I do not know of how having the weight of a country’s expectations on my shoulders would feel like. However, there are 23 men who, in 187 days, will have emotions of pride and patriotism for the United States that most Americans will never know.
The World Cup in Brazil is even more real now especially knowing what countries will play each other. Today, thanks to the World Cup draw, we found out what teams the United States will be competing against. The Yanks will be joined by Germany, Ghana, and Portugal in Group G. And now that we know who we (I say that as if I’ll be playing in the matches. Ha!) will play, the biggest question is: who will actual play for the United States? I’m clearly not Jurgen Klinsmann but if I could decide what players to bring to Brazil, here’s my 23-man roster, at this moment:
Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Nick Rimando
Bill Hamid, Sean Johnson
This was the easiest group of men to pick. Although Hamid and Johnson are great, Howard, Guzan and Rimando are on another level. Regardless of who should be the number one goalkeeper for the USMNT, you have to admit that the US is quite lucky to have three incredible netminders at the top of their games. Proof:
Tim Howard –
Brad Guzan –
Nick Rimando (go to 1:20 in the video) –
DaMarcus Beasley, Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez, Geoff Cameron, Brad Evans, Clarence Goodson, Michael Parkhurst
John Brooks, Edgar Castillo, Steve Cherundolo, Eric Lichaj, Michael Orozco Fiscal
Klinsmann seems to have already decided his centerbacks with Besler and Gonzalez, however it’s rough go for the other defenders – especially left and right back. Although Beasley seems to have locked down the left side, Castillo is often seen fighting for the same position. Do I think Castillo can give DMB a run for his money for the World Cup roster? Possibly, but I don’t think it’s really all that possible. The right back position is a bit hazier with Evans, who normally plays a midfield spot for the Seattle Sounders, as a viable option but not quite the best. Because he’s not used to the position, he’s most vulnerable on the counter and with fast attackers (say someone like…Cristiano Ronaldo?). I do think Evans will be on the squad but I’d likely take Cameron or Parkhurst to play before the Sounder does.
For the men I left out: John Brooks just hasn’t had the time with the team and he looked a bit shaky – although continues to look promising – during the friendly against Austria. He needs more games underneath his belt before he’s called to a World Cup. Castillo, Lichaj and Orozco Fiscal are in the same boat as they are steady callups, but just not there. I could be wrong, however, as Klinsmann will call all three in, I believe, to the January camp, and be completely surprised by them. I’m keeping my eye on Lichaj, however, as he could be a dark-horse addition. And finally, the last snub pained me…a lot. I love Cherundolo. But because he’s been out of the team for so long because of his injuries, I don’t see him coming back to make this World Cup team.
Landon Donovan, Michael Bradley, Graham Zusi, Fabian Johnson, Mix Diskerud, Jermaine Jones, Alejandro Bedoya, Brek Shea
Kyle Beckerman, Joe Corona, Stuart Holden, Sacha Kljestan, Jose Torres, Danny Williams
See my notes on Donovan and Bradley below, but for others it was a tough selection. I have high hopes that Sporting Kansas City’s Graham Zusi will be on the roster, even though he’s somewhat taken a back seat since Donovan has come back to the fold. The USMNT needs someone like Fabian Johnson. He is similar to Geoff Cameron in that Johnson can play multiple positions with good effect; although the Stoke City man is a bit more versatile, Johnson makes his case for left back and left winger.
In addition, since Jones and Bradley often switch between the defensive and the box-to-box mid, I believe Diskerud can add some firepower in the middle of the pitch as a substitute.
Bedoya and Shea are somewhat in the same boat where they can add a bit of offensive spark as second half subs and hopefully frustrate the opponent’s defense. I’ve left out Kyle Beckerman for the reason that I think Klinsmann will play a bold offensive roster, and since Jones and Bradley can both sit back well, it’d be nice to see some fresh blood looking to make plays and get goals, henceforth Diskerud, Bedoya, and Shea.
As for Donovan, after he came back from his self-imposed sabbatical from soccer, he helped lead the LA Galaxy back to the MLS post-season after a mediocre (for the Galaxy) year. His play from South Africa’s 2010 World Cup in the US vs. Algeria match exemplifies just what the LA Galaxy man does in big games – show up:
And then there’s Michael Bradley. It’s odd to think that Bradley was once seen as, a bit before and during the 2010 World Cup, a shoe-in of sorts because his father, Bob Bradley, was the coach. However, after the World Cup, many people changed their opinion on the current-AS Roma midfield general as he has since become one of the most important mainstays on the USMNT.
And lastly, one of his most memorable goals (at least for me), is Bradley’s scorcher in the USMNT friendly against Scotland (with Klinsmann’s reaction as one of the best):
Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Aron Johannsson, Eddie Johnson, Terrence Boyd
Herculez Gomez, Chris Wondolowski
The selection of forwards was almost easier than I thought it would be, but it still hurt me to at least leave out Gomez. Dempsey will be there, he’s a given. Altidore will make it to Brazil. Then, the next three were a bit tougher, but almost seems inevitable with the outcome. Although I really enjoy Gomez as a person (check out his twitter if you haven’t: Herculez Gomez Twitter) and as a player, because of his recent form and run of injuries, I don’t think he’ll make the case for Brazil. Yes, he could get fit by the time June rolls around, but with how other players are producing goals, I see Gomez being left off the roster. The same goes for Wondolowski as, even though he had a good run during 2013’s Gold Cup, he doesn’t seem to produce as consistently when playing for the national team rather than for a club team. Johannsson is still quite young, but the excitement he brings to the team gives me optimism. I added Eddie Johnson and Terrence Boyd because of their steady presence up top. I do have one misgiving: if there are only four forwards rather than five, I’d take out Boyd and add Beckerman into the midfield pool, so just keep that mind.
A few more thoughts:
Regardless of how I think the team will shape into, take my roster – now after today’s World Cup draw – with a grain of salt; I know I am. The USMNT will play Germany – a team chock full of talent (Neuer, Schweinsteiger, Özil, Lahm, Müller, and Klose among others) – and always a contender to win the World Cup, Portugal – whose biggest name is Cristiano Ronaldo, but also include Pepe and Coentrão – should not be one to take too lightly, and finally Ghana, who has become one of – if not *the* – arch nemesis of the USMNT, has one half of the Boateng brothers on the roster (Kevin-Prince plays for Ghana while Jérôme plays for Germany) and according to reports, Ghanaians are feeling pretty positive.
In fact, I’m becoming more and more confident that the Yanks will come to Brazil with ready to play, and play to win.
Group G = Group of Death? Nah, I prefer Group G = Group of Opportunity.