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USMNT reinforcements surprised by Gold Cup call-ups but ready to contribute


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BALTIMORE — Eddie Johnson wasn’t anticipating the call. Neither was Matt Besler. But when they found themselves on the line with U.S. Men’s National Team coach Jurgen Klinsmann earlier this week, they didn’t hesitate to pack their bags.

Johnson and Besler, key members of the first-choice U.S. team that went 3-0 in World Cup qualifying last month, trained for the first time with the Americans’ Gold Cup squad Friday at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

While they are joining a reserve-heavy U.S. side, they know representing one’s country is a tremendous responsibility no matter the circumstance. When the U.S. takes on El Salvador in the quarterfinals Sunday in front of a sell-out M&T Bank Stadium crowd, it’s not likely to feel much like a second-tier tournament anyway.

“It’s an honor,” Johnson said. “Anytime you can wear the U.S. Men’s National Team jersey, it’s an unbelievable achievement, and it’s something that you don’t take for granted. A lot of people would like to be in our shoes, in our position, so you’re going to make the most of it whenever you get a call-up.”

The duo, along with inexperienced forward Alan Gordon, have been brought in as knockout round reinforcements for the U.S., which allowed defenders Oguchi Onyewu and Corey Ashe and forwards Herculez Gomez and Jack McInerney to depart. (Should the U.S. advance, defender Omar Gonzalez will join for the semifinals.)

Johnson, with 53 caps to his name, is well acclimated to the international stage. Although Besler has made just seven international appearances — all this year — he isn’t worried about the awkward dynamic of joining an established group mid-tournament.

“It’s not that strange,” Besler said. “It might be a little bit of a challenge. These guys have set the tone, certainly, for this tournament. I’ve got to come in and catch up a little bit, but it shouldn’t be an issue.”

The Americans had few troubles in the group stage, cruising to a 3-0 record with 11 goals scored and two allowed. Stiff competition looms, however, with the U.S. and Mexico on a collision course for a fourth-straight Gold Cup final meeting.

Besler, whose anticipation and smooth distribution have earned him a starting place with the national team, figures to partner in central defense with Clarence Goodson or Michael Orozco Fiscal.

The speedy Johnson, meanwhile, likely will be competing with Jose Torres, Brek Shea and Edgar Castillo for a left flank spot. He also is an option to challenge the scorching Chris Wondolowski (six goals in four games) for playing time up top.

“For us, it’s always good to see new faces,” said veteran DaMarcus Beasley, the U.S. captain for the Gold Cup. “Obviously that’s the coach’s decision. He felt that we needed to bring in other people, which is great. It’s going to add a little more power to our team, which is always a plus.”

Even though Johnson said he wasn’t “at all” under the impression he’d be called up, the Seattle Sounders forward still watched every U.S. game in the group stage.

Besler, who knew a recall was possible but hadn’t communicated with Klinsmann until late Tuesday night, also reviewed the tape. And it didn’t take long for the Sporting Kansas City centerback to identify this U.S. team’s biggest obstacle.

“Our challenge is how to break teams down,” Besler said. “The teams have kind of sat back a little bit, so for us, we need to be sharp with the ball, move it quickly, and that’s I think when we found success.”

Despite having just two training sessions together before Sunday’s quarterfinal, Johnson is confident he and his fellow newcomers can integrate seamlessly into the group. Between this year’s qualifiers and the January camp he and Besler both took part in, there’s already plenty of chemistry to draw on.

Plus he’s learned the lesson that, in this profession, one has “to be ready at all times.”

“It’s a lot of familiar faces, a lot of guys that we’ve played together,” Johnson said. “I think we’ve got enough experience, and we’re professionals. At the end of the day, we know what the mentality is of putting on the American jersey and going out there and battling and doing what we’ve got to do to get a result.”


  1. I heard on tv that it will be a sold out stadium but full of Salvador fans. So is Maryland full of Hondurans and salvadorans.

    • I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot of Salvadorean fans at the game, as Maryland, DC and Northern Virginia all have big Salvadorean population within an easy driving distance from the game.

    • Yeah i live in the DC metro area. And there is a sizable Honduran population. But they dont make up half the Latino population in the area. That belongs to Salvedoreans. They have a massive community here in DC.

  2. I think this also says that the Brooks kid better become a USMNT player or our depth maybe limited at CB. Yeah there are a few guys in MLS but in reality none of them are for this cycle except for maybe John, but he is another injury away from irrelevancy. Right now the centerbacks would be Cameron, Gonzo, Bezler, and Fiscal. Cameron is to valuable as a guy off the bench with his versatility, Gonzo is slow and needs to learn international positioning better and Fiscal is an emergency guy off the bench. If john anthony Brooks commits, I think he instantly surplants Gonzalez as the starter/or challenges him to improve his effectiveness.

  3. If those players (minus Gordon) didn’t expect a call they could have asked any idiot on a soccer message board or any blogger.

  4. Johnson led the MLS in goals scored from headers last season. Gordon is another areal threat and Wondo has made a living of finishing crosses. I think we will see players on the wings who can deliver crosses. From the run of play Donavon, Beasley and Corona have done that pretty well. Torres has done OK when he gets enough time and space (mostly free kicks). From the addition of Johnson and Gordon, I think it is reasonable to surmise JK wants to employ more wing play if the central p@ssing lanes get clogged. Johnson and Gordon are also both pretty good at dealing with long balls. All that leads me to think Donavon and Corona will start as wide mids and EJ and Wondo as forwards (but EJ and Donavon might have their positions switched until it becomes obvious ElSalvadore is clogging the middle). But all that is trying to get inside JK’s head, something I’ve failed at before.

  5. Hey, I asked this on another site and didn’t hear anything, and am not sure what would be a better place to ask without know Bosnian, but if anyone knows:

    Sorry for the non sequitur, but does anyone know where to find pricing/availability/tickets for the August friendly in Sarajevo?

    I’ll be kind of nearby and am thinking about going, but my google skills have failed me miserably so far. No ticket link from and I’ve tried lots of combinations of “tickets” and the country/stadium name to no avail. I even made a couple of attempted queries in Bosnian via google translate… those were a disaster.

  6. I think the interesting call in is Alan Gordon. The last time he was called in was for the two matches against Antigua and Guatemala, when the US had its backs against the wall. It was an anticipatory move of the sort of bunkering that we saw against Costa Rica in the last match. I think based upon that result, Klinsman is anticipating more of the same. Could see him late if things get dicey.

    • t is an interesting one, I like it.

      and maybe not so much bunkering as playing that high D line in the middle third and really squeezing the field like that, even pinching from wide weakside in that. all back five for Costa Rica did it very well together, that’s harder to do than they made it look. there are different tactics and strategies to go at that kind of D to expose that space behind them in their D third. Klinnsman had them trying up the flanks and crossing it in there so Gordon fits very well to that like you said, especially late, he believes he’s going to score

      • Have to figure Wondolowski is happy to see Gordon called in. If we’re chasing a goal towards the end of a game, I wouldn’t mind seeing those two up top.

  7. I would doubt the move as far as team chemistry goes but Klinsman has been everything short of turning rocks to gold… I’m just excited to see the next group of players, whoever they are, on the field….. we’ve only allowed 2 goals after 3 games scoring 11 goals…..and we’re still structuring the defense and rearranging the offense, I mean talk about going for blood.





    Bring on Mexico

    • Why not have Donovan on the left and put Corona in on the right? To me it seems like he has finally found his place and he is playing well right now. But that is one damn good B-team.

    • He isn’t bad for concacaf opponents, I just hope Jurgen realized he doesn’t fare well against higher quality teams. All of us that have been watching national team games for 15 years have learned the hard way.

      • To be honest, he hasn’t played that often against the better USMNT opponents. Since you can only score when you play, it is not so much his failure to score, but his failure to impress coaches enough to routinely get the chance to score against better opposition. And, since better opponents are harder to score against, even the best players score in fewer than 20% of those games. He did score against Argentina in the Copa America on a PK that he drew. So never or can’t would be kind of not true.

    • I would definately like to see Castillo start at Lm. If not Bedoya at LM(not RM) would be good. I don’t want to see Shea start. I have consistenly criticized Shea on this blog. However, I was in favor of Shea coming in against Costa Rica as a sub. Shea isn’t the most skilled player but his direct attack can be helpful as a late sub trying to break down a tired defense.

  8. Why on earth did Brek Shea stay? He really needs to get into a good situation with his club. And there are plenty of players still on the roster who can play on the wing.

    • mexico is afraid of him. hopefully he builds on his goal and has a huge knockout phase. his confidence is as important as anything right now, and these games give him a chance to play in meaningful games that could see him start to show his true talent


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