USMNT Report: European Yanks Get Last WC Test

USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann calls up many European-based Americans for a friendly against Ukraine
by Herb Scribner   |   Saturday, March 01, 2014

USMNT Report - coverage of the United States Men's National Team

The 2014 World Cup is inching closer, which means it’s time for United States Men’s National Team manager Jurgen Klinsmann to make the harder decisions on which players to bring to Brazil.

And it appears that with his latest roster for the USA’s match with Ukraine, the former Bayern Munich manager will get a better look at the European players who deserve more attention and possibly one last look before this summer.

But it might be a little too late to be making some of these choices.

Here’s a look at the lineup:

GK: Cody Cropper, Brad Guzan, Tim Howard

DEF: John Anthony Brooks, Geoff Cameron, Edgar Castillo, Alfredo Morales, Oguchi Onyewu, Will Packwood, Tim Ream

MID: Alejandro Bedoya, Michael Bradley, Mix Diskerud, Fabian Johnson, Jermaine Jones, Sacha Kljestan, Brek Shea, Danny Williams

FWD: Juan Agudelo, Jozy Altidore, Terrence Boyd, Clint Dempsey, Julian Green, Aron Johannsson

This European-centric roster should give an idea about which fringe USA players will make the squad for this summer’s World Cup. It’s likely that when the Americans play Mexico this coming April, Klinsmann will have a roster nearly finalized, making this the last chance for the bubble European players — like Edgar Castillo, Sacha Kljestan, Brek Shea and Mix Diskerud, for example — to make the team. This isn’t exactly an ideal scenario, though, given that the World Cup is about 3 weeks away and the USMNT is less of a team and more of a collective of players who have all worn the USA colors on different occasions. There is no team dynamic or style. There's been too much flux throughout the last 2 years of buildup that it's nearly impossible to predict who Klinsmann brings and where he play them.

But Klinsmann is bringing a lot of players of USMNT past to Cyprus for the Ukraine affair. Usual starters and standouts Jermaine Jones, Alejandro Bedoya and Geoff Cameron, among others, have all donned the USA stripes before and have worked within Klinsmann’s system over the past year.

Klinsmann bringing in Oguchi Onyewu and Tim Ream, though surprising, offers the former Germany manager a chance to get one last look at some USA players who have had opportunities in the past, but haven’t impressed. Ream, 26, is young and has been given a slew of opportunities to compete for Klinsmann’s side, but hasn’t impressed enough to be a consistent call up. Juan Agudelo is in a similar scenario. He hasn’t done enough in club play or the USMNT to warrant a spot in the World Cup lineup, but Klinsmann is offering him one last go before making his final roster sheet for the summer tournament. It’s as though Klinsmann is casting a large safety net in case any of the players abroad have improved since the last time they wore a USMNT shirt.

One of the biggest callups for the upcoming camp is Julian Green, who currently plays at Bayern Munich and is caught in a tug-of-war of sorts between the United States and Germany for international representation. Green won’t compete on the pitch against Ukraine, since filing an association change from Germany to the United States would tie him to the Americans, but this is still a big move for Klinsmann and the Yanks. Green is one of the hottest rising USA players, and joining this camp offers hope for the Americans that he’ll choose to play for the USA in future. And though it’s unlikely he’ll compete for either Germany or America in the 2014 World Cup, it puts the Yanks in the race and offers them a chance at securing one of the scintillatingly young and talented players of Europe.

The roster includes only 2 MLS players, Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley, who have both made their returns to the American league in the last year and are capable of playing in Europe, recent situations aside. Dempsey’s fresh off a failed loan spell at Fulham, which means he’ll be out of the Seattle Sounders training camp even longer. An issue with Dempsey in 2013 was that by the time he got to Seattle after transferring from Tottenham, he was unfit and unprepared for MLS play. The same may be said again this year now that he’s going to miss those early days of camp and hasn’t had a true MLS preseason, instead settling for a awful couple of weeks in England. Similarly, Bradley will be rejoining the domestic league this year, having signed with Toronto FC, so there is a possibility his call-up might halt the work he’s already put in with TFC’s training camp and throw off his groove of assimilating with his new club, teammates and city.

There are some intriguing and unanticipated choices for this lineup, namely Danny Williams, Will Packwood and Alfredo Morales, who are all consistently mediocre overseas and are in the early stages of their pro careers. It’s unlikely Klinsmann will offer them a ticket to Brazil, which begs the question of why Klinsmann is including them so late in the World Cup cycle. It makes sense of the former German international is building squads for the future, but so close to the World Cup is a harrowing decision. Time is valuable in these lead-up months, and it shouldn’t be wasted on players who are barely visible on the depth chart. Klinsmann should be working on fluidity, style and a game plan at this stage in the cycle, rather than trying to decide which players — some who haven’t been playing with the USA in last 6 months to a year — deserve a seat on the plane.

Though this is a Europe-based roster, Klinsmann did a similar thing earlier in February with mostly MLS players, so it’s not surprising he wanted to that for the foreign-based corps as well. It seems Klinsmann has broken down the roster into 2 camps — one for MLS/domestic players, and the other for players competing in Europe. While that’s one way to get around the approaching MLS season and FIFA fixture dates, it throws off the chemistry of the United States and continues this trend of not establishing a consistent lineup. Cohesion and consistency is crucial in nearly everything you do, so for the United States not to have that can only spell doom for the approaching summer tournament.

When we look back at the USMNT’s run up to the World Cup, it’s likely that this match against Ukraine will be the one where the harder USA lineup decisions — like bringing Fabian Johnson, Bedoya or Castillo to Brazil and where to play them, or choosing whether to stick with experience by bringing Onyewu — were made.

For the European club contingent it’s an important match, filled with players who may have one final shot at representing the United States in the world’s greatest tournament.

NEXT UP: March 5 – Friendly: United States vs. Ukraine, Antonis Papadopoulos Stadium, Larnaca, Cyprus. 2 p.m. EST, ESPN2.


UMass Amherst
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SN managing editor and award-winning journalist, Herb has always been known as "The Soccer Guy" wherever he goes. He's a leftback in most outdoor and indoor leagues. He also writes for Deseret News National.