Next month, the 23 members of the U.S. National Team will head to Brazil in search of glory at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Starting on June 16, the U.S. will take on Ghana, Portugal and Germany in hopes of advancing from the dreaded group of death.
But before the games will be played, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann will have to whittle down the extensive American player pool to just 30 men who will then fight for a ticket to Brazil during a two-week training camp at Stanford University.
Over those two weeks, the U.S. will play matches against Azerbaijan in San Francisco on May 27 and then Turkey in Harrison, NJ on June 1 before Klinsmann announces his final roster a day later.
The group of 23 will play their final match on home soil before World Cup on June 7 against Nigeria in Jacksonville, FL.
Below I’ve included my 23-man roster projection for who will be on that plane to Brazil.
GOALKEEPERS(3): Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Nick Rimando
DEFENDERS (8): DaMarcus Beasley, Fabian Johnson, Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez, Clarence Goodson, Geoff Cameron, Michael Parkhurst, Brad Evans
MIDFIELDERS (8): Landon Donovan, Julian Green, Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Kyle Beckerman, Maurice Edu, Graham Zusi, Mix Diskerud
FORWARDS (4): Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, Aron Johannsson, Terrence Boyd
Who’s on the roster?
Landon Donovan and Omar Gonzalez were automatic inclusions for my projected squad and are likely to be in Jurgen Klinsmann’s starting XI for their opening match against Ghana.
Donovan is U.S. Soccer’s all-time leading goal scorer and with five goals in the World Cup, he will bring valuable experience to Klinsmann’s squad.
Meanwhile, Gonzalez has carved out his place in Klinsmann’s back line due to his solid contributions during World Cup qualification.
The goalkeeping and defensive positions provide a mixture of experience and youth as multiple World Cup veterans Tim Howard and DaMarcus Beasley will be joined by the likes of newcomers Fabian Johnson and Brad Evans.
A core of Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Kyle Beckerman and Graham Zusi will anchor the United States midfield. I’ve also selected World Cup veteran Maurice Edu, who has done well since moving to the Philadelphia Union.
German wunderkind Julian Green also earned a place on the plane in my eyes as the trip will afford him a valuable learning opportunity as he looks to develop into a regular for the USMNT and Bayern Munich.
The forward corps may be the most controversial as regulars Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey will be joined by national team newcomers Aron Johannson and Terrence Boyd. Both Johannson and Boyd have an impressive strike rate in Holland and Austria respectively, which could make them a dangerous weapon to come off the bench for Klinsmann in Brazil.
I thought long and hard about Ream, who enjoyed a stellar season for English side Bolton and was awarded the team’s player of the year honors. Considered one of the best passers in the pool, Ream tallied four assists on the season for Bolton while helping them keep four shutouts. However, Ream has predominantly been a center back throughout his career and the versatility of a player like Michael Parkhurst makes him too tempting of a selection should injuries strike the U.S. during the tournament.
Sacha Kljestan and Benny Feilhaber
I took a long hard look to the Anderlecht midfielder Kljestan, who I have always rated as one of the best attacking talents in the pool, as well as the Sporting Kansas City playmaker Feilhaber but I instead went with Diskerud.
Kljestan has struggled for playing time with Belgian side Anderlecht and is without an appearance since March, which led me to move away from the talented midfielder from Huntington Beach. Meanwhile, Feilhaber has fit nicely into Sporting’s midfield since joining Peter Vermes’ side, but has never quite cracked Jurgen Klinsmann’s regular group. Although he’s a dynamic player who can make a pivotal pass in a crucial moment, Feilhaber will likely miss out to Diskerud, who seems a fair bet to travel to Brazil.
Wondolowski was expected to be on the plane, but the stellar play of Boyd as well as the unpredictability of Green will likely cost him a World Cup place. The talented San Jose Earthquakes striker has five goals on the year so far in MLS as well as three for the National Team. A natural finisher who can score in bursts, he’ll have a great opportunity at the national team camp to convince Klinsmann to take him to Brazil.
What are your thoughts about my squad? Share them below.