Thursday, April 3, 2014

Building The 23 - USMNT 2.0 for 2014 World Cup

Yesterday the United States Men's National Team tied Mexico 2-2 in a friendly played at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.  The USMNT jumped out to a 2-0 lead as cheers of Dos a Cero Chants rang through the stadium.  Unfortunately the USMNT sputtered in second half conceding two goals so it ended up being Dos a Dos.

Although the United States and Mexico are bitter CONCACAF rivals, ultimately the scoreline is meaningless given that it is only a friendly and thus simply a means to help prepare for the 2014 World Cup.  This match could carry much more symbolic significance though.  Landon Donovan and Julian Green both got subbed into the match in the second half at the same time.  Donovan will likely go down as the most successful USMNT player of all-time while the 18-year old Green has limitless potential that could make him the next Donovan for the USMNT.  The USMNT are lucky to have Green in the fold given that he had the choice to play for Germany or the United States and choose the United States.  Since Green plays for Bayern Munich's youth team it was a bit of a surprise that he choose the United States since Green choose the United States, he has a much better chance to go to the 2014 World Cup.  If Green choose Germany he would have no chance of going to the 2014 World Cup and an outside chance of appearing for Germany in the 2016 European Championship.

I gave my first look at the 23 players I thought USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann would take to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil the day after the United States was drawn into the "Group of Death" with Germany, Ghana, and Portugal.  As I said in that post, Building The 23 for the USMNT is similar to what I do with Building The 53 for the Green Bay Packers, Building The 25 for the Milwaukee Brewers, and Building The 15 for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Just to reiterate, the breakdown of The 23 is usually 3 goalkeepers, 8 defenders, 8 midfielders, and 4 strikers.  Besides goalkeeper, some of the players drawn into defense or up front could also slide into the midfielder so those are not hard and fast numbers.  Here are my updated thoughts about the players Klinsmann should select for The 23.

Goalkeepers (3): Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, and Nick Rimando.
Starter: Tim Howard
Analysis: This is the most solid spot on the entire squad.  Guzan would start for at least half of the countries in the World Cup but absent injury will have to serve as Howard's understudy.

Defenders (8): DaMarcus Beasley, Matt Besler, John Brooks, Geoff Cameron, Brad Evans, Omar Gonzalez, Clarence Goodson, and Fabian Johnson
Dropped (1): Steve Cherundolo
Added (1): Fabian Johnson* (treated as midfielder last time)
Starters: DaMarcus Beasley (LB), Matt Besler (CB), Geoff Cameron (CB), Fabian Johnson (RB)
Analysis: Unfortunately Cherundolo is just not fit enough to play in the 2014 World Cup, which opens up the right back spot for the first time in essentially a decade.  Besler was a revelation a year ago but his star has faded slightly but the lack of depth at central defender for the United States, I still see Besler as a virtual lock for the starting lineup.  That leaves seven guys fighting for three spots.  I honestly could see almost any of those seven starting across the back for the USMNT, so it will be interesting to see what there can separate themselves from the group.

Midfielders (8): Kyle Beckerman, Michael Bradley, Brad Davis, Mix Diskerud, Landon Donovan, Julian Green, Jermaine Jones, and Graham Zusi
Dropped (2): Fabian Johnson* (treated as a midfielder last time but moved to defender this time) and Brek Shea
Added (2): Brad Davis and Julian Green
Starters: Kyle Beckerman (DM), Michael Bradley (CM), Jermaine Jones (CM), Graham Zusi (LW/RW)
Analysis: The USMNT is in a unique spot because Beckerman and Jones look to be redundant central midfielders that can allow Bradley to push forward.  Given Klinsman's affinity for Jones, I could see him playing all three as central midfielders since he likes to see his outside defenders push forward.  That leaves Zusi as the only true winger unless the other midfielders that I currently have on the bench can separate from the pack.

Forwards (4): Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, Aaron Johnannson, and Chris Wondolowski
Dropped (1): Eddie Johnson
Added (1): Chris Wondolowski
Starters: Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey
Analysis: It will be interesting to watch the competition for the fourth striker spot given that Altidore, Dempsey, and Johannson look like locks.  Over the last two years Wondolowski has scored some important goals for the United States, which is why I added Wondolowski instead of Johnson.

Klinsman will announce his provisional 30-man squad in mid-May.  Those 30 players will participate in a two week training session that includes a couple exhibition matches before Klinsman must winnow his roster down to The 23 by June 2nd.  Make sure to check back in mid-May for my thoughts on Klinsman's provisional 30-man squad.

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