (which I cede is probably pretty close to what we see in San Pedro Sula) is going to really struggle with possession and be very, very narrow.

      • I’d say your analysis isn’t far off, but I look at it much more positively. The goal is to play narrowly driving thru the middle, hopefully allowing the energy of Bradley,Jones,&Williams to give us a good share of the ball. It also relies immensely on Fabian Johnson and Dolo getting forward to provide width. (As I write this, Dolo has been ruled out, so it looks like we’re gonna see Chandler in at RB). Dempsey and Zusi both provide wide qualities, but both also tend to tuck inside. I have faith in Jones and especially Bradley to control the game in the center of the park and provide a push from the middle to start attacks. Of course this all changes if Honduras’ pitch looks like Antigua&Barbuda’s, but I don’t think it will.

    • DO NOT put Altidore up top as a lone striker. He has not learned to play that position/formation yet. AZ has him paired with another one .or even two. strikers or a withdrawn forward and only put Altidore alone at top when they have a big lead.

      • well, to your point, in this formation he’d have Dempsey playing off him as basically a withdrawn striker, similar to where he has been playing with Tottenham this season.

  3. Particularly with Donovan on leave, I’d love to roll out Chandler at right wing and Dolo at right back and see how that plays out:


    Alternatively, you can put Dempsey at AM and play Gomez up top, or replace Williams for Zusi for something more defensive.

    • Honduras, if not a must-win game, is pretty darn close, Justin. Not a time to be experimenting by putting Chandler in the right wing position. He does not have the ball-handling skills for that role, i.e. 90 minutes as an attacking midfielder. I am worried enough how he will perform at right back for his first CONCACAF WCQ.

      • It’s the first game of qualification, hardly a must win game. If we win, great. If we tie, that’s fine. If we lose, we have 9 more games to make up for it. That will hardly be the time to panic.

        While all of these games are very important, we have lots of young players knocking on the door of the first 11. A bit of experimentation could benefit us in the long term to see who will be ready to play by next summer. I’m very curious to see how Klinsy will blend the youth and experience during qualification. Exciting times

      • I guess I’ll play this game too because its fun. A spot or 2 could change depending on how we play tomorrow and injuries, but this is my projected lineup assuming a clean bill of health.


        Not necessarily what I’d go with but I could see Jurgen going for that. He seems to really want the Jones/Bradley/Williams trio in midfield to work and he really values Gomez’s work rate. Zusi puts in a good shift and helps us keep some possession while Johnson can overlap. We will almost certainly see Chandler come in at some point. Time to tie him down officially.

      • somehow forgot dempsey…. If we go more attacking, he can go in for Williams and play underneath Jozy. If we take a more cautious approach he could go in for either Gomez or Zusi.

      • the problem isn’t so much only not getting a result from game 1, it’s just that game 2 and 3 are going to be just as tough or tougher. So come out of game 1 w/ 0 pts, we could easily be 3 games in and on 0 or 1 point. That is why the 1st game is “almost a must win”

      • I get that we have some tough away qualifiers early in the schedule, but the fact of the matter is we play 10 games all worth the same amount of points in the table. A loss here isn’t the end of the world by a long stretch. We have 9 matches after this and I hate this more than any other cliche but….. we really do have to take it one game at a time for now.

      • agreed. My only counterpoint would be that, altho all 10 games are worth 3 pts, there is always the narrative that will be thrown at these guys thru the media and fanbase. If we get off to a bad start, all it does it create a narrative of panic and puts more pressure on everyone in a negative way. Avoiding that negativity is certainly something that, even tho it’s not worth points in the standings, is quite valuable in other ways.

  4. I see the hold overs being
    GK – Johnson
    D- Gonzalez, Besler, Morrow
    M- Zusi, Diskerud, Gatt
    F- E. Johnson, Bruin

    Full Roster:
    GK- Howard, Guzan, Johnson
    D- Parkhurst, Morrow, Gonzalez, Besler, Cameron, Bocanegra, Chandler, Castillo
    M- Bradley, Jones, Williams, Corona, Kljestan, Zusi, Diskerud, Gatt
    F- Altidore, Dempsey, E. Johnson, Gomez, Bruin

    • don’t see morrow making the cut and i don’t see klinsi taking 8 defenders…..corona or klejstan will be left out, probably corona and edu will be on this roster now that he’s getting games with bursaspor. Bruin is still too raw and is just getting acclimated to the US senior set up so he’s not making it either!

  5. I was a skeptic of Zusi’s when he first came into the team. I just didn’t believe he was good enough and have been proven wrong. I think he will turn out to be in the same role as Benny Feilhaber last cycle. Mostly coming off the bench with good skill and great energy to change the game if we need it. He will probably start until (if) Donovan returns though.

    • Why is everyone so eager for these guys to jump ship? There’s no guarantee of playing time if they leave and in the long term can hurt, rather than help, their development.

      • If a player is going to reach their maximum potential he should test himself against the best competition. MLS is a nice league, but its still not on the level with top European leagues. Zusi seems to have the ability and confidence to make the jump. Now he just needs the opportunity.

        Making the move overseas shows a great amount of ambition from a player (we should admire that). There is plenty of uncertainty, but if a player has confidence in his ability, and works hard, he should take shot while he has it.

      • that’s too broad a stroke Ronaldinho. Playing in Europe is not necessarily the best move for players, and not necessarily the best move for players to develop to reach maximum potential. For many, yes, but not for all.

      • Yes, its a bit broad, but the point remains. If he wants to see what kind of player he can truly be, he needs to test himself against the best competition possible. If that doesn’t work out he come back and be a good MLS guy.

        I think I’m just a fan of players pushing themselves. Seeing confidence and ambition to play at the highest level possible says a lot about a player.

    • I have a feeling that if he keeps his previous form, he will be picked up by a European Club in the summer. Omar Gonzalez is another player who has what it takes to succeed in Europe.

      • Hey, ManUMan. With all due respect, as a USMNT fan I am hoping that Zusi goes to Europe during the January transfer window—THIS YEAR! 🙂

        And still three more days for my hope to come true.

      • USMNT and Dynamo Fan = Love to see him jet off for a medical after the game. (But not before please i’ll be there)

  6. Here the list of players that I think will be hold overs for the Honduras squad.

    GK: Hall
    Defense: Gonzo, Besler
    CM’s: Diskerud
    Am’s/Wingers: Gatt, Zusi, Davis
    FWDS: Johnson

    Full squad:
    GK: Howard, Guzan, Hall
    Defense: Dolo, Chandler, Castillo, Fabian, Gonzo, Besler, Cam, Boca
    Cm’s: Kljestan, Williams, Bradley, Jones
    Am’s: Zusi, Gatt, Davis, Diskerud
    FWDS: Deuce, Altidore, Gomez, EJ

    Klinsmann has been pretty consistent with calling up 23 players.

    • Dolo and Fabian are big question marks with injuries which means Parkhurst will get called in. I wouldn’t be surprised to see 1 more experienced winger called in like Beasley. I could also see Davis left off and another youngster like Bruin getting the nod.

      Will be interesting to see…

      • I think you’re right about Dolo and Fabian. With both out last week, it’s a big IF. Luckily with Parkhurst and Castillo, we do have depth. I’ll count Chandler when I see him on the field. Hopefully we aren’t desperate enough to toss Boca back in the LB spot…

        I doubt we’ll see Beasley because even when he was on fire last season, we rarely saw him for the USMNT. I’d think we add another CM/DM midfielder. Hate to say it, but maybe a Beckerman? He’s a Klinsi lovechild and he’s disciplined, so coming into the game in the 80th minute looking to hold a lead or tie, he’s not bad off the bench. Plus, Jones-Bradley-Williams will probably be the starting three, so we need another defensive-minded player in the mix. Too bad Dax didn’t make the camp. His energy would have been nice in the final 10 minutes.

        But I do agree, Davis won’t get a spot. The ship has passed and he’s just there to honor his MLS success.

      • Let him rest until he grovels on his knees asking to be back on the team. He has left Klinsi and the team hanging for far too long to get a free ride back into the fold.

      • Donovan should, and will walk, back into the team when he returns. He is the best player ever in a US shirt and is getting some well deserved rest. The guy has gone non-stop for club and country over the last few years. Make him grovel? get serious

      • Sorry, Josh, but your remark is really a bit silly for the reasons stated by Ronaldinho. And if Zusi can really cover the wing, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Klinsmann play Donovan at forward. The Galaxy really soared this last season after Donovan was moved from the wing to forward along side Keane.

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