Coach Jurgen Klinsmann has recently announced that he will call up to 29 players into camp for the upcoming friendly matches and World Cup qualifiers. The first wave of call ups will be announced May 15th, and will consist of the European and international based players. The MLS based players who are invited to the Orlando camp will be announced May 20th. The 29 players will then be reduced to a 23-man roster by May 25th.
With the NFL draft recently completed, and the NBA draft around the corner, it’s time to join the fun. I decided to break out my best suit, my tackiest tie, and enough hairspray to make me a fire hazard in an effort to channel my inner Mel Kiper, Jr. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the first-ever “Jurgen Klinsmann - US Men’s National Team Big Board!”
GK: For the better part of 15 years, goalkeeping has been the biggest strength of the National Team. This year is no different. However, with Howard aging, who will be the next in line to the carry the mantle?
1. Tim Howard (Everton) - Simply put, he is the first name the coach pens in the lineup sheet each match.
2. Brad Guzan (Aston Villa) - Guzan often gets overlooked because of Howard, but has consistently performed for his club when called upon, conceding a goal once every 85 minutes for a struggling Villa club.
3. Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake) - Game in and game out, Rimando has been playing at an elite level for years in Salt Lake.
4. Dan Kennedy (Chivas USA) - No keeper in the MLS has meant more to his team this season than Kennedy. Could he see his first invite into a National Team camp?
5. Bill Hamid (D.C. United) - The most physically gifted keeper to come through the US system in years, Hamid is still learning how to command a defense and keep focused for 90 minutes. Having Howard as a mentor will surely benefit him.
6. Tally Hall (Houston Dynamo) - An unheralded keeper who seemingly came from nowhere to replace Pat Onstad as the franchise keeper in Houston.
Other Notables: Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire) - Has yet to fully recover from that nightmarish ending against El Salvador in Olympic qualifying. Will he ever be the same?
1. Carlos Bocanegra (Rangers) - The Captain of the USMNT. Can play either CB or LB. If you need someone to man mark on this US team, you call on Bocanegra.
2. Oguchi Onyewu (Sporting Lisbon) - The best dressed American in Portugal is the most physically imposing player on the USMNT roster when healthy. Played 27 games for Sporting this season, his most since 2009.
3. Timmy Chandler (FC Nuremburg) - In Chandler, the USMNT now has something it has been lacking in previous years, a defender who can attack and keep other teams honest defensively.
4. Clarence Goodson (Brøndby IF) - The 6’4” center back took a step up in class in the Italy friendly on February 29th, and showed up to the task admirably. Pairing Goodson with Onyewu allows the option for Bocanegra to move to left back if necessary.
5. Fabian Johnson (TSG 1899 Hoffenheim) - The teammate of both Williams and Joe Gyau has been featuring at left back for his club for the past few months. Expect to see him in camp in May.
6. Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96) - The stalwart in the back line missed part of the club season due to injury, but he’s still the first option at right back for the USMNT.
7. Tim Ream (Bolton) - The former Red Bull has struggled for the national team recently, but he remains one of the few options at center back.
8. Eric Lichaj (Aston Villa) - Another player who brings depth to a thin spot at left back. Lichaj has earned quality minutes at Aston Villa after a torn labrum kept him out of service from August to March.
9. Josh Gatt (Molde) - Gatt can play both right back and on the wing, and is back to health after missing Olympic qualifying with an injury. If you haven’t seen his YouTube highlight reel, do yourself a favor.
10. Geoff Cameron (Houston Dynamo) - The last time we saw saw Cameron in a US jersey, he was questionably sent off against Panama. While he has struggled for the National Team, his play spurred the Dynamo’s run to the MLS Cup final last season.
Other Notables: Edgar Castillo, Steven Beitashour, Alfredo Morales, Zarek Valentin, Seth Sinovic, Heath Pearce.
Midfielders: Klinsmann has experimented with the 4-3-3 lately, preaching attacking creativity. This means competition for spots in the midfield is fierce, and the current player pool has its most depth in this area of the field.
1. Michael Bradley (Chievo) - Bradley is by far the most underappreciated player playing today, with many fans assuming he got so many minutes because his father was the coach. Detractors need to watch tape of the Italy match and his track record in Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands to realize how much he provides to his team. The best midfielder the US has right now.
2. Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04) - Quite possibly one of the scariest human beings I have ever seen. His 14 yellow cards in the last 16 games makes Gattuso look like a saint. I’m ranking him this high because I honestly think if I put him lower, he would come to my house and viciously two-foot me.
3. Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy) - This round of qualifiers should allow US fans to see something they haven’t since the start of the Klinsmann era, Donovan and Dempsey on the field at the same time. The question has always been what are the best positions for these two in the national side.
4. Maurice Edu (Rangers) - He’s not going to do the flashy things that will draw the attention of more casual fans, but he’s an effective ball stopper playing in front of a more attacking presence.
5. Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht) - Kljestan has deservedly been celebrating his newly won Belgian First Division title. He was asked to play holding midfielder at Anderlecht; however, that might be the single deepest position on the USMNT with the likes of Bradley/Jones/Edu/Beckerman all capable of seeing time. Where does the mustache fit into the US system?
6. Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake) - The dreadlocked wonder is having the best run of form in his career, leading RSL to the top of the MLS Western Conference standings. He’s shown he’s able to score big goals when his team needs it most, like his last-gasp winner in Portland late in March. The question is, does he get minutes in an already crowded central midfield?
7. Jose Francisco Torres (Pachuca) - In Torres the US has a player who’s comfort on the ball and ability to play in pressure makes him a unique asset to the player pool. We’ve yet to see it translate over to the USMNT well, but he may thrive in a more advanced role.
8. DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla) - Had a good season on the left wing for Puebla, scoring five goals. Beasley provides pace and a two-way midfielder that the US has in short supply. Many people wouldn’t realize he doesn’t turn 30 until May 24th; there’s still plenty of gas left in his tank.
9. Alejandro Bedoya (Rangers) - Injuries hampered Bedoya early on with Rangers, but he gained minutes as his health improved. Playing outside on the right, he scored his first goal in a Rangers jersey on May 2nd.
10. Joe Gyau (TSG 1899 Hoffenheim) - Only 19 years old, the left winger put on a show in the U-23's 2-0 win vs. Mexico (#11 in white) in February. He could provide some depth and fresh blood out left, where the team is thin at wide midfielder options. He made the 18-man roster for Hoffenheim a few times this season, but has yet to make an appearance for the first team.
Other Notables: Brek Shea, Jeff Larentowicz, Joe Corona, Graham Zusi, Mikkel Diskerud, Freddy Adu, Benny Feilhaber, Stuart Holden (inj.).
Forwards: The 2011-2012 season saw several US forwards score goals in bunches. With such impressive strike rates, fans (and Klinsmann himself) couldn’t help but take note.
1. Clint Dempsey (Fulham) - No American player made bigger waves on the world stage this season than the white-hot Dempsey. Bagging 23 goals in all competitions for his club, Dempsey was voted by his peers as the 4th best player in the English Premier League this season. Usually playing as a wide midfielder or second forward, it will be interested to see how he is used for the US.
2. Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar) - Overshadowed by Dempsey’s brilliance, Altidore had a breakout season, which didn’t receive the attention it deserved from American fans and press.Finally earning regular playing time, Altidore registered 19 goals in all competitions for the Dutch side, and was instrumental in AZ’s 4th place finish in the Eredivisie in 2011-12. His physical 6’1” frame provides a physical presence that’s tough for defenders to deal with. Guatemalan fans are already constructing a concrete wall in an effort to stop him in June.
4. Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes) - Currently leading the league with 11 goals in 10 games, no one puts himself in better scoring positions than Wondo. He may not have the physical tools of a prototypical striker, but the numbers speak for themselves.
5. C.J. Sapong (Sporting KC) - Last season’s MLS Rookie of the Year made his US debut against Venezuela in January. Possessing speed, size, ability in the air, and good skill for his size; Sapong is a tough matchup for opposing defenses no matter how they plan for him.
6. Chris Pontius (D.C. United) - Finally back up to full fitness, Pontius is off to a great start this campaign, registering 5 goals in 11 games. Last season he had 7 goals in 25 games before breaking his leg against Chivas USA. Without him in the lineup, DCU went 1-6-2 down the stretch to fall out of playoff position. His versatility is a plus, as he can play both up top and out wide.
7. Terrence Boyd (Borussia Dortmund) - This young German-American striker has been in the US youth national team system for a few years, and earned his first call up to the senior team against Italy on February 29th. On the verge of breaking out for the first team, Boyd scored 17 goals in 28 appearances for the Borrussia Dortmund reserves this past season. American fans might not yet be familiar with the 21 year old, but they should get to know him quickly, as he might be introducing himself to you in the next round of World Cup qualifying.
8. Teal Bunbury (Sporting KC) - Unlike his teammate C.J. Sapong, Bunbury’s form has slipped this season, along with his playing time. He’s only appeared in six games for Sporting this season, starting once. If he regains his form, he’s got the talent to move up the board.
9. Kenny Cooper (New York Red Bulls) - Having a re-emergence in New York after a streaky year in Portland, Cooper has already matched his goals scored (8) that he had all of last season. The case against Cooper for that National team is that he is behind players with similar skill sets on the USMNT depth chart.
10. Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls) - Agudelo is finding his way back to fitness after suffering a torn meniscus that cause him to miss Olympic qualifying. He has recently returned to the field for the Red Bulls this season, and a call up to to this National Team camp seems unlikely.
Other Notables: Edson Buddle, Will Bruin, Kamani Hill