By now you’ve certainly seen Jurgen Klinsmann’s preliminary 30 man roster for the World Cup. Some teams have elected to pick a preliminary group of 30, like Klinsi, some teams have taken a preliminary 27, and some teams have simply picked the 23 right off the bat with a few players on stand-by in the event of an injury. With all due respect to Eddie Johnson, Sacha Kljestan, and Brek Shea we’re not here to talk about snubs. We have Klinsi’s group of 30 and we want to identify the 23 who will be making the trip to Brazil. The players have been organized into five distinct groups: already on the bus, one foot on the bus, pack your bags, firmly on the bubble, and the bus stops here.
Already on the bus: Already have dinner reservations and their suitcases packed
These players are part of the preliminary 30, and if you ask Klinsmann he will say nobody has a guaranteed spot in the final 23. Let’s not kid ourselves here, nothing short of Michael Bradley being mauled by a bobcat (they’re pretty common in Canada, eh) is keeping him out of Brazil. Here are the rest of the players who will surely be joining him:
Michael Bradley (midfielder): While the level of competition Bradley sees at the club level has significantly dropped since his move from Roma to Toronto FC, Bradley’s performances at the international level certainly have not. Bradley’s swashbuckling performance in the friendly against Mexico erased any fear that MLS football would cause a dip in Bradley’s form. Bradley looks as sharp as ever and is vital to the success of the national team. Bradley will be a key player for the yanks at the World Cup this summer.
Clint Dempsey (attacking midfielder):Klinsmann has made Dempsey the captain and while poor form could’ve been an argument to explore other attacking options upon his move back to MLS he has scored 8 goals in 9 games to begin the 2014 campaign. Dempsey will be going to Brazil and may just be the key man to inspire the Yanks when they need it most.
Tim Howard (keeper):Howard is the undisputed number one in the net for the Americans. He has just come off a fine season for Everton in which he recorded 15 clean sheets, good for third best in the Barclay’s Premier League. Along with Bradley he is the USA’s most certain starter come June 16th against Ghana. And plus.. who wouldn’t pick this man?
Fabian Johnson (defender):Johnson has struggled to stay healthy this season, but as long as he is fit Johnson will unquestionably be going to Brazil. The only real question is where Klinsmann will opt to play Johnson. Will he be part of the back line or deployed as a midfielder where he has played more often with his Bundesliga club, Hoffenheim? We’ll find out soon.
Jermaine Jones (midfielder):It’s no secret that Jermaine Jones is a favorite of the United States gaffer. Jones’ no-nonsense style of play as a holding midfielder is a role Klinsi adores. o real surprise coming from an experienced German footballer. No doubt Jones will be part of the final 23.
Brad Guzan (keeper) :Strange to think that a backup has already secured a spot on the roster but Guzan is undoubtedly going to Brazil. Guzan, like Howard, had a fine season in the Barclay’s Premier League and is a more than competent backup to Howard. Should Howard suffer an injury, the Yanks won’t lose much with Guzan between the posts. (Except a lot of potential facial hair.)
One foot on the bus: Already bought a Frommer Guide to Brazil
These guys should all feel pretty good about their chances to go to Brazil. In fact, we would be utterly shocked if any these players were sent packing when Klinsmann picks the final 23. However, for one reason or another all these guys have found themselves in a position where they still need to impress among the preliminary group of 30.
Geoff Cameron (defender) :Cameron is the only American out-field player who was a regular for a Barclay’s Premier League side this season. Cameron has struggled to find a regular position under Klinsmann but his strong season at right back for Stoke City combined with a shaky US backline means Cameron will probably be a starter at the back for the States in Brazil.
Jozy Altidore (forward):Altidore probably has a spot on the 23 man roster regardless of how he performs in camp the next couple weeks. However, a miserable first season at Sunderland has brought Altidore’s role with the national team into recent question. Altidore is a near certainty to go to Brazil, but will he still be starting up top for Klinsmann at the World Cup?
Matt Besler (defender):Besler stepped onto the national team scene in a hostile environment on Mexican soil and has never looked back since. Clearly, the defense is the biggest worry for Klinsmann but Besler has been a regular starter at center back for Klinsi and the lack of other good options at center back means Besler has to feel good about his chances to go to Brazil.
Pack your bags:Just don’t book that ticket quite yet
In all likelihood these players will be going to Brazil. None of them are locks and still have something to prove over the next couple weeks at training camp. Really poor performances at training camp could keep any of these players home, but barring a catastrophic meltdown I expect to see the following lads in Brazil:
Landon Donovan (forward): The American hero at the last World Cup isn’t a lock to go to Brazil and is certainly not a lock for playing time on the world’s biggest stage. Donovan, now 32, isn’t as fast as he once was and there is legitimate reason to question his commitment and love for the game. Nevertheless, Donovan still possesses a quality on the ball most players on the 30 man roster simply don’t have. He’ll be going to Brazil, but he’ll really have to earn his minutes on the pitch once there.
Kyle Beckerman (midfielder):I have never been a fan of Beckerman’s game and I firmly believe he should not even be in the preliminary 30 player pool. However, it’s no secret Beckerman is a favorite of Klinsmann and it’s pretty safe to say Beckerman will be going to Brazil as a result. I don’t expect Beckerman to see the field, but should Jermaine Jones suffer an injury I think it would be wise to play Beckerman.
Nick Rimando (keeper):Klinsmann only invited 3 goalkeepers to be part of the preliminary 30 man roster and taking only 2 keepers to Brazil would be a very risky move. In fact, all 32 squads in 2010 carried 3 keepers on the roster. Rimando would have to really struggle over the next couple weeks for Klinsi to consider dropping him for an additional field player.
DaMarcus Beasley (defender):Beasley is one of the most experienced international players having been to 3 World Cups already and playing in all of them. Beasley is a much different player now than he used to be (he even plays a completely different position now) but his experience is valuable. Beasley is a solid enough defender who can hold his own if called upon. As we see many coaches bring experience or it’s seen as a gamble; Beasley should be going to Brazil.
Aron Johannsson (forward):“The Iceman” should be feeling pretty good about his chances to go to Brazil. Johannsson has enjoyed a wonderful season at the club level with AZ Alkmaar where he has found the back of the net 24 times in all competitions. Johannsson is a forward with great technical ability who links up with midfield players well. He isn’t a great fit in Klinsmann’s preferred system so finding a position for Johannsson is the struggle. He may not see the field much if at all but ultimately Johannsson is too clinical in the final third to not make the trip.
Graham Zusi (midfielder):With the depth of players who can play Zusi’s position his status to go to the World Cup may seem a little more up in the air to some people. However, I feel pretty confident Zusi will make the final roster. Zusi is a solid two-way player who has the ability to deliver great service for his teammates to attack. Zusi was an important part of World Cup qualification and I think he remains on the roster for the big event.
Firmly on the bubble: And one wrong move may burst it…
By far the biggest group of players in our list is found here. All of these players need to make statements to Klinsmann over the next couple weeks at training camp. This group of players is where spots to Brazil will be won and lost. All of these players have a legitimate shot to make the final roster with impressive showings at Klinsmann’s pre-World Cup camp.
Timmy Chandler (defender):Just a few months ago the thought of Chandler going to the World Cup was a longshot at best. Now, some will argue he could be the starting right back for the opener against Ghana. Chandler’s commitment to the United States national team has been called into question before. Chandler will have the opportunity to answer his critics and earn a spot on the final roster.
Omar Gonzalez (midfielder):The fact that Gonzalez’s status to go to the World Cup is still uncertain is particularly troubling for him. Gonzalez has been the starting center back alongside Besler for quite some time but a string of lackluster performances has called his job into question. Couple that with injury worries and Gonzalez should be legitimately concerned. I expect Gonzalez to play well enough to earn a spot on the roster, but I’m not as confident about his chances to retain his job as starting center back.
John Brooks (defender):Another player who looked like a real longshot to go to Brazil just a couple months ago, Brooks has emerged as of late. Many (including myself) thought the friendly against Ukraine was the last chance for Brooks to prove his worth for the World Cup to Klinsmann. Brooks looked awful as Ukraine humiliated his porous partnership with Oguchi Onyewu. Brooks has been given one last chance to show Klinsmann what he can do. Brooks is a promising young prospect for the future, but I think he falls just short this time around.
Brad Evans (midfielder):Evans featured quite a few times during qualification but his spot on the roster is very much in question. Evans was hampered by a nagging injury earlier this year. Also working against Evans is the fact he plays as a midfielder for the Seattle Sounders but his value to Klinsmann is as a right back. Evans is very much on the bubble and in the end I think he falls just short of the final roster.
Clarence Goodson (defender):Another player who brings a considerable amount of experience to the table, Goodson is a serviceable center back. Goodson’s primary problem at the international level is he has always been a serviceable center back and not much more. Nevertheless the question marks surrounding the center back position combined with Goodson’s experience are enough to wrap up a roster spot in my opinion.
Michael Parkhurst (defender):Parkhurst is one of the few players on the roster who has Champions League football on his resume from his time with Nordsjaelland. Ironically, it’s Parkhurst’s move from Europe back to MLS with the Columbus Crew that has fueled his surge back into the World Cup picture. Parkhurst has played very well at center back for the Crew so far this season and can also play at outside back. Parkhurst’s recent form and his versatility lead me to believe he will be making the trip to Brazil.
Alejandro Bedoya (midfielder):Bedoya has enjoyed some success with French club Nantes this season. Bedoya has featured for Klinsmann a number of times so he’s no stranger to the national team picture. There’s plenty of competition at Bedoya’s position with the likes of Zusi and Donovan around. Bedoya may find playing time hard to come by in Brazil, but I do think he will be one of the 23 chosen to go.
Mix Diskerud (midfielder):Diskerud is a personal favorite of mine. I love his game and the creativity he plays with. Unfortunately for Mix, he’s probably behind the likes of Bradley, Dempsey, Donovan, and possibly even Johannsson in the pecking order. Regardless, I believe Diskerud is simply too talented to leave off the roster. As much as I’d love to see him on the field, I don’t see Diskerud getting any playing time this summer. At least he’ll be going to the World Cup though, right?
Julian Green (midfielder):Green has been the topic of much discussion, debate, and excitement over the past few months. Few people have really had the opportunity to see Green play much football, but everyone is aware of the hype surrounding the Bayern Munich youngster. He had a relatively quiet first national team cap in the friendly against Mexico which ended with Green sustaining a shoulder injury. From what I did see of Green he brings pace and a confidence to go at defenders 1v1 that no one else on the roster possesses. If you’re like me, you believe Klinsmann promised a World Cup spot this summer to Green to convince him to commit his future to the red, white, and blue. Even if you’re not convinced by that theory, Green would offer a skillset off the bench that no other American can boast. I believe Green goes to Brazil and I’ll go so far as to predict Green sees the field at least once as a substitute.
Maurice Edu (midfielder):Edu was out of the national team picture for awhile after an unsuccessful stint at Stoke City. Edu has revived his career with a move to the Philadelphia Union of the MLS. He’s competing for a spot in the center of the pitch where there is a real log jam of talent. Edu’s versatile enough to be able to play center back if need be which might just be enough to convince Klinsi to bring him. In the end I think Edu falls just short.
Chris Wondolowski (forward):Wondo’s game has grown on me over the past year or so. His game resembles that of Hull City’s Shane Long, if Long were less talented and American of course. Wondo brings something to the table none of the other forwards on the roster offer which I think gives him a huge advantage. I believe he should warrant serious consideration for the starting lineup. While that is highly unlikely, I certainly see Wondo going to Brazil and probably even making a couple appearances as a substitute. Wondo. (Wondo)
Terrence Boyd (forward):Boyd was another longshot to make the World Cup just a few months ago, but a terrific run of form for his Austrian club, Rapid Vienna, has brought Boyd back into the World Cup picture. Boyd is the closest like-for-like replacement for Altidore as a lone striker which he must be hoping will be enough to convince Klinsmann he deserves to go. However, I think Klinsmann would sooner change the formation to a two forward system to accommodate for Wondo and Johannsson than trust Boyd up top alone with so much responsibility. I think Boyd just misses the cut, but look out for him in 2018.
The bus stops here: Unless we need someone to bring extra Caprisuns
The three unfortunate players who fall into this final category need nothing short of a miracle to make the final roster for the World Cup. Perhaps if half the team suffers serious illness the day before the trip to Brazil from bad wiener schnitzel served by Coach Klinsi these players would be called into action. Luckily for us, I don’t foresee Klinsmann feeling the need to serve a traditional German dish to see off the gents so these three will not be finding themselves on the plane to Brazil.
Brad Davis (defender): Davis’ claim to fame is his fantastic set piece delivery. If set piece delivery is how you plan to earn a trip to the World Cup, you better be sending in service comparable to that of the Beckham’s, the Gerrard’s, and the Pirlo’s of the world. Davis can play a nice ball, but it ain’t on the level of those world class players. Davis just doesn’t bring enough to the table. He will not be going to Brazil.
DeAndre Yedlin (defender): I was actually pretty impressed with Yedlin in his cameo appearance against Mexico earlier this year. Yedlin is a good young prospect at right back with plenty of pace to burn. I think Yedlin has a real shot to be our right back in the future, but it’s simply too soon for him right now. Another to look out for in 2018.
Joe Corona (midfielder):Frankly, I was really surprised Klinsmann opted to bring Corona in as one of the 30 preliminary players. While Corona has never made a fool of himself at the international level, I’ve never been impressed with him either. Corona has done well to make it this far, but the dream ends here.
By my maths that gives us 23 players going to Brazil and 7 who aren’t going to be so lucky. So let’s recap what I see happening here. Here is a breakdown by position of the 23 players I have making the World Cup roster:
GK: Tim Howard (Everton), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
D: Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Matt Besler (Sporting KC), DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Timmy Chandler (Nurnberg), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes), Michael Parkhurst (Columbus Crew)
M: Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jermaine Jones (Besiktas), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Graham Zusi (Sporting KC), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes)
F: Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)
…and the 7 who will not be going:
D: John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders), Brad Davis (Seattle Sounders)
M: Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Maurice Edu (Philadelphia Union)
F: Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna)
What do you think of my predictions? Let’s hear your thoughts, where you agree/disagree, and who you’d like to see go instead and why!