Today, Jurgen Klinsmann announced his 21-man roster for the Italy friendly to be held next Wednesday. Here are five thoughts.
Wondering why their phone didn’t ring…
Zak Whitbread – Whitbread has been playing fairly consistently for Norwich City in the English Premier League this year and recently was a huge part of his team’s shutout of Chelsea. Yes, he’s been out the last two weeks with a hamstring pull, but he should be back in the lineup this weekend against Manchester United and the friendly with Italy is still a week away.
Sacha Kljestan – Yes, Kljestan has traditionally been considered a second-tier player for the American midfield, but one wonders what more he needs to do to get on Klinsmann’s radar. His club, Anderlecht, won each of their group stage in the Europa League competition and is currently running away from the competition at the top of the Belgian League. Certainly Kljestan is a better call-up than the inconsistent and temperamental Jermaine Jones
Eric Lichaj – Lichaj impressed this summer in the Gold Cup at a position that the U.S. has been notoriously thin at, left back. After an early season hip injury, Lichaj is fit again and deserves a call-up. While he might not be able to pry away the starting job from Timothy Chandler, the U.S. only has two go-to options at outside back at the moment and it would be wise to fully integrate a young Lichaj into the squad so he is ready when needed. He is certainly a better option than the error-prone Jonathan Spector.
Why are they here?
Jonathan Spector – While Spector is having a good season with Birmingham City in the English Championship, it’s still the English Championship, a league notorious for its direct play, the opposite of the style Klinsmann wants to play. Furthermore, Spector has had his chances with the Nats and has proven he is a liability at the international level.
Jermaine Jones – Jones has had his chances and while he has flair and can produce some brilliant moments of skill, he is also rash in his challenges, lazy in doing his defensive duty and, in his club career, prone to clashes with managers. The U.S. can do better to find someone who fits in with its traditional focus on the team over the individual.
Excited to see…
Donovan and Dempsey playing together – Since Klinsmann took over, for various reasons, this has not happened. They are both clearly in form as their performances in January in the Premier League have proven. Now Klinsmann has no excuses if the team under-performs.
Terrence Boyd – This kid can flat out play. Need proof? Check out some of the Youtube clips of his performances with the U-23 team in January. Even if he doesn’t get on the field, Klinsmann’s willingness to pull him off the U-23 team which is in camp right now over Juan Agudelo and Brek Shea who are also with the 23′s says something about how they rank Boyd’s potential.
Fabian Johnson – With a good performance in the Slovenia friendly in November, U.S. fans are hoping he can deliver the creativity in the midfield the U.S. desperately needs.
Might as well start…
Geoff Cameron – A shaky performance against Panama aside, most U.S. fans will admit Clarence Goodson, while a solid player, is not the answer at center back. Goodson always looks a step too slow for the international game. With Gooch out injured and Whitbread not called up, it’s worth finding out if Cameron can get the job done against top-notch competition.
Why not take a look at…
Michael Parkhurst as an outside back – Parkhurst, who has put together several solid European seasons and played in the Europa League for the last two years, proved in the game against Panama that his height is too much of a liability to play center back for the Nats. However, his solid positioning, quick feet and good possession could make him a good option for depth at the outside back position. After all, Steve Cherundolo won’t play forever.
A pretty good roster. It should be an exciting game.
John D. Halloran