Klinsmann seeks global blend for USA World Cup challenge
The USA prepare for their seventh straight World Cup finals, but have been given a very tricky group this time around. Tournament third-favourites Germany (11/2), Portugal (33/1) and Ghana (150/1) stand in their way at the first hurdle.
Jurgen Klinsmann’s men (150/1 chances) are the outsiders both to qualify (5/2) and top Group G (11/1), but will hope to replicate their last 16 finish at the previous tournament in South Africa. They are 9/2 shots to get eliminated from that stage again, or 12/1 to go one better in the quarters.
Football (soccer) in the USA continues to become more popular, and the German boss has a wide pool of talent to choose from who ply their trade across the globe.
Experience will be key at these finals, and the Americans will have the likes of leading scorer Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley (who have both been to three World Cup tournaments), captain Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard and Oguchi Onyewu (two) to settle the nerves.
The 23-man squad will not be decided yet in Klinsmann’s mind, but here is an idea of, barring injury, certain and potential players to make the plane to Brazil.
Goalkeepers have not been a problem for the USA in recent times as, over the years, the likes of Kasey Keller, Brad Friedel and Howard have all been able possessors of the number one jersey. The latter will be Klinsmann’s first choice this time around.
Howard, 35, has helped his Everton side to within touching distance of fourth place in the Premier League this season, and the veteran stopper has been in fine form, keeping 13 clean sheets from 31 matches so far. He is currently on 97 caps for his country, and will hope to be a centurion before their first group game against Ghana on June 16th.
Aston Villa’s Brad Guzan will be the able backup, and this tournament will be a great experience for the 29-year-old, who will likely take over from Howard in the near future. The third keeping berth looks as if it will go to Real Salt Lake’s Nick Rimando, who played in the recent friendly with neighbours Mexico, which had a squad largely made up of MLS-based members.
In defence, the back four is likely to be usual midfielder Brad Evans (of Seattle Sounders), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City) and versatile Beasley (Puebla in Mexico), who played most of the qualifying campaign.
Players based outside of North America, including Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Geoff Cameron (Stoke), Tim Ream (Bolton), Jonathan Spector (Birmingham), Onyewu (Sheffield Wednesday) and Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest) will all hope to make the final squad cut.
Former AC Milan, Sporting Lisbon and Newcastle United star centre back Onyewu will be desperate to make the squad, following years of injury trouble and loss of form. On his day, the 31-year-old is a quality player and, if fit, Klinsmann has stated he will be picked.
Recent call-ups Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes), Beasley’s clubmate Michael Orozco and youngster DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle), meanwhile, will not give up on a World Cup ticket either.
Germany-born Jermaine Jones (Besiktas) played in 12 qualifiers in total and will definitley go to the World Cup as a starter. Michael Bradley (Toronto), son of former national coach Bob, will likely partner him in midfield.
Country top scorer (57) and second most capped (156) legend Donovan (LA Galaxy) will occupy a position further forward, either out wide or behind the striker. The 32-year-old managed 12 goals and 11 assists in 27 MLS appearances in 2013, and will be crucial to the USA’s hopes.
Other players battling it out for a place on the plane include Mikkel Diskerud (Rosenborg), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Brek Shea (Stoke), Maurice Edu (Philadelphia Union), Graham Zusi (Kansas) and Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake).
Leading the line will be Sunderland flop Jozy Altidore. Despite just two goals in 35 club appearances this season so far, the 24-year-old has an impressive record for his country, and former side AZ Alkmaar. He has 21 goals from his 67 caps and is a 200/1 Golden Boot chance.
His strike partner will be national captain and recent centurion Dempsey (Seattle), with the former Fulham forward sitting just behind Altidore.
Newly capped Julian Green (Bayern Munich), who has chosen to represent the country of his birth rather than land of his mother Germany, has a chance to make the final squad. The exciting attacker is a real coup for the USA and has been earmarked as a football prospect for the future.
Meanwhile, Aron Johannsson (AZ), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna) and squad veteran Eddie Johnson (DC United) hope to make the 23-man squad.