Most of the focus in the American soccer world right now is on the MLS Playoffs, but Jurgen Klinsmann surely has some of his attention elsewhere.
That’s because the U.S. Men’s National Team’s first two World Cup qualifiers are around the corner, and Klinsmann needs to figure out what kind of roster he wants to take into those important matches.
The U.S. will officially begin its walk down the road to Russia 2018 later this month with a Nov. 13 home game vs. St. Vincent & the Grenadines and a visit to Trinidad & Tobago four days later. The Americans might be seen as the favorites in each of those encounters, but the U.S. head coach has the challenge of assembling a roster that can perform better than the veteran-laden squad that fell to Mexico in the CONCACAF Cup in October.
Klinsmann has talked about potentially replacing some of the older and more reliable players on his team with younger prospects who need minutes in order to prepare for what’s ahead, but radical changes seem unlikely given that this is the start of qualifying. Still, Klinsmann could begin to weed out some of his elder statesmen in this upcoming camp and replace them with players who are familiar with the national team setup but haven’t received many minutes.
Klinsmann also needs to figure out what to do with the versatile Fabian Johnson, who he sent home in October to “rethink his approach” to the U.S. cause.
Who will be called up for these initial World Cup qualifiers? Here is the roster we could see when Klinsmann unveils his selections on Nov. 8:
Goalkeepers (3): Brad Guzan, Tim Howard, Bill Hamid
Defenders (7): Matt Besler, John Brooks, Geoff Cameron, Timmy Chandler, Michael Orozco, Tim Ream, Brek Shea
Midfielders (8): Michael Bradley, Mix Diskerud, Jermaine Jones, Alfredo Morales, Lee Nguyen, Danny Williams, DeAndre Yedlin, Gyasi Zardes
Forwards (5): Juan Agudelo, Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, Bobby Wood, Andrew Wooten
Several veteran regulars are sure miss the cut here, including Chris Wondolowski, Kyle Beckerman, Nick Rimando, and DaMarcus Beasley. They would be replaced by the likes of Andrew Wooten, Lee Nguyen, Bill Hamid, and Brek Shea, as Klinsmann goes out with the old and in with the new.
Fabian Johnson, while still in his prime, also could be left off given how fresh the wound still is over his perceived lack of dedication. Johnson is playing regularly for UEFA Champions League participant Borussia Moenchengladbach right now, but it might take more than a month for things to blow over between he and Klinsmann.
One of the names that might catch most people’s attention here is Juan Agudelo. Klinsmann appears likely to start counting on some younger attacking blood, and Agudelo provides just that and an exciting skillset that could add a dimension to the Americans’ attack off the bench.
At goalkeeper, Klinsmann has already stated that it is “likely” that both Tim Howard and Brad Guzan rotate starts in the upcoming games. The in-form Hamid would come in after them as the No. 3, replacing Rimando and earning a just reward for his continued outstanding showings in goal for D.C. United.
Some may be surprised not to see Ventura Alvarado or Alejandro Bedoya on here, but neither of them have played much in recent weeks. In fact, Alvarado has not seen any time for Club America since mid-September while Bedoya has not seen the field since missing out on the CONCACAF Cup because of an illness.
Klinsmann will also be counting on several key veterans to help out during this potential transition phase, including Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Jermaine Jones, and Jozy Altidore.
What do you think of this projected USMNT roster? Like it? Who would you like to see included/omitted? Should Klinsmann bring in even more youth?
Share your thoughts below.