Alright, alright, you caught me again. I can’t predict what’s on Jürgen Klinsmann’s mind worth a DAMN. When I tried to bring you what I thought was a reasonable approximation of the German’s USMNT roster choices for Wednesday’s friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina, I’m not entirely certain I could have been more wrong. I mean, I guess I could have picked Jonathan Bornstein or Freddy Adu or — god forbid you give him a shot, Jürgen — Eric Lichaj, but baring my naming of those long-gone castaways, it came back about as bad as it could have.
I thought just 20 players would make the trip because of the short camp and impending seasons. Nope, full squad of 23. Two goalkeepers? Hello Cody Cropper! Return of Landon Donovan? Return of Tim Ream! Worst of all might be Alfredo Morales, who I had as a lock thanks to buzz on Twitter. Alas, the Inglodstadt man is nowhere to be found.
That’s not to say there are not promising things to watch in this team. I’m particularly exited for the young-uns like John Anthony Brooks, Bobby Wood and Cropper to get a shot with the big squad. I want to see if Mix Diskerud and Joe Corona can continue to make an impact with more of the “A-Squad” in the setup. Heck, I even want to see if Ream and JAB — I’m making this happen for Brooks, just try to stop me — can help fix some of the depth issues at the back. One thing is for sure: There is certainly a lot to talk about.
1. Fresh Transfers Mean Nothing
One of the assumptions I was working off of in my projections was that players that had only recently moved to new clubs would likely be given a game off. With an experimental squad anyway, what’s the harm? Damn, well, this may be where I was most wrong. Sure, Clint Dempsey is left to take in the game from far, far away in Seattle, but three players who have either just started or are just about to start their first seasons with a new club were pulled from training to join the squad in Sarajevo. Jozy Altidore has been training with Sunderland for weeks and Danny Williams has already seen some game action at Reading but Alejandro Bedoya probably hasn’t even gotten over his jet lag in Nantes — assuming that happens on a flight from Helsingborg, which it probably doesn’t, especially since they are in the same time zone. Hopefully it does them for good than harm making trip. You have to figure Klinsmann wouldn’t have called them in if they weren’t going to play.
2. Comeback Stopped Short?
I guess giving Landon Donovan a break for this game doesn’t mean much of anything. I mean, not every first team regular is going to play in this game. What is strangely more concerning lies in the semantics. After the Gold Cup, the tide was starting to shift in the direction of Fabian Johnson taking over left back from honorable steward DaMarcus Beasley. Instead, Johnson was named to the team as a midfielder, meaning Klinsmann sees the Hoffenheim man as a viable option — and probable starter — on the left wing. What does this mean for Donovan? Well, nothing right now, but it could present a selection conundrum in the future.
Although Donovan played primarily in the role normally given to Dempsey during the Gold Cup, he won’t supplant the newly-minted Seattle Sounder. They need to find a way to be on the field at the same time. To that end, the left side of midfield was seen as a likely landing spot, especially with Beasley’s hold on left back viewed as tenable at best and Johnson a ready-made replacement. This means that there is little intent to tinker with that part of the equation and may again leave the all time USMNT goalscorer on the bench. Klinsmann may find a way to piece it all together, probably at the expense of Graham Zusi if Johnson is a must start in the midfield.
3. Thin Back Line
Depth is a real, legitimate concern for the USMNT heading into a World Cup year, there is no denying it. How does Klinsmann choose to confront it? By calling in a squad where just one (maybe) of the assumed starters in Brazil next summer makes the trip. Even that one starter could be up the air, depending if you are in Camp Brad or Camp Geoff — which sounds more like a crappy dorm room competition about who’s a bigger Dave Matthews Band fan. At the very least, guys can make their cases for a spot on the roster and Cameron might even get a shot in his more natural center back berth.
4. New Blood
Four players in this squad have zero caps, with the aforementioned young trio joined by recent Icelandic flip-flop Aron Jóhannsson. It’s not exactly like Diskerud and Corona are wily vets. Even Terrence Boyd only has nine caps to to his name. Cropper is probably just here to the experience, and Jóhannsson might not even be eligible to play yet anyway, but it will certainly be exciting to see Wood up top and JAB at the back.
5. Who Missed Out?
With such an interesting and experimental squad, once the new guys are accepted by the public, the question quickly becomes who wasn’t called in? Certainly, Donovan and the slew of MLS defenders — Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez, Clarence Goodson — who weren’t invited could raise some eyebrows, as could Zusi, but this was a team heavy on European-based players, which makes sense given the location and logistics. But, even in Europe, there are players who maybe could have gotten a shot. I already let known my outrage over Lichaj — who is my personal player crusade, something it seems all USMNT must have — but the bigger question mark revolves around Timmy Chandler. His commitment to the USMNT cause has been questioned before, and there is the lingering injury issue to mention, but he made the bench last weekend. Is this exclusion his doing, or Klinsmanns?
What are your thoughts on Klinsmann’s 23 for the friendly? Surprised to see Tim Ream or some of the MLS guys? Excited for the JAB and Wood debuts? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.