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Klinsmann counting on USMNT veterans to provide competition as important matches loom large

Jurgen Klinsmann Matt Besler USMNT 7

photo by Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports


Crunch Time is quickly approaching for the U.S. Men’s National Team, and everything is about results and performance right now.

U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann unveiled a veteran-laden squad on Sunday for upcoming friendlies with Peru and Brazil. Several returning faces were included on the 23-man roster, including Tim Howard and Jermaine Jones, and Klinsmann’s main intention for bringing those players back is to have them compete for starting spots with the current group of incumbents.

Competition within the squad is always something Klinsmann is keen on having, but with next month’s 2017 Confederations Cup playoff vs. Mexico looming and World Cup qualifying beginning in November, having players battle it out is paramount.

“In the last year we gave the younger generation a lot of confidence and a lot of support and a lot of help, which is our job from a coaching standpoint. Now the moment comes and they have to prove it,” said Klinsmann. “They have to go face-to-face with the established guys and try to steal their spot. This is what it’s about now. We will find out if they are ready for it. We have the playoff game for one, and then we have World Cup qualifying, which is not experimenting any more.

“In a certain way you can tell that the transition phase comes to an end and now they need to prove if they are still in the top spot or not.”

After a failed CONCACAF Gold Cup in July that saw the U.S. finish in fourth place and miss out on a chance to automatically reach the Confederations Cup, several positions are there to be had. Centerback seems the most obvious, given the struggles that the tandem of Ventura Alvarado and John Brooks endured in the regional tournament, and the fact that Klinsmann has brought in the likes of Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez and Geoff Cameron.

Both outside fullback positions are also wide open, at least in this camp. While Fabian Johnson is sure to lock one spot down when he’s healthy, his current injury and the ones suffered over the weekend by Timmy Chandler and DaMarcus Beasley at their clubs means that there is a chance for others like Greg Garza to step in and really make a case for themselves.

Even the goalkeeper position, where Brad Guzan has been tabbed the starter for now, is interesting with Howard returning after a year-long sabbatical.

“Some positions are definitely there to grab, but you’ve got to grab them with a lot of determination and a lot of ambition,” said Klinsmann. “That’s why bringing back Tim Howard now and Jermaine Jones and Geoff Cameron kind of signals the fight and the competition now happening between the older established ones and the new wave of players.

“This is what we want to see from Sunday on in training. We want to see competition, and then we’re going to make some calls. Obviously the most crucial calls come for the roster that goes to the Rose Bowl (to face Mexico in October).”

One other area where Klinsmann plans to see players really compete for spots is up top. Jozy Altidore, Aron Johannsson and Bobby Wood are among the forwards Klinsmann has called in for this camp, and there should be a big opportunity for them all to shine, given that regular attacking starter Clint Dempsey will miss Friday’s friendly vs. Peru to stay with his club.

Altidore has usually lined up next to or in front of Dempsey when available, but the 25-year-old forward’s rough performances at the Gold Cup and poor form at Toronto FC since may mean he is not a de facto starter anymore. If that is the case, he will have to prove in this camp and these friendlies that he still has what it takes to spearhead the attack.

Again, Klinsmann is counting on competition.

“I think the situation with our forwards is wide open,” said Klinsmann. “Obviously the most consistent player over the last years with us has always been Clint Dempsey, but Clint right now also has some injury issues and is obviously not the youngest anymore, so we constantly try to develop the next wave of forwards and so far nobody has a real big advantage over another guy.”


  1. You know, I used to get really annoyed when people posted erroneous conclusions with certainty on newsboards like they have some authority, but then I realized it’s just the internet. It is fine to discuss player inclusions/exclusions or tactics. That’s fine we all have opinions. However, pray for the failure of the team you purport to support because you dislike the coach, or pray for his firing, or accuse him of being racist, anti-semitic, having personal grudges (without proof), anti-domestic player bias is absolutely asinine if not ignorant.

    Being a mediocre player on a mediocre high school team does not make you an expert. I have over 3 decades experience and played at my university with and against all-Ameicans, regional Americans and pros, and I don’t know as much as guys who do it 50+ hours a week for 20-30 years as professionals and probably have 4-5 decades in the game each (going back to when they were kids).

    These camps are a prep for the game against Mexico in October. He is going to bring in known quantities, and very few flyers. I think Lleget has talent and should be called in (if not now, then in January), but understand that he is 22 yr old with 1 professional game experience until he got to MLS. He has less than 12 professional games as a pro. He’s a flyer and not ready for now. Bring him in January. Take flyers on forwards because our leading forward (Jozy) is not looking good now – therefore you have Wooten (I don’t rate him, so I would have taken a flyer on Charlie, but keep in mind wasn’t blowing people away when he went to France. His tragedy is the potential he brought anything he proved (and please don’t mention Norway/Denmark – those are weak leagues). Morales (even though many don’t like him) is a guaranteed started for a lower/mid-tier Bundesliga team – of course you bring him in). Robbie Rogers has NEVER impressed on the international level, so he’s not a loss. Jonathan Spector cannot stay healthy and when he is, he gets bea for speed on the outside, which is deadly on the international level. He was also called in several times in the beginning of JK’s terms and did not impress. Benny Feilhaber and Lichaj have both been called in and did not impress. I rely on those who are actually there.

    Choosing players is a subjective skill and I rely on the eyes of the guy who rebuilt the German national team.

    • I’ve become tired of pointing out what should be obvious to anyone who has followed the team for a while (I have since 1990). If you don’t know USMNT history before 2010, you basically have no business making sweeping conclusions on who should be picked or who should play. Maybe you can take over some of this. BTW, what you said about Spector could also be said about Lichaj, only Spector is better because he actually played several years, pretty consistently, in the EPL while Lichaj has only a dozen or so appearances. I sometimes wonder if some of these fan boys of particular players even know their history or have seen them play. Most of these critics seem to have no conception of international play, how it is different, and how it is more difficult.

      • Part of it is my fault because I take these comments too personally. I have posted that I like Lee Nguyen, but JK doesn’t rate him or Benny or Sacha. All coaches have their subjective favorites. However, he recognized talent in Cameron, Besler, Yedlin among others rediscovered Beckerman.

        You loose some and win some talent-wise. I think he is plus for recognizing talent – they think that is a strength of his in Germany. My German friends also mentioned that there was media talk that JK should have some the credit because he rebuilt the program and picked/recognized a lot of the talent that won the World Cup).

      • Anthony,

        Nguyen’s USMNT problem is simple.

        He turned up injured when his best chance, so far,to impress JK came..

        That and the fact that basically he is competing with a lot of people for a spot.

        In addition to Mikey, Dempsey,Mix you now you have this Nagbe person possibly coming into the picture. And of course there is the shadow of Benny looming in the background. And hopefully others like GZ or Hyndman, soon to follow. Oh and JJ is coming back and he can do anything and play anywhere can’t he?

        This is a good problem for the team to have but it means there will be a lot of disgruntled SBI types and the lazy ones love to blame JK’s patented slowleftarm “personal grudges”,or his alleged Andy in Atlanta assumed hatred of Jews, Polish people, gays, postal workers and Don Garber, etc.

        I blame math.

        You can’t fit all these people on the field at the same time. And at this point It is far from clear who would be best fit for the “team”.now and going forward.

        I like Nguyen but I am far from an expert on him.

        From what I’ve seen he plays what they call the old fashioned inside forward role. For those who don’t know what I’m referring to, how Lee plays reminds me of how Mata, Silva and Cazorla play, more or less. .

        JJ, Mikey and Dempsey don’t really play that role but what they do tends to get in the way of that. And there is only one ball.

        Deuce has never been a conventional player and what/ where he plays tends to defy description but he is the US’ most reliable and productive scorer. And that means he is nearly impossible to leave out even now. And I’ve seen nearly every USMNT game Mikey has played and he is more mature and disciplined but in his heart of hearts he hasn’t really changed from being that play everywhere kind of guy. And for that matter the same goes for JJ. So that is at least two and half attacking regulars who really need a lot of the ball to be at their best.

  2. Here we go again, no Benny Feilhaber, Ethan Finlay, Sebastian Lletget or Robbie Rogers???? Also, one of the few players that always solidify his position at the Championship level, Jonathan Spector, should be getting a look. What does he have to do to warrant a call up??? After dismantling my team DC United, it should be evident that Dax McCarthy, Mike Grilla and Sasha Klesjan should be at least get a look (especially with no Bradley). Then Altidore gets a call up……again. When are we going to try something new up top??
    Only a handful of these players are actually in good form and its going to show in the upcoming games.
    I called the defense with Cameron, Besler, Ream and Omar so a little happy with that at least

    • i agree that we need some fresh blood in the attack and Lleget and Finlay would be great, maybe even Feilhaber, although I have my doubts about his national team level ability. and i agree that Mix, Corona, Morales, etc. have not really earned their automatic USMNT spots on the field..

      but the games, especially the big game, will not be decided by the quality of your 3rd string keeper or guys 18-23 on the roster! Apparently guys like Mix and Corona bring more to the locker room and training field than guys like Feilhaber, really would not be surprised if that is true!

      Whats going to win these games is Bradley, Dempsey, Jones, which GK he picks and organization of the back line! so can everyone stop whining about which over-performing MLS player didn’t get the last roster spot 2 games before the Confed Cup Playoff!!!

      • people have a right to complain because if you were being honest with yourself you’d adhere to the fact that in every major tourney(excluding the B level GC in ’13)JK has gotten the rosters wrong and the team has suffered because of it. He continues to let his biases and ego get in the way of this team not only consistently running through our confederation but also potentially being a major player in tourneys like Copa America, WC, etc. Now, he’s entitled to that way of thinking but i think a lot of people can read right through his explanations for why certain guys aren’t called in and its always the same quotable for the overlooked player “he is a little bit behind the other guys in his position”. If that is the case and these so called ahead of the pack players continue to not get it done then where does that leave this team and its development? The sad thing is that we will continue to win friendlies against so called “world powers” every now and again and the JK supporters(Gulati above all)will look at that as progress and this team being on the right track smdh

      • Ronniet,

        Why don’t you tell us how you would have developed the team had you taken over from BB?

        How would it look today?

        I’m thinking about what players would be playing and what positions?

    • bizzy,

      “Jonathan Spector, should be getting a look.”

      You act as if JK leaving out Spector is like leaving out the American version of Paolo Maldini and is committing some heinous criminal act.

      I love JS but he’s not reminding anyone of Maldini, one of my favorite players.

      In 2009 it became apparent that as a fullback, Jonathan was losing that “burst of acceleration” .

      Six years later the “burst” hasn’t come back and may never.

      Spector is a really good player but my belief is he stopped being regularly called up by BB and JK because he has a terrible habit of badly timed injuries.

      If everyone went down and you needed a center back for the October playoff I’d have zero issue with calling Jonathan, a good veteran, in but right now that is where he is at, an emergency backup.When you have Geoff Cameron and Tim Ream around you basically have no need for JS, even though he is probably a better crosser of the ball than either of them.

      “Dax McCarthy, Mike Grilla and Sasha Klesjan” have been outstanding for NYRB.

      This is no proof that they will be outstanding for the USMNT. Being one of the best in MLS does not guarantee performance at the international level as Wondo and Glen Davis, two standout MLS players have shown.

      Call your guys in for the January camp, but they haven’t been at the international level for a while so I would not trust them in the do or die game playoff coming up. To some extent the international ship has sailed for all three of your guys.

      Am I going to take Sacha, who has had many shots at the USMNT under two managers and never truly convinced anyone, and Dax over Mikey and JJ in the playoff game?

      No, I’m not.

      And I’m not even taking Grella over AJ or Dempsey or Wood or Morris in the same situation.

      This is not the MLS All Star game we’re talking about . The playoff game is for real.

    • Well bizzy I guess our discussion on JS is now moot.

      Spector has been called in.

      I don’t know if he’ll play but it is good to see him back.

  3. Only gullible Americans, including Gulatii, enthralled by Klinnsmann’s pedigree as a great striker, can still be listening to his egotistical nonsense. The guy has zero humility.

    Any self respecting soccer federation would have fired him after the pathetic loss to Panama in the Gold Cup. He engenders no chemistry within his team and has severely limited tactical acumen.

    So now the answer at striker in another German American from the 2nd division. There are any number of forwards in the MLS better than this guy.

    I almost feel like rooting for Mexico so Klinsmann loses his job. But I’m not sure even that will ruin Gulati’s crush.

    • Randal, i generally agree with you about your feelings about Klinsi. Setting that aside, what American striker in the MLS is clearly better (right now) than who Klinsi has called in? or has available?

    • We’ll never know what MLS strikers are better than those called in because Klinsmann won’t even give others a look. If he does it’s one or two partial games then oblivion for them. Charlie Davies for one is better than Jozy. There are others too. And snubbing Benny is a stinkin crime. Even Lee N brings more to the table at AM than Bradley.

      I agree with Randal about JK too. It will take a bunch of losses or poor outings to shake Sunil’s man crush on JK. It could happen though. We have looked anything but good with this crew.

      • Agree on the snubbing of Benny. Not sure what he had to do to escape the dog house.

        Disagree that there are any US strikers in the MLS who are clearly better than who JK’s called in. Especially if the focus here is the ONE game against Mexico. If you’re talking about the friendlies after Mexico…fine. AND if he would have left JA at home, i wouldn’t have bitched

      • “Disagree that there are any US strikers in the MLS who are clearly better than who JK’s called in.”

        Guess who the leading American MLS goalscorer is right now?

        That’s right , Wondo..

      • “Charlie Davies for one is better than Jozy”.


        Davies 25 games 9 goals
        Jozy 20 games 10 goals

        and it appears Jozy is starting to heat up, a good sign for a streaky player. So at best, it is 6 of one …for the two of them..

        Charlie hasn’t been with the US for five years. Bring him in in January but I’m not going to trust him in the October playoff game. .

  4. if nothing else this camp should be tryouts for our GK and CB pairing that we will use in the big game. They will certainly be tested vs. Peru and Brazil.

    On the left Ream and Besler both look like they are in great form. Brooks is certainly they guy for the future but not the next two months. Can’t decide on Ream vs. Besler

    On the right Cameron and Gonzalez both make a case for the job. Orozco and Alvarado 3rd and 4th in my opinion. Those two will probably get looks at RB if anything.. Can’t decide on Cameron vs. Gonzalez

    In net, I want Howard to take the job back for the next two months. Sorry Brad but Howard is still a touch above, but Guzan does have the inside track and a good away result vs Mexico on his resume.

    Let the position battles begin…

  5. If Alvardo and Brooks win this “competition” and end up starting at CB against Mexico, I’m afraid it will leave me scratching my head so long and so hard that I’ll be down to the skull before I know it.


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