The USSF announced their roster this morning for the upcoming World Cup Qualifying matches against St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago. While some people reacted by googling “Miazga” and “Nagbe” (and subsequently “MLS”), my coworker and I did what we normally do when a Klinsman roster is announced: took it to the white board. A blue dry-erase marker is used for what we think Klinsman will choose as his starting 11. We finalized it in a 4-2-3-1. A red marker is then used to make the tactical shifts and substitutions that we agree should be made throughout the game to fix his lineup choices. Needless to say, there were a lot of red arrows originating from starters, pointing directly to the bench, with “Sub in 1st minute” written along their lines. We chose to sub 5 of his starters (FIFA allows 3). That is unfortunate.
Here are some of my thoughts on this roster, beginning in our own box:
Brad Guzan will probably be our No. 1 for the foreseeable future. Howard announced his 1-year hiatus from international soccer following the 2014 World Cup. Now that he is back, Klinsman is awarding Guzan for his commitment. We all know too well how much Klinsman values commitment. More on that later. Guzan disappointed me in the Gold Cup this summer against Jamaica (both goals); sometimes being fair isn’t what’s best for a national team. Red arrow for Guzan, directly to the locker room. Do not pass the bench, do not collect $200.
I am an MLS consumer. I watched a lot of Geoff Cameron with the Houston Dynamo. Admittedly, I haven’t seen a lot of his minutes with Stoke City (at rightback). What I do know is that he is a regular starter for a mid-table team in an EPL with increasing parity.
I was fist pumping when I saw Cameron on the CONCACAF Cup roster in October. Back then, my coworker and I struggled to get him on the pitch in a blue dry-erase marker. Why? Because in my eyes, Cameron is very similar to a Jermaine Jones: prefers defensive central midfielder, converted to center back, but with a tendency to roam forward. You can’t take two converted center backs who like to roam and line them up next to each other; one of them needs to be disciplined and stay home.
Ultimately, Cameron found a starting role in the CONCACAF Cup, scored a goal, and played well defensively. Klinsman will probably start him this month, too. He needs to become a mainstay in our backline. Who pairs with him is up for grabs, but I need Klinsmann to choose someone and stick to his decision.
The only minutes of Fabian Johnson that I’ve seen have been limited to USMNT. Once Klinsman got him to pledge his allegiance to USMNT, FabJo became a favorite of the American Outlaws almost immediately. A versatile mainstay, mostly deployed as a wingback. He was integral in USMNT getting out of their World Cup Group of Death, and became an American star.
Then he went and did the unimaginable and unforgivable – took himself out of the CONCACAF Cup in extra time because of an injury scare. Headlines got ugly. Klinsman sent him home and publicly questioned his dedication to the team. Things got worse when FabJo went on to play 90 minutes for his club the very next weekend. What I can’t have is another Landon Donovan scenario: Klinsman questions star player’s dedication, shuns him for life. I’m relieved he’s on the roster, but I fear the worst – Klinsman drags FabJo by the collar through the grueling CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying campaign only to leave him off the 2018 roster, al la Donovan.
The two biggest qualms I have with Klinsman’s regime are 1) playing his stars out of position, and 2) the lack of consistency. The latter is most obvious along the back line, and the former is most obvious with Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley. Jones will start, but where he’s played will be a mystery. I might break my television if I see him out wide like we was in the CONCACAF Cup. Consistency is not Klinsman’s mantra, so expect to be surprised. Ideally, I’ve got him in the middle as the destroyer/ball winner, while Bradley plays box to box. What’s more likely is Bradley playing higher up the field, playmaking closer to his forwards. But that is where I’d prefer Mikel Diskerud.
If you look Alan Gordon up in the dictionary, it says “see: CONCACAF super sub”. He is in camp for one reason: come off the bench, be physical in the air, and put one in late if we need it. At age 34, there is no chance in hell he is going to Russia in 2018, and he knows it. He is playing purely for the honor of representing his country. He is one of a few USMNT players physical and tenacious enough anymore to remind CONCACAF foes that we won’t be pushed around.
Bobby Wood is Gordon’s apprentice, and I think he should start. Wood and Morris are both young and have something to prove. Give them senior minutes for these two games, let them get used to playing with each other, then send them to Colombia with the U-23’s in March so we can watch the USA play next summer in the Olympics.
It pains me to say this, but I’ve got Jozy starting with the armband. Ideally, though, this scenario plays out:
He and Bradley agree to carpool to the Toronto airport together. Meanwhile, the American Outlaws get 15,000 signatures and send a letter to Bradley explaining how Pink Floyd got better without Syd Barrett. Bradley pulls a Roger Waters and never picks up Jozy.
Clint Dempsey was not surprisingly left off this roster due to the fact that the Seattle Sounders are still in the MLS Playoffs. Aron Johannsson has recently undergone hip surgery, while Nick Rimando has undergone meniscus surgery.
First-time call-ups, at least in Klinsman’s regime, are almost exclusively reserved for January Camp. It’s the MLS offseason, the camps are long, and Klinsy can spend some time sifting through the weeds to find his next gold mine. Surprisingly (or maybe not so much), Matt Miazga and Darlington Nagbe have received their first call-ups, and it’s November! To further confuse everyone, let’s be reminded that Miazga and Nagbe are two of only three players on this roster who are still in the MLS Playoffs (Bill Hamid is the third player, who won’t play and is probably only called up because Rimando is not fit).
Klinsman is playing a mind game here. Miazga and Nagbe are called up to get cap-tied. Miazga is a Homegrown Player who starts as a 20 year-old for the Supporter’s Shield winners New York Red Bulls. If he gets a single minute in a USMNT World Cup Qualifier, he’s cap-tied to the US and playing for Poland will never cross his mind again. Expect to see him in Colombia with the U-23’s in March.
Darlington Nagbe won an NCAA Championship with Akron in 2010. I remember his goal of the year in MLS 2011 (see below). He is brilliant. Caleb Porter, who coached him at Akron and now in Portland, said that Nagbe was the most talented player he has ever coached. But he has a tendency to disappear for entire games, and has been criticized for choosing the easy pass. Once Nagbe grows a pair, he will be unstoppable. Klinsman’s job is to cap-tie him as soon as Portland get eliminated from the playoffs, and spend the next 4 years incubating his testicles.
First up for Kilinsman and his new roster is St. Vincent & The Grenadines on November 13th. Stay tuned for a previw.
USMNT vs. St. Vincet & The Grenadines:
Friday November 13th, 6:30 est., Busch Stadium in St. Louis, MO, ESPN2.