By IVES GALARCEP
Landon Donovan is back, Jack McInerney has arrived and Carlos Bocanegra may never come back.
Those are just some of the things that stood out from Thursday’s U.S. Men’s National Team Gold Cup roster announcement.
There weren’t expected to be many surprised in the group, but there were a few that could selections and omissions that could qualify as such. The exclusion of Bocanegra caught many by surprise, but Jurgen Klinsmann’s explanation that Bocanegra is in the process of deciding his next career move as the reason for his absence seemed to satisfy the curiosity of his absence (even if it didn’t quite questions about whether we might have seen the last of Bocanegra with the national team).
In terms of new blood, McInerney’s inclusion was probably the most exciting development for USMNT fans wanting to see some new faces. McInerney is tied for the MLS lead in goals, and by the time the U.S. roster was selected, it didn’t seem like much of a surprise that he was included.
One player who seemed like a little bit of a surprise, if only because of his heavy involvement in the May-June matches was DaMarcus Beasley, who is on the team despite the presence of other left back options like Edgar Castillo and Corey Ashe.
Here is a closer look at the USMNT Gold Cup roster selections (and omissions):
GOALKEEPERS: Bill Hamid, Sean Johnson, Nick Rimando.
No surprises among the three players selected, though some will continue to ask why a veteran like Hall is passed over for a younger player like Hamid. It’s pretty simple. Hamid has more upside, and better tools and a brighter national team future, and when you have Tim Howard and Brad Guzan looking like the top two for the next few years, grooming the next generation makes more sense.
So who starts? Nick Rimando is the veteran who has been the go-to starter when healthy. Sean Johnson and Bill Hamid will be able to challenge him for minutes, but it’s tough to see Rimando not getting the nod as the No. 1 in this group.
Onyewu hasn’t played much on the club level in recent years, making this Gold Cup a golden opportunity for the veteran centerback to push his way back up the USMNT depth chart. He should be able to start alongside Goodson. Orozco serves as the third centerback in this group, while Parkhurst can also provide cover there.
The fullback spots should belong to Beasley and Parkhurst, but you have to wonder if Klinsmann won’t see this tournament as his chance to take a long look at Edgar Castillo in a starting role. It could come down to Parkhurst having to beat out Beasley for the right back spot (no, Beasley hasn’t played right back for the USMNT before, but Klinsmann has mentioned it as an option before).
Ashe and Beltran may not get a chance to play, but how they perform in camp and in training could determine if they receive looks in the future (like in January).
So who missed out that should have, or could have earned a look? Bocanegra is the obvious answer, but Klinsmann insisted his exclusion was down to him moving clubs. George John
MIDFIELDERS: Kyle Beckerman, Joe Corona, Stuart Holden, Alejandro Bedoya, Mikkel Diskerud, Josh Gatt, Jose Torres.
Beckerman will serve as the anchor in defensive midfield, and while he may be the only pure d-mid in the group, Holden and Torres can also play in a deeper role. You don’t need a pure ball-winner in the deep-lying midfield role, particularly against some of the weaker competition, and the reality is both Torres and Holden are capable of playing deeper if needed. Torres pretty much plays all his club soccer in a deep-lying role, not the attacking midfield role some seem to think is his usual position (it’s not).
On the wings, Bedoya has been lighting up the Swedish league, and you have to think that, on form, he should be able to find a starting role. Joe Corona seems destined to start as well.
As for Diskerud and Gatt? They are two young players who will have a chance to impress Klinsmann, but they could find the going tough to earn starting roles. That said, The reality is that all seven midfielders should see playing time in the group stage.
FORWARDS: Will Bruin, Herculez Gomez, Landon Donovan, Chris Wondolowski, Jack McInerney.
Donovan and Gomez have a history together, having been teammates on the 2005 MLS Cup-winning Los Angeles Galaxy side, and their matches together on the U.S. team last summer. Seeing the two partnered up in a 4-4-2, or with Donovan behind him in a 4-2-3-1, is very likely.
Jack McInerney has been tearing up MLS, and captured the imagination of USMNT fans hoping to find the next young star, but securing a starting role won’t be easy. He can definitely do it, particularly if Klinsmann decides to deploy Donovan on the flank in a 4-4-2, but there is a good chance we will see a 4-3-3, which would limit McInerney’s opportunities unless he could show a real willingness to work defensively from a wide forward spot. Don’t rule McInerney out as a wide forward though. I can remember seeing him deployed there with the U.S. Under-23s and seeing him look pretty comfortable there.
Where Will Bruin could struggle is if Klinsmann does decide to stick to a 4-3-3. Bruin isn’t really suited to be a wide forward, and his style isn’t that of a traditional target man. When Caleb Porter brought him in to the U-23s in December of 2011, he used Bruin out wide. He could make some things happen there, but asking him to cover that much ground in a 4-3-3 is probably not the best idea. Bruin’s hope will likely be that Klinsmann uses some 4-4-2 in this tournament, which is entirely possible given the lack of true target forward options on the roster. Fact is there isn’t a pure target in the pool, with Chris Wondolowski probably the player Klinsmann most rates as a target forward (Klinsmann has used him there before).
Gomez can play as a false nine, which seems like a safe bet for the first-choice starting lineup if Klinsmann sticks with a 4-3-3.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
In this lineup, we’d give the nod to Bedoya over McInerney at right forward due to his superior service and ability to cover the wing (though McInerney can play as a wide forward even if he doesn’t have a ton of experience there). Josh Gatt is another option on the right wing, having played right forward in a 4-3-3 against Russia last year.
And if Klinsmann decided to use a 4-4-2? He could go with this lineup:
And what about that young lineup you’d love to see, perhaps against Costa Rica after the group is already clinched? How about this lineup:
What do you think of the squad? Which projected lineup do you like the most? Think this U.S. team can win the Gold Cup?
Share your thoughts below.