By: Colin Reese
Predicting Jürgen Klinsmann’s United States Men’s National Team Starting XI for the 2014 World Cup is hard to do because Klinsmann has always made a change here or there that totally changes the quality and look of the team.
On the other hand, there are certain players that Klinsmann clearly rates, and there are clearly players that Klinsmann doesn’t seem to rate.
Using only players that Klinsmann has shown that he considers to be quality players in his eyes, there is a strong USA XI that could perform well in the World Cup.
Without examining hypothetical Starting XIs based on players that Klinsmann hasn’t considered worthy of a starting spot, here is a starting line-up comprised entirely of players that Klinsmann has seemed to consider worthy of a role on the national team for an extended period of time:
GOALKEEPER: Tim HOWARD
There’s no need to go into detail about Tim Howard. Howard is a famous and respected goalkeeper in footballing circles, and Klinsmann holds him in high esteem.
RIGHT BACK: Geoff CAMERON
Jürgen Klinsmann has liked Geoff Cameron ever since he brought him into the national team fold, and Cameron’s performances at right back for Stoke City make him a right back choice that meets with Klinsmann’s approval.
CENTER BACK: Michael OROZCO
When many American soccer writers and fans held Michael Orozco in low esteem, Klinsmann considered Orozco to be a quality center back option. Over the course of Klinsmann’s tenure, Orozco has seen numerous call ups, and it’s safe to say that Orozco is a center back that Klinsmann rates.
CENTER BACK: John Anthony BROOKS
John Anthony Brooks was a center back that the coach of the United States was eager to incorporated into the national team, and Klinsmann stated after the United States’ 4-3 victory over Bosnia and Herzegovina that he thought both Brooks and Cameron did well at center back.
LEFT BACK: Fabian JOHNSON
No matter where Fabian Johnson is listed on the roster, the German coach clearly has no problem starting Johnson as a right back or left back if he isn’t deployed as a winger.
DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDER: Jermaine JONES
Despite the fact that he himself played as a striker in his playing days, Jürgen Klinsmann seems to view the rough and tumble German-American defensive midfielder as his absolute favorite United States international. Klinsmann was something of a diver in his playing days, but he seems to luxuriate in the ruthless and criminal tackles of Jermaine Jones who nevertheless is a very technically-skilled and athletic central midfielder. Klinsmann seems to value Jones’ “nastiness” over all of his other qualities.
DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDER: Michael BRADLEY
Like Tim Howard, Michael Bradley is a player whose inclusion requires no detailed explanation. Bradley is one of the best American players along with Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan, and Klinsmann rates him highly now, despite once commenting that there wasn’t room for Bradley in the USA XI because of Maurice Edu and Kyle Beckerman.
RIGHT ATTACKING MIDFIELDER: Landon DONOVAN
Landon Donovan along with Clint Dempsey is the best American footballer, and Klinsmann considers him to be a quality player, even though he didn’t approve of Donovan’s “sabbatical” last year and even though Donovan wasn’t listed as part of Klinsmann’s “spine” of key American players.
CENTRAL ATTACKING MIDFIELDER: Mix DISKERUD
Mix Diskerud has been valued and utilized by Klinsmann who had basically frozen out Benny Feilhaber only to begin to change his opinion of Feilhaber recently. Diskerud is a creative and effective playmaker, and Klinsmann would be wise to use a true Number 10 in the central attacking midfielder role.
LEFT ATTACKING MIDFIELDER: Clint DEMPSEY
Clint Dempsey was on the receiving end of a bizarre personal attack by Jürgen Klinsmann when Klinsmann basically dismissed Dempsey’s entire career and accomplishments as irrelevant. Nevertheless, Clint Dempsey is the best American player of all time, and it’s more or less safe to assume that Klinsmann considers him to be the best American player in the pool.
STRIKER: Jozy ALTIDORE
Jozy Altidore is the first-choice striker for Klinsmann, which the coach has said publicly over and over again.
How they line up:
HOWARD; CAMERON, OROZCO, BROOKS, JOHNSON; JONES, BRADLEY; DONOVAN, DISKERUD, DEMPSEY; ALTIDORE.
Looking at the players listed above as Americans that are clearly in Klinsmann’s good graces, the overall quality of the XI is high, and there are no players that are weak links from a technical or athletic perspective – neither are any of the players deployed out of position.
If one proposes a USMNT XI made up only of players that Jürgen Klinsmann has shown that he rates, then the Starting XI proposed above is probably something close to the Best USA XI.
It’s not clear yet how highly that Klinsmann rates Jonathan Spector. A Back Four consisting of Spector, Orozco, Cameron, and Johnson is another possibility with the caveat that Brooks could take Orozco’s spot, and thus Cameron would play as the right center back because Brooks is left-footed.