From the start of the year United States Men’s National Team coach Jurgen Klinsmann has stated that this would be a transitional year for the senior team, but that their absolute goal was to win the Gold Cup. Klinsmann has held true to that statement, fielding experimental teams through most of the year’s early friendlies to see mixed results.
But when it came time for business, he’s set on fielding his strongest team.
Jurgen Klinsmann announced the roster for the Gold Cup Tuesday, and it includes 17 players who represented the United States at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Upon completion of the Group Stage each team is allowed to make six changes to their roster, but those will likely only be made in the event of an injury.
Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan, Nick Rimando, William Yarbrough
Defenders: Ventura Alvarado, John Brooks, Omar Gonzalez, Timmy Chandler, Brad Evans, Fabian Johnson, Tim Ream
Midfielders: Alejandro Bedoya, Michael Bradley, Kyle Beckerman, Brad Davis, Mix Diskerud, Alfredo Morales, Gyasi Zardes, Graham Zusi, DeAndre Yedlin
Forwards: Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Aron Johannsson, Chris Wondolowski
There’s not much to complain about with this roster. The big story for the defenders is Tim Ream sneaking in there past Matt Besler. But is it really that surprising? Besler’s form has taken a dip this year while Tim Ream has been phenomenal for Bolton, winning back to back player of the year awards for the club. In addition Ream also offers versatility, a trait that Klinsmann loves as he can play as a left back if need be.
It will be interesting to see how Klinsmann chooses to line up his defenders. Ventura Alvarado was impressive enough to grab a roster spot, but his performances in the team’s recent games have left a lot to be desired. With Besler being left off the team, it looks like the path is clear for John Brooks to become a first choice central defender–something that was bound to happen eventually but I didn’t think we’d see until later this year. The only thing perplexing about the defenders is why did Jurgen Klinsmann call DaMarcus Beasley out of retirement if he wasn’t going to use him?
For as logical as it is to see Matt Besler left off the team because of his current form, it’s equally as illogical that Graham Zusi somehow snuck his way onto this team. Not only has Zusi has taken a massive dip in form this season, but he hasn’t even played a game with the USMNT this year. With Bedoya, Zardes, Yedlin, Johnson, Davis, and Diskerud already on the roster did the US really need to include another winger? Not to mention one who’s been struggling this season? Another thing to note in the midfield is with the inclusion of all these wingers, Kyle Beckerman is the only holding midfielder the US is carrying. While this comes as a relief to me since Beckerman is by far and away the best player for the position and the engine that makes the US go, it is a little risky should anything happen to him in one of the first two games.
Up front there are pretty much no surprises. Altidore, Dempsey, and Johannsson were shoe-ins with the only question being whether the fourth spot would go to Jurgen Klinsmann favorite Wondolowski or Jurgen Klinsmann and fan favorite Jordan Morris. If it were up to me the spot would go to Morris, but you really can’t go wrong with Wondo since if there’s one thing he does (and there really is only one thing that he does well) it’s score against CONCACAF teams.
The biggest takeaway from this roster of course is that 17 of the 23 players were on last years World Cup team. That’s simply incredible. The six players who represented the US in Brazil last year but didn’t make this squad were: Tim Howard, DaMarcus Beasley, Jermaine Jones, Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron, and Julian Green.
Of the six players left off, just one of them was left off due poor form (Besler). Two of them were (thought) to be ineligible be selected–Howard, who is taking the year off, and Beasley retired. Two other miss out due to injury: Jermaine Jones and Geoff Cameron, who was asked by his club Stoke City, to skip the tournament to rest and rehab his knee. Meanwhile Julian Green misses out because played for the U23’s in the Toulon tournament (this would be his second tournament of the summer which would mean no offseason for him, the same reason players like Gedion Zelalem and Rubio Rubin were left off the roster). It really seems like if all 23 players from 2014 were available, Klinsmann would have taken them all.
The US has stated the goal is to win the Gold Cup. The roster Klinsmann selected certainly shows he means business. On paper the US has by far and away the best team in the tournament and there’s really no reason they shouldn’t win. With the not-so-stiff CONCACAF competition, the US should be able to make it all the way to the semi-final in their sleep. The semi’s and final would provide some tougher competition, but even that won’t compare to the Dutch and German teams the US played in early June.
All that’s left to do now is play the games.