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Familiar Faces Missing from USMNT Friendlies

Jurgen Klinsmann has called 22 players into the latest USMNT camp, this time taking place in Amsterdam, as the U.S. prepares for friendlies against World Champion Germany, the Netherlands, and ultimately the Gold Cup. After a year of experimenting in every friendly since last year’s World Cup, which often led to poor results, the Germany and Netherlands games were set to the be the time when the U.S. finally got their entire first team back together for the first time in a year.

These matches would be used as a barometer for where the team stands, as both Germany and the Dutch have almost full strength squads as they themselves are preparing for Euro 2016 qualifiers. With these big matches coming up, Jurgen Klinsmann did what he hasn’t done since last year’s World Cup; he assembled his best possible team.

Psych!

Check out the US team that is now beginning camp in Amsterdam.

Notice any particular names missing? Like how about team captain Clint Dempsey? Or 2014 World Cup starters Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler, Graham Zusi, and Alejandro Bedoya?

One thing to remember is that even though these two matches will be used as Gold Cup tune up matches, this will not be the final Gold Cup roster. Dempsey, for example, is home with his wife as the couple is expecting the birth of their fourth child shortly. Meanwhile Jozy Altidore and Alejandro Bedoya are both unavailable due to injuries. These are all acceptable reasons, though it is getting a little frustrating that for some reason the Americans can never get their best XI on the field.

The interesting names left out are of course the aforementioned Gonzalez, Besler, and Zusi. All three players are healthy and were thus available for selection. So why were they left off? Is Jurgen Klinsmann making a statement? It’s certainly very possible, and I hope he is. All three of these players have something in common; at one point or another all three players had been linked with moves to Europe (especially Besler who was a very hot commodity last summer after a very impressive World Cup), and instead all three followed the money and signed designated player contracts with their MLS clubs.

14 MAR 2015: Sporting KC midfielder Graham Zusi (8) during the MLS match between Sporting KC and FC Dallas played at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, TX.  FC Dallas defeats Sporting KC 3-1.

The USMNT will be without Zusi in the upcoming friendlies.

It is well known Jurgen Klinsmann and MLS do not get along very well with each other. Every center back that Jurgen has selected for this camp hails from outside the MLS. It’s reasonable that Klinsmann would like to send a message to his players that if they’re not interested in challenging themselves (and playing in a league where Bradley Wright-Phillips is the leading scorer is certainly not challenging yourself) then their national team futures could be in jeopardy.

The exclusion of those players leaves the door open for the included players to really make a case for themselves. Will John Brooks take this opportunity to become the U.S.’s first choice center back (he will eventually, the question is simply when will it happen)? Is Jurgen seriously insisting on shoving more Brek Shea down our throats? (Sadly he is). Michael Orozco, who isn’t an obvious upgrade over Gonzalez, played very well in the March friendlies against Switzerland and Denmark and with impressive performances hear can put in a claim to eclipse Gonzalez in the pecking order.

There are far less question marks in the midfield for the U.S. It’s nice to see Jermaine Jones, Kyle Beckerman, Michael Bradley, and Mixx Diskerud all back in the mix at the same time and it’ll be interesting to see how Klinsmann uses them and what the pecking order is. The obvious question is who plays and where. Diskerud offers versatility and creativity going forward but hasn’t proven to be able to last the full 90 minutes yet and hasn’t exactly stood out in the MLS playing for Manchester City’s New York Office this season.

The big addition to the midfield is Fabian Johnson who moves from right back, where he played during last years World Cup, to left midfield where he starts for Borussia Mochengladbach (his club team that has qualified for the Champions League next season). Given the injury to Bedoya, it’s a perfect opportunity for the U.S. to slide Johnson right into Bedoya’s vacant position and gain valuable minutes playing alongside Bradley, Jones, Diskerud, and whoever Klinsmann chooses to play in the middle of the field.

When it comes to the forwards there’s only one name that matters: Aron Johannsson. With Jozy Altidore injured, Johannsson will get the chance to play significant first team minutes and show what he can do. You can’t overstate how important these minutes will be for Johannsson. Play well and he could force Klinsmann to start thinking that maybe he should start over Jozy Altidore. Fail to impress and who knows when his next chance will come.

14 October 2014: United States Forward Bobby Wood (23) controls the ball during an international friendly between the US Men's National Team and Honduras at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Florida

Don’t look too far into Bobby Wood’s spot on the roster.

The most curious name on the list belongs to 22-year-old Bobby Wood. You shouldn’t read into this at all. Wood is getting a free vacation to Europe and that’s about it. I’d be shocked if he actually saw the field, as the only reason he’s included in this team is because top prospects Jordan Morris and Julian Green are with the U23 team right now (the fact that Wood, who’s 22, ISN’T with that team says a lot), and other top prospect who shouldn’t be a top prospect Rubio Rubin is away that the U20 World Cup. So that’s why Wood is here, though how bad is Chris Wondolowski if Bobby Wood, who has scored 17 career goals in 102 appearances makes the team over him?

While we won’t be getting to see our best players take on the best Dutch and German players, the games will still provide a strong litmus test for U.S. Soccer. A lot of young players are going to be given a chance to impress alongside fellow first team starters, which is a good thing. Hopefully they can take advantage and force Jurgen Klinsmann into a few tough decisions when Dempsey and Altidore return for the Gold Cup in July.

 

Update: Since the time this article was posted Jermaine Jones has since withdrew from the team due to an injury. 

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