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Jurgen Klinsmann

Jurgen Klinsmann’s interesting inclusions and omissions in USMNT roster; By Steve Davis


The key phrases to know as we look at Jurgen Klinsmann’s latest U.S. roster are these: “Upside” and “Up against it.”

Check that. Let’s go with “Seriously up against it.” The two friendlies ahead will be “tests” in the truest sense of the word.

First, here’s a reminder of what the US roster looks like for the next two games:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake), William Yarbrough (Club Leon)

DEFENDERS (7): Ventura Alvarado (Club America), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Michael Orozco (Puebla), Brek Shea (Orlando City SC), DeAndre Yedlin (Tottenham Hotspur)

MIDFIELDERS (8): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Mix Diskerud (New York City FC), Miguel Ibarra (Minnesota United FC), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Jermaine Jones (New England Revolution), Alfredo Morales (Ingolstadt), Danny Williams (Reading)

FORWARDS (4): Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar), Bobby Wood (1860 Munich), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)

Jurgen Klinsmann released this latest roster on Sunday night. Due in part to Klinsmann’s own choices and in part to circumstances, several front-line U.S. men won’t travel to Europe for difficult exhibition matches against Netherlands and Germany.

Yes, that is World Cup semifinalist Netherlands and reigning World Cup champion Germany. Again we can say this: whatever quibbles or complaints you may or may not have with Klinsmann’s choices, you absolutely cannot ever complain that the U.S. manager shrinks from quality opposition.

U.S. Soccer officials tell us this roster was always meant to closely resemble the CONCACAF Gold Cup roster, which should be announced in about a month. With that in mind, it’s a roster where discussion of who is not included is probably as interesting and revealing as a chat over who is now in Amsterdam prepping for the first of these back-to-back buggers: Netherlands on Friday at the Amsterdam ArenA, a facility just outside the old Dutch city that’s as fancy as the way they spell it.

Before anyone takes umbrage at certain, notable roster exclusions, these are some of the “circumstances” of which we spoke.

Clint Dempsey’s wife is pregnant and due soon. So the man who has scored in three consecutive World Cups, and who remains in seriously good form for the Sounders will remain close to home for now. Clearly, that’s the right choice; these may be important and tough friendlies, but they are just friendlies, after all.

Jermaine Jones was injured Sunday in New England, so we’ll have to wait for the re-introduction of Jones into the U.S. midfield. In a Klinsmann Q&A created by U.S. Soccer, Klinsmann noted a “strong and stable” back line has mitigated the need for Jones to play at center back. That’s just spin, of course. Jones has been beaten repeatedly in the air at center back, and his positioning ranges from “predictably inconsistent” to “outright confounding.” When you add that to the fact that his heart clearly isn’t in it – Jones has repeatedly said he prefers to remain at his longtime positional home in midfield – you see why the Jones-to-center back experiment is over with a capital “O.” (As to why a 33-year-old, who will be approaching 37 at the next World Cup, remains part of the midfield plan, well, that’s a different debate.)

Jozy Altidore would clearly be a big part of this roster but for the hamstring injury that has him out of action for another few weeks. Alejandro Bedoya, who has looked so strong lately for the national team, is also dealing with an injury.

That brings us to the “seriously up against it” part of the discussion. The Dutch roster set to face the Americans this Friday includes heavyweight strikers Robin van Persie and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who have combined for 88 international goals. The entire foursome of U.S. strikers on this roster have accounted for exactly eight goals. Yes, the two sets of forwards are that far apart in experience.

So you can see exactly what Klinsmann is talking about when he says this: “In a certain way, we want to see a couple of guys get thrown in the freezing cold water and see how they can swim and where they stand right now in the ranking of the men’s national team.”

Klinsmann likes his cold water splash metaphor when it comes to young players. Usually it’s just “cold water.” Note the addition of “freezing” cold water in this case; frankly, it’s hard to disagree.

SEE MORE — Mute the TV on Friday and listen to an audio broadcast of USA-Holland on Rabble.

So now we come to the other notable exclusions and what they may mean. The only conclusion to draw is that Klinsmann has prioritized “upside” where some of these young players are concerned.

In choosing lesser experienced defenders like John Brooks and Ventura Alvarado over last year’s World Cup starters in central defense, Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez, Klinsmann appears to be more interested in “potential” than in “current performance.”

In other words, he knows what he got in Besler and Gonzalez (same for Graham Zusi, another interesting omission). What he wants is to see how Brooks and Alvarado deal with world class attackers.

Obviously, Germany has some of those, too, although the Americans caught something of a break in that Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller, Marco Reus and Julian Draxler have all been given some time off and are not on Joachim Low’s 20-man squad for next week’s match in Cologne.

Tim Ream is another interesting omission who may fall under the “Klinsmann knows what he’s got” line of reasoning. Then again, Ream’s situation may be a little different as he finished rather early at Bolton. (Teams in England’s second-tier Championship who were not involved in playoffs were done in early May.) The Bolton defender is back in St. Louis on a short break. Seeing as Ream is a picture perfect fit in a lot of ways for what Klinsmann wants – guys who are leaders with their clubs, not to mention a defender who can play calmly and smoothly out of the back – it’s not hard to see him added to the Gold Cup roster.

Editor’s note: Steve Davis writes a weekly column for World Soccer Talk. He shares his thoughts and opinions on US and MLS soccer topics every Wednesday, as well as news reports throughout the week. You can follow Steve on Twitter at @stevedavis90. Plus, read Steve’s other columns on World Soccer Talk 


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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Smokey Bacon

    June 1, 2015 at 5:58 pm

    Klinsmann’s strategy if you can call it that will backfire eventually. Two thrashings by good European opposition and the heat will be turned up. A poor gold cup and it’s over.

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