U.S. National Team Projected Lineup
While Jurgan Klinsmann and the U.S. National Team are struggling just to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, they are still the favorites to get at least the second spot out of CONCACAF, and avoid any playoff game. Being in the basement of the Hexagonal Table, and after scoring only one goal in a tie to Canada and loss to Honduras, Klinsmann’s squad is off to a rough start 2013. The Yanks need to play well for the remainder of qualifying if they hope to move on and make a run past the group stages in the World Cup. Regardless of the lack of positive results, many Americans are playing well for their club teams, and because these next hex games are so big I’ve decided to put the manager’s cap on and project how Klinsmann will choose his squad going forward.
First, I think he’ll stay with the 4-3-3. I wasn’t the biggest fan of moving from the more traditional 4-4-2 at first, but recently I’ve come around to the former German national star’s way of thinking. The more attack-oriented style of play is exactly the attitude I want this team to have, and along with many key positions playing on form, I think this team is ready to take the next step.
ST: Jozy Altidore. Jozy has always been a frustrating player, and even as I write this I can’t help but laugh at how I have to describe him. Jozy may have the most potential of anyone on the team, but for some reason the powerful striker can never transfer his talent on to the pitch on a consistent basis. He’s had flashes of brilliance, but those are at times overshadowed by a lazy or checked-out attitude. Nonetheless, his big frame, power, and talent with the ball continue to be enticing. Jozy is having the best season of his seemingly long career for the Dutch club AZ Alkmaar (setting the scoring record for an American playing abroad with 24 goals and counting), but the forward is still only 21 and has plenty of room to grow. If he can find the form he’s playing with now when the national team calls, the US will finally have a legitimate threat at the top of the field.
RW: Clint Dempsey. The pride of the US is still the top American player in the world in my book. Starting for a Champion’s League-bound Tottenham Spurs in the EPL is an amazing accomplishment and as long as Clint wants to, he’s got a starting spot on this team. On the field, Clint has always been able to find ways to finish and control the ball no matter the opponent. He’s creative, and his soccer IQ is one of the highest on the team. Pair that with an in-form Altidore and Brek Shea on the attacking third, and the US is bound to score goals in handfuls.
LW: Brek Shea. Honestly I have a feeling this spot will be Landon Donovan’s but since he is still technically out of the picture, I’m going to go with Shea. Brek Shea is currently on loan from the FC Dallas with Stoke City (a team that’s proved beneficial to Americans with the outstanding play of midfielder/defender Geof Cameron). He’s impressed enough over there and starting to find playing time. At 6’3” he has the size and speed to hold down his side of the field and has the ability to finish when he finds himself in a goal scoring opportunity.
RM: Jermaine Jones. Jones has also always been a frustrating player. The German-born son of an American serviceman has had an interesting history with the national team, and has fallen out of favor with certain managers, due to his selfish play, and his fantastic ability to accumulate yellow cards. But Klinsmann is in love with the fact that he starts and produces in Champions League play with the German club Shalke, and frankly so do I. Jones’s creativity and play-making ability demands a spot on the field in my opinion and his sometimes reckless play is just some of the baggage that comes along with that creativity.
CM: Michael Bradley. Some consider him to be the best American playing right now, and if it wasn’t for Dempsey’s track record, I might agree. Producing for both his club and national teams has made Bradley a staple for both teams. A good showing through qualifying and the world cup could propel Bradley to stardom. His spot is as certain as anyone’s.
LM: Graham Zusi. Graham would be the face of the MLS on this squad. Graham is consistently at the top of the league assist and points table, and is one of the best play-makers in the MLS. He’s drawn interest from a few European clubs the past couple of seasons, and continued solid play in big time qualifying and world cup games could land him a permanent spot abroad.
RB: Timmy Chandler. It took a while but Chandler finally committed to the US cause. His ability to move the ball up the wing, coupled with his speed and crossing ability make him a great right back that could create opportunities whenever he has the ball. While his club may not be great, he is still consistently playing with some of the best clubs in the world in the German Bundesliga.
RCB: Geof Cameron. While he mostly plays midfield or right back for his club team, Stoke City, Geof is still the best option the United States has at center back. He’s earned consistent playing time in the EPL, and with the experience and level of play that league brings, I have no problem with him leading the back line.
LCB: John Anthony Brooks. This is the biggest stretch that I have in this potential line up. Brooks is only 19 years old and has never made an appearance for the United States senior team. And despite having only a few youth caps as well, his size, at 6’7″, coupled with his ball control makes him the best current US prospect. Brooks plays in the German Bundesliga II where he has emerged as a starter and Hertha Berlin’s most consistent defender. Brooks has even been recruited to play for the German U-20 team, as he holds dual citizenship between the United States and Germany. I thought about giving this spot to Omar Gonzalez, but Gonzalez failed to secure a starting spot with some lackluster play, openind up this great chance for Brooks to gain experience and become a world-class defender. As long as he maintains his high level of play in Germany, it could be tough for Klinsmann to keep him off the field.
LB: Fabian Johnson. Johnson is another German-born American, who plays in the Bundesliga. He’s a vertical player who is very comfortable with the ball at his feet and can progress the ball from the back line. Johnson is personally my favorite American defender and can really play anywhere on the flank. If the United States hopes to have a solid back line, Johnson has to have a large impact.
Goalie: Tim Howard. Timmy will be the captain in Rio, and deserves to be. When he plays with the United States he really is the definition of a world-class keeper, and is often the reason the Yanks hang around in games. Playing with Everton (who are currently in 5 place in the EPL) keeps him in form and on point. His soccer IQ is unquestioned, and he is the on field manager. As long as Tim is healthy, he will most likely see every minute in qualifying as well as in Brazil.
MD- Danny Williams
Landon Donovon. There are no bigger question marks the United States needs answered than Landon Donovan. If the face of US soccer decides to play, there will certainly be a place for him on the team, probably starting. However the living legend is currently retired from the sport and still living the AARP dream in his California home. Being the optimist that I am, I think he’ll be in Rio when it’s all said and done. Slotting him at RW over Shea would be the managerial move that Klinsmann should make, cementing an American attack with three players that know how to put the ball in the net. This would put Shea on the bench, and as much as I love the game that Josh Gatt brings to the team, as possibly next generation’s Donovon, he would have to be left home. As much as he could benefit from this trip to Rio, he is still young and needs to mature more. He certainly still has the time to make a name for himself. A US team with Donovan instantly raises the expectations and opportunity that will surround them and could potentially lead them deep into the knockout rounds.