Tuesday, October 9, 2012

US Men's National Team Roster: Thoughts and Commentary

Article by Luke Lohr

Jurgen Klinsmann knew exactly what he was doing when he omitted Jozy Altidore from the roster. He sent a message to all players in the national team pool. The message sent and received is that being in good club form is not enough anymore, there is no entitlement to the national team. Altidore has been in remarkable form for AZ Alkmaar of late, however it is Klinsmann's thought that his previous time with the national team was not beneficial to the team.

“I communicated with Jozy that I was not happy about his latest performances with us, I mean maybe even over the last 14 months,” said Klinsmann on the matter. “I think Jozy can do much, much better, and the reason why he's not coming in is mainly about the performances in Jamaica and at home and also in training.” 

While the news may certainly come as a surprise to many, two players who have likely taken note and are working hard to avoid the same fate are Eddie Johnson and Alan Gordon. The two have returned to the national team following good MLS form. Each are powerful players in the air and will likely be utilized as target forwards against the smaller CONCACAF teams who are expected to bunker in the box. 

Alan Gordon is, as MLS Analyst Matt Doyle pointed out, very successful when healthy. Still, that he and Johnson are both included over Major League Soccer's Golden Boot favorite Chris Wondolowski is troubling. Wondolowski is in amazing form and has been consistent with that form for the bulk of the year. When not scoring, he was assisting or creating goals. That Jurgen Klinsmann would ignore that and take preference to more one dimensional power forwards is surprising. 

“We want to bring in Eddie and Alan because both are really strong in the air,” explained Klinsmann. “We expect two difficult games where the opponent will probably play more defensive and kind of get a lot of numbers in the box, or in front of their box, to play more defensively against us. So we need here and there to force things with crosses from the wings.

Utilizing the wings makes perfect sense when considering the opponents' expected tactics. Clint Dempsey, Brek Shea and a healthy Donovan could cause havoc on the wings and playing the ball in to a waiting Gordon or Johnson could bear fruit. It's unlikely that the Johnson and Gordon will see the field at the same time as veteran goal scorer Herculez Gomez has been included. 

Other topics of note coming out of the roster selection include Michael Bradley, who has the technical ability and size to operate in the midfield on both sides of the ball. That he could be supported by talents like Jones, Kljestan or Zusi allows for a number of tactical options on the attacking side of the ball. 

Landon Donovan's inclusion on the roster does come as a small surprise as it was thought he'd be kept out with a knee injury. We've seen things like this happen before where Donovan pulls out of international matches for one reason or another; that he would be so quickly healed and ready is surprising. It begs the question of whether or not Jurgen reminded him about that same sense of entitlement Altidore was apparently stricken with, but that's for conspiracy theorists. 

Edgar Castillo has been in stellar form lately for Club Tijuana down in Mexico and is showing signs of maturing to a point where his contributions to the national team could be consistent and worthwhile. Castillo must continue to improve though to avoid the unfortunate comparisons to Jonathan Bornstein. 

Full Roster by Position: 

GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa/England), Tim Howard (Everton/England), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

DEFENDERS (8): Carlos Bocanegra (Racing Santander/Spain), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/England), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana/Mexico), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover/Germany), Maurice Edu (Stoke City/England), Clarence Goodson (Brondby/Denmark), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim/Germany), Michael Parkhurst (Nordsjaelland/Denmark)

MIDFIELDERS (8): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Roma/Italy), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana/Mexico), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04/Germany), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht/Belgium), Brek Shea (FC Dallas), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim/Germany), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

FORWARDS (5): Clint Dempsey (Tottenham Hotspur/England), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Herculez Gomez (Santos Laguna/Mexico), Alan Gordon (San Jose Earthquakes), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders)