The previous article on World Soccer Source focused on how Jürgen Klinsmann can easily make some basic changes to drastically improve the United States Men’s National Team by only using proven USMNT players, but this article focuses on major changes that the United States could make as soon as possible.
The coach of the USMNT is halfway to selecting a 23-man roster where every player is technically-skilled, athletic, and equipped to play his designated position or positions, but Klinsmann’s recent selections to face Scotland and Austria, including his decision to not replace the injured Clint Dempsey or Fabian Johnson, raise further questions about Klinsmann’s ability to select balanced and talented rosters that will be able to compete at the 2014 World Cup.
Many of Klinsmann’s selections are among the best American soccer players, but too many of his roster spots go to players without the gifts and tools to play international soccer.
Likewise, many of the Starting XIs include the best player at many positions, but too many Starting XI spots are occupied by players like Graham Zusi, Brad Evans, DaMarcus Beasley, or Alejandro Bedoya who aren’t quite as talented as other options.
Looking at Klinsmann’s USMNT rosters since about March, many of the regular selections are deserving and talented players who fully-deserve their call-up, but frequently almost half of the roster is occupied by players who aren’t as skilled and athletic as other American options.
Klinsmann’s almost total refusal to select or play Benny Feilhaber, the most proven and arguably the most talented American playmaker, looks personal, and it’s an omission that’s hard to justify, especially for the coach of a national team that isn’t known for its technical ability.
Below is a list of 11 quality players who one could argue have been more or less regulars on Klinsmann’s rosters in recent months, which means that the remaining 12 roster spots could be filled by more talented and athletic players than the players who frequently appear on Klinsmann’s rosters
Here are the good roster choices that Klinsmann has been making:
GOALKEEPERS: Tim HOWARD, Brad GUZAN
CENTER BACKS: Geoff CAMERON
DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDERS: Michael BRADLEY, Jermaine JONES
ATTACKING MIDFIELDERS: CLINT DEMPSEY, Landon DONOVAN, Mix DISKERUD
STRIKERS: Jozy ALTIDORE, Aron JÓHANNSSON, Terrence BOYD
Looking at the 11 players listed above, the United States Men’s National Team needs to do a better job of filling the remaining 12 roster spots, and World Soccer Source believes the following players would be stronger roster selections than many of the players that Klinsmann has favored:
GOALKEEPERS: Clint IRWIN
CENTER BACKS: John Anthony BROOKS, Shane O’NEILL, Andrew FARRELL
OUTSIDE BACKS: Chris KLUTE, DeAndre YEDLIN
DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDERS: Amobi OKUGO
ATTACKING MIDFIELDERS: Benny FEILHABER, Joe CORONA, Benji JOYA, Freddy ADU
STRIKERS: Juan AGUDELO
Taking these two lists into account, here is a more talented roster than a typical Klinsmann USMNT roster:
GOALKEEPERS- Tim HOWARD, Brad GUZAN, Clint IRWIN
CENTER BACKS- Geoff CAMERON, John Anthony BROOKS, Shane O’NEILL, Andrew FARRELL
OUTSIDE BACKS- Chris KLUTE, DeAndre YEDLIN, (Andrew FARRELL)
DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDERS- Michael BRADLEY, Jermaine JONES, Amobi OKUGO, (Geoff CAMERON)
ATTACKING MIDFIELDERS- CLINT DEMPSEY, Landon DONOVAN, Mix DISKERUD, Benny FEILHABER, Joe CORONA, Benji JOYA, Freddy ADU
STRIKERS- Jozy ALTIDORE, Aron JÓHANNSSON, Juan AGUDELO, Terrence BOYD
A close examination of this roster proposal shows that many of Klinsmann’s preferred starters are included, minus the United States’ Back Four, which is quite weak by any real international standard.
The roster above contains three goalkeepers, five center backs (including Amobi Okugo), five outside backs (including Andrew Farrell, Geoff Cameron, and Shane O’Neill), six defensive midfielders (including Geoff Cameron, Shane O’Neill, and Andrew Farrell), seven attacking midfielders, and four first strikers.
These numbers in the explanation in the preceding paragraph add up to more than 23 players because it contains some players who are listed at more than one position.
In short, this roster eliminates Klinsmann regulars like Graham Zusi, Omar Gonzalez, Alejandro Bedoya, Brad Evans, DaMarcus Beasley, and Matt Besler, from the roster for more talented and athletic players who are better equipped to play high-level international soccer, even if they are young and somewhat inexperienced at the international level.
Many people seem to be satisfied with the United States Men’s National Team status quo, but World Soccer Source believes that many of the players used or frequently called up by Klinsmann are talented professionals, albeit not as talented as other options.
The core of the USMNT under Klinsmann is solid enough with players like Howard, Bradley, Jones, Dempsey, and Altidore, but the goal of the United States needs to be to fill the rest of the Starting XI with players who are as skilled and athletic or about as skilled and athletic as the core group of starters.
Fielding a USMNT Starting XI where every player is playing his natural position and every player has the technical ability and the requisite level of athleticism to compete against top national teams is something that Klinsmann hasn’t done.
Starting Graham Zusi over Benny Feilhaber, Joe Corona, and Landon Donovan is inexcusable for an ex-player of Klinsmann’s ability.
Likewise, starting outside backs like Brad Evans and DaMarcus Beasley who aren’t even outside backs over a host of other players that not only are better but that also play outside back at the club level won’t work in the World Cup.
As the 2014 World Cup approaches, Jürgen Klinsmann would be wise to keep selecting players like Howard, Guzan, Cameron, Bradley, Jones, Dempsey, Donovan, Diskerud, Altidore, Jóhannsson, and Boyd, but the rest of the roster needs to be changed and improved.
The USMNT has a strong skeleton of a team, but there are too many weak links and too many players who aren’t international caliber. Klinsmann’s selections have made little sense because many of the better MLS players are being omitted for less skilled MLS players, and many of the best American players plying their trade outside of the United States are being snubbed.
Klinsmann claims that he wants players who can play technical soccer, but he frequently omits many of the most technical American players like Feilhaber, Corona, and Agudelo.
Furthermore, Klinsmann claims that he wants to start the attack from the very back, but the whole crop of better new MLS defenders have been given zero chances to play for the United States even in friendlies.
Finally, Klinsmann claims that he wants players playing in better leagues than MLS, but players like Joe Corona have been kept on the bench or left off the roster by Klinsmann, even when they were excelling and seeing heavy club minutes.
There is a disconnect between what Klinsmann says that he wants and what he actually does. There’s never been any evidence that Klinsmann is capable of fielding a Starting XI made up of technically-skilled and athletic players at every position.
As any American soccer fan knows, Klinsmann has never started Bradley, Donovan, Dempsey, and Altidore at the same time, and he’s never started them with a playmaker.
Ex-USMNT coach, Bob Bradley, quickly recognized the need to start those four players together against top national teams, and he also discovered the benefit of starting a playmaker with them in order to orchestrate the attack and help to facilitate possession and one-to-two touch passing.
Klinsmann seems to have never even learned this much, and he hasn’t raised the quality of play of the USMNT because of his refusal to at least start Bradley, Donovan, Dempsey, and Altidore together.
Klinsmann’s talk of improving the play of the United States seems to have been an empty promise without even an attempt to field enough technically-skilled players together. Starting Howard, Bradley, Jones, Donovan, Dempsey, and Altidore is a great start, but Klinsmann needs to select five more players who can play at those other starters’ level.
If Klinsmann were to start Howard, Farrell, Cameron, Brooks, Klute, Bradley, Jones, Donovan, Diskerud, Dempsey, and Altidore, then he would be well on his way to making real progress.