When you occasionally write for a blog about the USMNT then when something shocking happens in the world of USMNT people ask you all sorts of questions. Let’s try to answer those with very opinion based thinking. The TL;DR version of all this, is I don’t know so I’ll trust Klinsmann.
The first thing people seem to get up in arms about is Landon Donovan, and in particular Lando vs. Julian Green. Let’s really break this down a little more, so there were 8 “midfielders” Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Jermaine Jones (Besiktas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City). That doesn’t include players like Dempsey who is kind of a hybrid or defenders who have played midfielder like Fabian Johnson. Of these you know that Jones, Bradley, and Zusi should see significant playing time. Beckerman could see time with those 3 or he could be the Jermaine Jones yellow card security blanket (which I assume we will need). Bedoya looks to be the most likely to be the other wing midfielder based on his performance in the Gold Cup, or if you want to just go play making middle of the field heavy you could go with Mix. This leaves Klinsmann with a lot of options. The remaining midfielders he picked are Brad Davis who I’m not a huge fan of. He’s good, not great, he’s got a great left foot, but not much pace. And at this point in his career we know who he is. That being said he isn’t the same type of player as Landon, you want Brad Davis if you want to hold down the wing play, really force things wide and get good balls into the box. That means that Brad Davis isn’t the one who kept Landon out, and since there aren’t really any other players that bring that skill set, it would appear he was on the roster to start not on the fringe, and Klinsmann wanted some people like that. That leaves the fan’s question of why Julian over Landon (or for that matter the others that were left off). Landon historically has been great because of his pace, he can run at defenders from far away and if you get him in space he can make things happen. Julian we know basically nothing about, but from his 20 minutes he seems to run at defenders and have pace. At this point in his career Landon’s pace is leaving him. Other players have changed how they play to still be useful because of their knowledge of the field and vision, look at how Steven Gerrard changed at Liverpool this year, or for a USMNT example, Beasley became a defender where his level of pace is still an advantage to track back and stay in front of the ball. If Klinsmann in training camp saw that Julian’s pace and creativity was passing Landon who hasn’t made that career adjustment because he plays in the MLS where his pace and creativity is still good enough he had to make the hard choice to move on. Now comes the next question of, but he’s been our hero forever how could we move on. Normally the heroes of US soccer get to play until they retire. Lots retire a little too soon (Reyna, McBride) to avoid that moment where they are not the asset to the team anymore, and are holding them back. Sometimes though they get that gifted position on the team and just can’t go to the same level and hurt the team. Klinsmann made the decision to avoid that situation by going to the youth movement now. Basically you are probably looking at a situation where Landon or Green were probably fighting for the last bench spot to be a person who comes on for 20 minutes to try and change a game if you are down a goal or two.
Shwew now that we all calmed down and realized that maybe Julian as the wildcard is worth while, let’s move on to defense shall we? The big snubs here are Brad Evans and Clarence Goodson, who I think we would all agree, aren’t the best defenders in the world, but they both are very steady and have at times been called in to save the US defense, and so we as fans have fond memories of them. That being said, again, I’m not in camp. We are reacting to Timmy Chandler as the guy who got injured, led on the USA, then became a steaming pile of garbage on the field. But has anyone seen him since then seen him play? I know I haven’t. Maybe he tried to come back too early, then took time off to get himself back to fit, and now he really is the best we have. We are looking at Fabian Johnson and Beasley probably getting the most time, but don’t be surprised if Chandler is in the mix as someone who can defend with pace on the wing and move forward. As for Goodson, I really don’t know what to say. He’s the type of player you don’t want as a sub, he’s a starter through and through. So do you carry him in case of injury or do you have enough depth with Brooks and Cameron who you could sub on? I’m not sure what the best to do in this situation is.
Now that it’s clear I have no idea what’s going on in defense, let’s move to forwards. I’ve been asked about Aron Johannsson and how legit he is. I am a fan of him. I know he hasn’t scored for the USA but he’s a great late game sub to bring energy and a different style of play to the forward. Maybe like a young Dempsey? As for the Wondo over a suddenly hot Terrance “the Body” Boyd. I thought for sure Boyd would get his shot at the 23 and the lead up games to see if you could catch his streak in a bottle and take that with you to Brazil, because one hot striker can get you out of a group. Here is my thought on this. Wondo is a player you bring as a starter. Jozy is not on a hot streak. Maybe this is an insurance policy in case Jozy can’t regain his confidence in the lead up games because you can play Wondo as the target forward as a starter then use Jozy and Johannsson off the bench. I would prefer Boyd, but he’s never delivered for USA and Wondo has, there must be a little of that in there. Also Klinsmann knows a thing or two about picking big tall forwards who nobody believes in (although that’s cause he was pushed to the bench at Munich cause he can’t score in club games) and then they just dominate the world cup, so maybe Wondo is the USA Klose. We can all hope.
No surprises at Goalie so we don’t even need to talk about it.
Last thing I want to talk about. I talked to some people about what they thought would happen at the world cup. One was a German and I said, with all the talk of group of death, nobody seems worried about Germany making it out. While I’m confident it’s a group of death fighting over the last spot behind Germany, surprises happen at the World Cup all the time, teams you think will easily get out get eliminated early, teams you think will roll over make it through. By the end the favorites seem to make their way to the finals, a huge surprise doesn’t make it through the full grind, but little surprises along the way happen. But the German I was talking to said that I was crazy to say such a thing and this isn’t a group of death. The other people (also foreign) I was talking to were arguing about if USA would get even a point this World Cup, they ended up betting a beer on it. And overall they thought USA would get crushed by Ghana, MIGHT get a point against Portugal, and then would get crushed by Germany. I guess all that love for USA during that win streak is gone. I’m not willing to throw in the towel yet, but wow, nobody believes in the USA, so their thought on Landon vs. Julian was who cares it won’t matter at all USA sucks. Let’s show them they are wrong and shock the world with some big wins.