Like all United States Men’s National Team rosters under Jürgen Klinsmann, the 2013 November roster for friendlies against Scotland and Austria showcased a roster devoid of balance, devoid of enough new and improved American talent, an inadequate list of defenders, and a lack of a sufficient amount of creative midfielders and natural playmakers.
Calling up talented players like Eric Lichaj, Geoff Cameron, John Anthony Brooks, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Mix Diskerud, Jozy Altidore, Aron Jóhannsson, and Terrence Boyd may be praiseworthy and a great sign from an American perspective, but these players can hardly fire on all cylinders when the best left back on the roster (Fabian Johnson) and the best right back on the roster (Eric Lichaj) are likely not going to start as the right and left backs.
Nevertheless, Klinsmann’s USMNT roster has the potential to field this strong, balanced, and effective Starting XI (even if the chance to introduce and test new American talents was wasted):
Tim Howard; Eric Lichaj, Geoff Cameron, John Anthony Brooks, Fabian Johnson; Michael Bradley; Brek Shea, Mix Diskerud, Clint Dempsey; Jozy Altidore, Aron Jóhannsson.
Despite the ability to field a strong Starting XI, these friendlies needed to be used to strengthen weaknesses within the USMNT and bring in new, talented players that the United States will desperately need in the 2014 World Cup.
Here are the Positives, the Negatives, and the Neither Positive Nor Negative of the most recent USMNT roster:
John Anthony BROOKS
Diskerud is an excellent true playmaker that has been showing just how effective he is at orchestrating the attack and playing final balls, and he has also been showing just how important a playmaker can be for the USMNT.
Brooks and Cameron give the U.S. another chance to field two complete center backs who not only bring excellent defending and athleticism but also great technical ability.
Whether or not critics want to mock Dempsey for not scoring very many goals during his return to MLS, he remains the best American soccer player and one of the keys to beating top national teams.
Altidore, Jóhannsson, and Boyd are all international-caliber strikers that bring everything to the striker position that one could ask for. Seeing all three of these strikers on the roster is a great sign, but Juan Agudelo received an inexcusable snub from the roster, while a pedestrian striker by international standards like Chris Wondolowski made the roster.
Klinsmann finally called up Eric Lichaj to the USMNT, and he remains one of the only legit American outside backs who can compete against skilled and fast international competition.
These players are listed as negatives because these are four wasted roster spots that could have gone to Juan Agudelo, Chris Klute, Andrew Farrell, and DeAndre Yedlin. While two of these spots are goalkeepers, two different goalkeepers could have been fit onto the roster in place of two of the players listed below under “Neither Positive Nor Negative.”
While the jury is still out on Bill Hamid and Sean Johnson, certainly Wondolowski, Beasley, and Evans aren’t good enough, athletic enough, or both at the positions where Jürgen Klinsmann uses them to be within a nautical mile of the United States Men’s National Team.
Neither Positive Nor Negative:
These players aren’t liabilities or poor players, but one can certainly question their inclusion.
Fabian Johnson plays either as a left back or in Clint Dempsey’s position as a left attacking midfielder, and unless Klinsmann is going to start Fabian Johnson at left back, then his inclusion on the roster for a friendly serves no real purpose.
Nevertheless, Johnson is an excellent player, but these friendlies needed to be used to test out more of the new players rather than test out a Bundesliga starter. No one starts in the Bundesliga who isn’t technically-skilled and athletic.
Brek Shea is a talented winger who disrupts defenses, puts opposing players on their heels, and who generally has a positive effect on games. Shea is skilled, aggressive, fast, strong, and tall, and he is certainly one of the new American talents.
With all of that being said, doesn’t the USMNT need to be giving Joe Corona more caps in order to improve the quality of the U.S.’ passing and give more playing time to players who can orchestrate the attack? Didn’t Klinsmann say that club form mattered?
Alejandro Bedoya is another player who is clearly skilled, but is he as skilled as Benny Feilhaber who facilitates one-to-two touch passing and who creates goals? Probably not.
Feilhaber is a proven-performer and playmaker at the highest level, and a national team roster with only one true playmaker (Mix Diskerud) shows a clear disregard for the importance of players who facilitate quality passing and who play final balls.
Sacha Kljestan is a Champions League player, but other defensive midfielders and other attacking midfielders are either more defensively effective or more technically-skilled than he is. Kljestan plays in Europe, but he isn’t among the eight best American midfielders.
Benji Joya is a 20 year old who hasn’t seen many club minutes, but anyone who saw Benji Joya play against Paul Pogba and who saw him play with the Tab Ramos’ U.S. U-20s knows that Joya is a visibly more skilled and effective player than Kljestan who is a bit of an awkward runner who doesn’t contribute enough on the defensive or attacking end for the United States on the international level.
Klinsmann would have been wiser to get a look at Amobi Okugo, Perry Kitchen, Jared Jeffrey, or Benji Joya because these players are either defensive midfielders or box-to-box midfielders who have all the tools to improve the United States Men’s National Team and do a better job of filling in for Michael Bradley than Kljestan can.
Despite the many critics who view Michael Orozco has some sort of subpar player or USMNT embarrassment, Orozco is nevertheless a quick, technically-skilled, defensively-sound, and aggressive center back who has been playing and starting in the Mexican top flight for years and who excels at the international level. Orozco can also play as a right back or in a three center back system.
Jürgen Klinsmann called up this USMNT roster for the November friendlies:
GOALKEEPERS: Tim Howard, Sean Johnson, Bill Hamid
CENTER BACKS: Geoff Cameron, John Anthony Brooks, Omar Gonzalez, Michael Orozco
OUTSIDE BACKS: Eric Lichaj, Brad Evans (not an outside back), DaMarcus Beasley (not an outside back)
DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDERS: Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones
ATTACKING MIDFIELDERS: Clint Dempsey, Mix Diskerud, Sacha Kljestan, Fabian Johnson, Alejandro Bedoya, Brek Shea;
STRIKERS: Jozy Altidore, Aron Jóhannsson, Terrence Boyd, Eddie Johnson, Chris Wondolowski.
The Official U.S. Soccer Roster Release:
WORLD SOCCER SOURCE believes that Jürgen Klinsmann should have called up this USMNT roster:
GOALKEEPERS: Tim Howard, Clint Irwin, Luis Robles
CENTER BACKS: Geoff Cameron (also a defensive midfielder and outside back), John Anthony Brooks, Shane O’Neill (also a defensive midfielder and outside back)
OUTSIDE BACKS: Andrew Farrell (also a center back; right back and left back), Chris Klute (right and left back), DeAndre Yedlin (right and left back), Kellyn Acosta (right and left back)/Kofi Sarkodie (right and left back) (currently in the MLS Playoffs)
DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDERS: Michael Bradley, Amobi Okugo (also a center back), Perry Kitchen (also a center back)
ATTACKING MIDFIELDERS: Clint Dempsey, Benny Feilhaber (in the playoffs), Joe Benny Corona, Mix Diskerud, Benji Joya (also a box-to-box midfielder), Freddy Adu (reported to be in search of a new club at the conclusion of the Brasileirão)
STRIKERS: Jozy Altidore, Aron Jóhannsson, Juan Agudelo, Terrence Boyd.
The roster spots for Chris Wondolowski, Brad Evans, DaMarcus Beasley, Bill Hamid, Sean Johnson, Sacha Kljestan, Alejandro Bedoya, Fabian Johnson, Eddie Johnson, Michael Orozco, and Brek Shea should have gone to Juan Agudelo, Andrew Farrell, DeAndre Yedlin, Chris Klute, Chris Irwin, Luis Robles, Joe Corona, Shane O’Neill, Benny Feilhaber, Freddy Adu, and Benji Joya.
All in all, this Klinsmann roster is a roster full of good players, but there are too many omissions to consider this to be any progress in the United States’ and Jürgen Klinsmann’s quest to close the gap with top national teams.
Without adequate outside backs and without enough creative midfielders with playmaking abilities, the United States will remain a national team with too many weaknesses to play top national teams straight up in a contest of talent and athleticism.
For a coach who claims to want one-to-two touch soccer and players that can compete at the highest level, too many of these players are players who are good but not good enough to compete when the talent of the competition goes up.