3 Big Questions Every USMNT Fan Should Be Thinking About

January 31, 2013

As the USMNT moves on from its (cough) uninspiring 0-0 draw with Canada on Tuesday night, all eyes will now be focused on next Wednesday’s hexagonal clash with Honduras.

Here are three big questions facing Jurgen Klinsmann and the USMNT as the game approaches.

Question No. 1: Who starts at outside back if both Steve Cherundolo and Fabian Johnson stay injured?

Fabian Johnson missed Hoffenheim’s game last weekend with what has been reported as a knee bruise and a strained ligament.

Steve Cherundolo also missed his Bundesliga match last weekend for Hannover with a knee injury.

If both Johnson and Cherundolo–the U.S.’ obvious first-choice outside backs–are unavailable, how will the U.S. organize its back line?

Timmy Chandler, the part-time U.S. international who has in the past avoided international games that would have left him cap-tied, reportedly will accept a call-up for Honduras.

Although Chandler is right-footed, he has experience on both sides of defense and was used by former USMNT head coach Bob Bradley on the left on a number of occasions.

The other obvious choice is Michael Parkhurst, who also has experience on both sides of the back line and was recently used on the left side for the U.S. against Guatemala in October.

However, since moving to Augsburg, Parkhurst has not played competitively. In fact, his last competitive match was December 9. That’s 53 days without a competitive match—not exactly what you want to see headed into an away World Cup qualifier in the one of the most hostile environments in the Western Hemisphere.

Past Chandler and Parkhurst, things get pretty dicey.

Edgar Castillo is an option and has been playing regularly for Club Tijuana in the Liga MX. Michael Orozco Fiscal is another option, but not exactly an exciting one. Finally, Jurgen Klinsmann could call in someone unexpected like Jonathan Spector or Eric Lichaj.

Another option Klinsmann may explore is playing Geoff Cameron as an outside back. Cameron has played all but one of his games for Stoke City out wide and has played well. While it seems like the U.S. needs Cameron in the middle, Klinsmann could opt to go with a Carlos Bocanegra/Omar Gonzalez combination at center-back and push Cameron wide.

This is, of course, assuming Klinsmann doesn’t do the opposite and put out a Cameron/Gonzalez center-back pairing while pushing Bocanegra wide. Bocanegra proved in the Antigua and Barbuda game back in October that his best days as an outside back are well behind him.

Question No. 2: Who starts at forward along Clint Dempsey?

This is the type of question that should stir some solid debate among USMNT fans.

On the one hand, there is Herculez Gomez, the ever-dependable, hard-working striker from Santos Laguna. Gomez is getting regular time with Santos and chipping in the odd goal, as usual. With Gomez, what you see is what you get.

On the other hand is the riskier choice, Jozy Altidore. Altidore has been on absolute fire over the past few weeks in the Eredivisie scoring seven goals in AZ Alkmaar’s last five matches. On Tuesday, Jozy scored again against FC Den Bosch despite facing racist chants from the FC Den Bosch fans.

After the game, Jozy showed his increasing maturity saying that the fan behavior was “disappointing” and that he would “pray for them”.

The downside of playing Altidore, of course, is that he could put in another so-so performance. Jozy has become known for these type of lackluster performances with the U.S. all too often over the past year.

Question No. 3: Which January camp members make the roster for Honduras?

Considering the performance put on by the U.S. “B” team on Tuesday night, the first reaction of many USMNT fans might be “none of them.”

However, Jurgen Klinsmann has said that between six to nine players from the January camp will make the trip to Honduras.

So, who will those players be?

Assuming Klinsmann calls up the usual suspects from abroad—Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Geoff Cameron, Carlos Bocanegra, Michael Parkhurst, Timmy Chandler, Edgar Castillo, Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, Sacha Kljestan, Maurice Edu, Danny Williams, Joe Corona, Herculez Gomez, Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore and Terrence Boyd—there are five spots left (give or take). Of course, Klinsmann could leave Edu, Williams, Corona or Boyd off as well. He could also give a call-up to Jose Torres.

With only two center-backs in that group, Omar Gonzalez is a virtual lock. For the other center-back slot, Klinsmann could bring in Matt Besler, or make the call-up that would have many U.S. fans let out a collective sigh and give Oguchi Onyewu one last look.

For depth at outside-back, Klinsmann’s choices are fairly limited. Neither Justin Morrow nor Tony Beltran, Klinsmann’s choices for the Canada friendly were particularly impressive. And, one of Major League Soccer’s best outside backs, Sean Franklin, was left off the January roster completely. Brad Evans, who was not impressive as a center midfielder in the first half against Canada, did play okay as a right-back in the second half. Or, Klinsmann could decide Parkhurst, Chandler and Castillo are enough and just get on the plane without a fourth outside back.

The obvious choices in the midfield are Eddie Johnson and Graham Zusi, both of whom played well for the U.S. in October. Despite less than impressive performances against Canada, Klinsmann is likely to opt for cohesion and familiarity against Honduras.

If Maurice Edu, who recently moved to Turkey in search of more playing time, is not called up, USMNT fans will have to endure yet another call-up for the dreaded (no pun intended) Kyle Beckerman.

Benny Feilhaber may have done enough in the Canada game to earn his way in, but he’d probably be the last of the January camp midfielders to make the roster.

Mix Diskerud did not even make the game-day roster for Canada and Josh Gatt tweeted today that he’s back in Norway. With the USMNT assembling in just a few days, it’s doubtful Gatt would have gone back had Klinsmann told Gatt he would be part of the Honduras squad.

The forward pool also presents an interesting choice. Juan Agudelo was one of the most impressive (yes, a relative term considering the team’s overall performance) performers from Tuesday’s match. With Dempsey, Gomez and Altidore basically automatic choices, the fourth forward spot is up for grabs.

Terrence Boyd has not played a competitive match since December 15 and considering the importance of this game against Honduras, it is doubtful Klinsmann will call him up.

Let us know your thoughts below.

John D. Halloran


5 Responses to 3 Big Questions Every USMNT Fan Should Be Thinking About

  1. DE Dupuis on January 31, 2013 at 8:32 pm

    Cameron can play anywhere on the back line, he’s become a regular starter in the EPL and that should say more than enough.
    There is another fairly regular starter in the EPL at fullback, why he is not the first choice for USMNT fullback I don’t understand – Lichaj. True he has not looked fantastic on his USMNT outings, but compared to Castillo, he’s been the second coming and we’re still talking about Castillo.
    I would have hoped that whatever that was on Tuesday would have put an end to how useful most of the MLS players are. If someone is good enough to start, or be a regular sub in the EPL that should be all the evidence needed to give someone a prolonged runout on the USMNT, to act differently is really odd to say the least.
    As striker, I would give Altidore a half at least – he is playing regularly in great form in a good league – that should be all anyone would want to know.
    To not take Gatt and Mix to the hex (unless injured) is just plain stupid, for the team now, and in the future. The only other American player with the technique and composure on the ball that Mix has is Deuce (maybe Bradley). So it makes no sense at all to leave such a guy off a team having trouble hanging on to the ball and using it well. And Gatt was the only player Tues who took the game to Canada – some poor decisions yes – but pace, technique, and aggression are in short supply on Team America.
    JK showed up with most USA fans giving him the benefit of the doubt, however he continues to make odd choices, his reservoir of good will is just about gone (at least with me – I think Lahm was probably right about JK)
    And JD, why on earth are we taking about passing on EPL starters and instead thinking Edu, Castillo, and Beckerman are reasonable alternatives. Madness. Thery’re not.

    • John D. Halloran on January 31, 2013 at 9:42 pm

      I like Lichaj too and I really liked him in the 2011 Gold Cup. I’ve watched almost every Aston Villa game this year (shouldn’t I get an award just for watching that much bad football?) and he has had his ups and downs. But, as you mention, it is against much better competition than the average MLS or Liga MX defender is seeing.

      Not sure why JK doesn’t seem to have any faith in Mix. He played well enough against Russia, didn’t he? His January camp was apparently so bad that he wasn’t even worth a roster spot on Tuesday?

      The one thing that started bothering me last summer, but looks evident again, is that the longer JK is with the team (in terms of the length of the training camp), the worse they look on the field. That’s not a good sign.

      Lastly, I actually like Edu. Sure he’s not flashy and a player like Jermaine Jones is obviously playing in a better league, but with Edu–what you see is what you get. Jones’ performances are all over the map, Beckerman is clearly not international quality and Danny Williams is still up and down.

      • DE Dupuis on February 1, 2013 at 5:48 am

        I’m with you on Altidore, his fundamental abilities and his league form are just too too good not to keep giving him runouts until he catches fire for the USMNT.

        Maybe we’re not thinking of the same Edu, the Edu I’m thinking of has a good work ethic and is a tough tackler, but is a ball losing machine – giving away about as many balls as he keeps. For a Barca and Liverpool fan that’s an unforgivable attribute.

        Without Donovan the only other hope for meaningful wing play are Gatt and Shea (injured?). Even though I’m not impressed with either yet, its crazy not to give these young potentially really good players consistent runouts. Who did JK think was going to follow Donovan? Right now we have no one – not good.

        On current evidence I have no hope whatsoever for the WC, if we get there it will be a brief and painful stay, unless something significant changes. JK makes more bad moves than good ones – and what’s with talking smack to CD? Hopefully Porter will have had two good years with the Timbers by then and will move over to the USMNT.

  2. Matt Swift on February 1, 2013 at 9:06 am

    I say move Chandler over to the left, put Edu or Eric Lichaj on the right and have Gonzalez & Cameron in the middle. Bradley can help defensively in the middle by controlling the ball and picking off passes.
    Wing-play will be crucial and Zusi must have a big game. Gatt’s speed and play reminds me of Cobi Jones(my all-time fav player) but the kid needs to learn to pass quicker.
    As far as goal scorers go….Jurgen HAS TO START JOZY…there is no way around that. I also agree with what you said John about “the longer JK is with the team (in terms of the length of the training camp), the worse they look on the field.”
    Leaving Mix out of the Mix is also a cause for concern. JK’s decision making is very suspect..saying that Mix needs to be more robust and battle more? Get real..not everyone plays like your man- crush Jermaine Jones who racks up yellows and reds and injures everyone on the pitch, including himself. I for one liked Bob Bradley and miss him.

    • John D. Halloran on February 1, 2013 at 6:49 pm

      I think Edu as an outside back is an interesting idea. Word is, Edu is at the top of every athletic category the USMNT records. That, combined with the fact that he is a consistent mid-league European center midfielder, should make him a half-decent outside back.

      I liked Bob Bradley too, but when I get nostalgic for the BB era I remember him starting Robbie Findley, Jonathan Bornstein and Ricardo Clark in the World Cup.

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