By: Colin Reese
Americans should celebrate the difficulty in fitting all of the capable players that merit serious consideration for a World Cup roster spot onto the 23-man United States Men’s National Team World Cup roster.
Nevertheless, the United States will need its most talented players to get out of Group G, even if many of the players that helped the U.S. qualify for the World Cup are in the “Drop” category below.
Not all change is progress, but change is needed when a national team uses players that either lack the comfort and skill on the ball needed to compete in a World Cup or players that lack the requisite level of athleticism, which manifests itself in quickness, speed, or agility.
Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez, Kyle Beckerman, Alejandro Bedoya, Graham Zusi, DaMarcus Beasley, Brad Evans, and Eddie Johnson are good footballers, but they should be dropped from the United States Men’s National Team World Cup roster just because other options at their positions are better.
Players like Benny Feilhaber, Joe Corona, Juan Agudelo, DeAndre Yedlin, Chris Klute, Michael Orozco, Maurice Edu, Shane O’Neill, and Benji Joya are superior players in terms of the combination of their skill, athleticism, and their ability to compete against World Cup competition.
Graham Zusi is an interesting example of a player to put the spotlight on because in the past the United States didn’t really have midfielders who were as good as Zusi with a couple of notable exceptions, but at the same time there are other attacking midfielders who provide a more creative and dynamic style of play that is more effective against elite international opponents.
Zusi is a technical player who is comfortable and capable of using both feet, but Benny Feilhaber and Joe Corona are more talented and quicker players on the ball with more of the qualities needed to compete against higher-level international talent.
With Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Mix Diskerud, and Fabian Johnson likely taking up seven midfield roster spots, there unfortunately shouldn’t be room for Zusi, given the skill level and proven-ability of Benny Feilhaber and Joe Corona.
Compared to Zusi, Corona and Feilhaber are more refined footballers who provide better link up play, and they are better at maintaining possession and playing final balls.
Zusi is something of a creature of the cross that doesn’t look to play enough quick combination passes, and this tendency to rely too heavily on crosses is something that can be removed from a player of Zusi’s ability.
Alejandro Bedoya is more of the type of player that the USMNT needs in the World Cup, but like Zusi, both Corona and Feilhaher have demonstrated more skill, more dynamism, and more of a set of qualities that facilitate possession soccer.
To look at other examples, DeAndre Yedlin and Chris Klute are natural and modern outside backs who can bring a better combination of skill, defending, and athleticism than Evans and Beasley bring to the national team.
Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler have become the favored center backs along with Clarence Goodson, but center backs like Michael Orozco, John Anthony Brooks, and Shane O’Neill are simply more capable of marking and tackling speedy and crafty attackers while being able to dribble and pass out of trouble in the back.
Another new American talent is Benji Joya. He’s a young player, but he brings a needed central midfielder skill-set that combines elegant footwork and passing along with aggressive defending that’s under control. Joya plays with a lot of fire and confidence. A young and skilled player with some swagger is good for an American side that is in the Group of Death.
Many of the changes that need to be made to the United States Men’s National Team in order to succeed in the 2014 World Cup are changes that strengthen the ability of the players that make up the USMNT’s strong core’s ability to perform.
The United States has a solid foundation of players at many key positions in the USA Starting XI: Howard, Cameron, Jones, Bradley, Donovan, Dempsey, and Altidore, but the next level for the United States is incorporating natural and modern outside backs, more technical and quicker center backs, and a playmaker who can link up the defensive midfielders to Donovan, Dempsey, and Altidore.
Using young and internationally-inexperienced players in a World Cup makes many people uncomfortable, and with good reason, but the United States needs to incorporate these types of players if they bring better technical ability and more athleticism than some of the more internationally-experienced players.
Plenty of players in world football have performed very well on the big stage without much international experience, and the United States might not have the luxury of not capitalizing on the new crop of MLS defenders along with some of the more technical midfielders and strikers.
Taking all of these points into account, below is a list of the players that World Soccer Source believes should be dropped from the USMNT’s World Cup roster along with the players that should replace them:
DROP: Clarence GOODSON (Center Back)
ADD: Michael OROZCO (Center Back/Outside Back/Defensive Midfielder)
DROP: Kyle BECKERMAN (Defensive Midfielder)
ADD: Maurice EDU (Defensive Midfielder/Center Back)
DROP: Brad EVANS (Outside Back/Central Midfielder)
ADD: DeAndre YEDLIN (Outside Back)
DROP: DaMarcus BEASLEY (Outside Back/Winger)
ADD: CHRIS KLUTE (Left Back/Right Back)
DROP: Omar GONZALEZ (Center Back)
ADD: John Anthony BROOKS (Center Back)
DROP: Alejandro BEDOYA (Winger)
ADD: Joe CORONA (Attacking Midfielder/Playmaker)
DROP: Eddie JOHNSON (First Striker)
ADD: Juan AGUDELO (First Striker/Second Striker)
DROP: Graham ZUSI (Attacking Midfielder)
ADD: Benny FEILHABER (Attacking Midfielder/Playmaker)
DROP: Sacha KLJESTAN (Central Midfielder)
ADD: Benji JOYA (Central Midfielder/Attacking Midfielder/Playmaker)
DROP: Matt BESLER (Center Back/Left Back)
ADD: Shane O’NEILL (Center Back/Defensive Midfielder/Outside Back)
DROP: Michael PARKHURST (Center Back/Outside Back)
ADD: Andrew FARRELL (Center Back/Outside Back/Defensive Midfielder)
The Drop List:
DEFENDERS- Clarence GOODSON, Brad EVANS, DaMarcus BEASLEY, Omar GONZALEZ, Matt BESLER, Michael PARKHURST
MIDFIELDERS- Kyle BECKERMAN, Graham ZUSI, Alejandro BEDOYA, Sacha KLJESTAN
STRIKERS- Eddie JOHNSON
The Add List:
DEFENDERS- CHRIS KLUTE, DeAndre YEDLIN, Michael OROZCO, John BROOKS, Shane O’NEILL, Andrew FARRELL
MIDFIELDERS- Benny FEILHABER, Joe CORONA, Maurice EDU, Benji JOYA
STRIKERS- Juan AGUDELO
What would World Soccer Source’s USA World Cup roster look like after these changes?
GOALKEEPERS: HOWARD, GUZAN, RIMANDO
DEFENDERS: CAMERON, BROOKS, OROZCO, O’NEILL, F. JOHNSON, YEDLIN, KLUTE, FARRELL.
MIDFIELDERS: BRADLEY, JONES, EDU, JOYA; DEMPSEY, DONOVAN, CORONA; FEILHABER, DISKERUD.
FORWARDS: ALTIDORE, JÓHANNSSON, AGUDELO