By: Colin Reese
This is an opinion piece that proposes a 23-man USA roster for the 2014 World Cup, as opposed to being a prediction about which players Jürgen Klinsmann will select.
Everyone has their own opinion about players, teams, and coaches, and many people support Klinsmann’s USA roster selections; that’s what makes soccer a great sport to discuss and debate.
There seems to be less American soccer media discussion about the merits of Jürgen Klinsmann’s roster selections than one sees out of the media in other countries when analyzing, critiquing, and reporting on the choices made by other national team’s coaches.
The 2014 World Cup roster for the United States Men’s National Team should be set up to have a starting player at each of the positions in the 4-2-3-1 formation, and it simply isn’t.
Jürgen Klinsmann’s rosters do not contain starting natural outside backs with substitutes for both positions, and the rosters also do not contain a starting and back up central attacking midfielder.
This like the absence of Joe Corona on the roster as a fixture to play as a substitute for Clint Dempsey or Landon Donovan are just a few examples of the lack of balance and the lack of the requisite personnel to field an effective 4-2-3-1 formation, which is Klinsmann’s preferred formation.
The first names on the roster for the midfield and striker positions should be Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley as the defensive midfielders or central midfielders lining up behind Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey as the outside attacking midfielders with Benny Feilhaber as the central attacking midfielder to both orchestrate the attack and to feed Jozy Altidore as the striker.
After that, Mix Diskerud is the obvious substitute for Benny Feilhaber, and Joe Corona and Fabian Johnson are the logical attacking midfielders to select to play as the substitutes for Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey.
Next comes Aron Jóhannsson as either the substitute for Jozy Altidore or his strike partner, or perhaps the starting first striker over Altidore. After Altidore and Jóhannsson, Juan Agudelo is simply a striker that is way too good to not be the third name on the list of strikers.
With Tim Howard and Brad Guzan as locks as goalkeepers, the USA roster is now up to 13 players, and Geoff Cameron and Fabian Johnson as a center back, right back, and left back respectively adds up to 14 USMNT players, and Cameron is obviously a starting right back in the EPL who can also play as a left back given the quality of his left foot.
Given John Anthony Brooks’ status as a talented Bundesliga center back and Michael Orozco’s quality club and international experience along with his complete package of center back skills, the USA roster now totals 16 players.
Michael Orozco is a viable outside back option as well since he has the speed, the technical ability, the positional sense, and the marking and tackling skills needed to excel out wide in the defense as well as in the center of the defense.
Turning to the young MLS defenders, Chris Klute, DeAndre Yedlin, Andrew Farrell, and Shane O’Neill are too good to not include, and given the fact that Geoff Cameron also excels as a center back, all four of those young MLS defenders should be included on the roster to take the total to 20 players, which leaves a roster spot open for Nick Rimando as the third choice goalkeeper and Benji Joya as one of the only capable box-to-box midfielders in the entire American player pool.
Freddy Adu is included as the 23rd player for his ability to change games, and this writer is fully-aware of the fact that Adu is frequently mocked and ridiculed for his club resume and the lack of club playing time that he has received over the years.
Club football is different than international football, and Adu is a useful player to have on the roster for his technical ability, quickness, creativity, scoring ability, and 1v1 skills, even if his club resume hasn’t turned out to be what Americans hoped it would be by this time.
Despite Jürgen Klinsmann’s preferences, this writer advocates the following 23-man USA roster for the 2014 World Cup:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Tim HOWARD, Brad GUZAN, Nick RIMANDO
DEFENDERS (8): Geoff CAMERON, John Anthony BROOKS, Michael OROZCO, Shane O’NEILL, Andrew FARRELL, Chris KLUTE, Fabian JOHNSON, DeAndre YEDLIN
MIDFIELDERS (8): Michael BRADLEY, Jermaine JONES, Clint DEMPSEY, Landon DONOVAN, Joe CORONA, Benny FEILHABER, Mix DISKERUD, Benji JOYA
FORWARDS (4): Jozy ALTIDORE, Aron JÓHANNSSON, Juan AGUDELO, Freddy ADU
– The 23-man roster is set-up to have a starting player and a back up player for each of the 11 positions in the 4-2-3-1 field formation with several players capable of playing multiple positions.
– Whether you prefer starting Geoff Cameron and Fabian Johnson as the outside backs or you prefer starting DeAndre Yedlin and Chris Klute, this roster has four outside backs, not including Andrew Farrell and Geoff Cameron.
– As this writer prefers Geoff Cameron (listed as a defender) over Jermaine Jones at the midfield destroyer or the stay-at-home defensive midfielder role, Andrew Farrell and Shane O’Neill are this writer’s starting center back preferences despite their inexperience and their tag as merely “promising.” Farrell and O’Neill have the tools to improve the center of the American defense, and the USMNT is going to need it, even if Klinsmann selecting Farrell and O’Neill for the World Cup roster is a pipe dream.
-Geoff Cameron (listed as a defender) and Michael Bradley are the preferred defensive midfielders for this writer, and Jermaine Jones and Benji Joya are also included as options or reinforcements.
-Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey would occupy the right attacking midfielder and the left attacking midfielder positions with Benny Feilhaber as the central attacking midfielder, and Mix Diskerud and Joe Corona can play as substitutes or replacements for either of the three attacking midfielder roles.
– Jozy Altidore or Aron Jóhannsson is the default striker in the 4-2-3-1 formation, but this writer prefers Juan Agudelo as the point of the spear.
-Either Tim Howard or Brad Guzan are the first choice goalkeeper for this writer, and Nick Rimando is the third-choice goalkeeper merely by default.
Who would this writer start?
The World Soccer Source Preferred Starting XI, which contains an “inexperienced” and “promising” Back Four and Juan Agudelo as the starting striker:
HOWARD; YEDLIN, FARRELL, O’NEILL, KLUTE; CAMERON, BRADLEY; DONOVAN, FEILHABER, DEMPSEY; AGUDELO.