USA Opens 2014 WC Qualifying with Strong, but Puzzling Roster

This weekend the US National Team will take the field for the first time since their most impressive post 2010 WC performance, February’s 1-0 victory over Italy. As preparation for the 2014 qualifying campaign, the Nats will play three friendlies (Scotland, Brazil, and Canada) before facing off against Antigua & Barbuda and Guatemala to open qualification.

The squad picked by Jurgen Klinsmann possesses enough experience, depth, and talent to start qualification with a pair of victories, but Klinsmann’s roster did cause some headscratching here at FFG.

Here’s the roster, followed by our analysis:

Stable center midfield behind Dempsey and Donovan

In the past, Klinsmann has received some flak (from this website and others) for failing to call up creative center midfielders. This roster continues the trend of stability over flash; once again, there isn’t a single traditional creative center mid on the roster. However, that shouldn’t pose a problem.

Maurice Edu and Jermaine Jones pack the bite necessary to hold the fort in international football; Michael Bradley and José Torres each possess the vision to link defense and attack; but the talented quartet’s abilities aren’t the reason Klinsmann can get away with not having a traditional creator.

He can get away with it because of Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey.

The talented duo are likely to be playing in front of one or both of the pool’s best passers (Torres and Bradley), and given Jozy Altidore’s current club success, creating scoring opportunities shouldn’t be a problem.

We think a 4-3-3 will be the general shape of the squad in the qualifiers, though the personnel may be slightly different than our projection.

Still, it is somewhat surprising that either Sacha Kljestan, Graham Zusi, Freddy Adu, or another ‘number 10 type’ didn’t make the roster. Not only will the Americans be favored against Antigua & Barbuda and Guatemala, they’ll be favored to control possession as well.

Perhaps Klinsmann is playing it safe and planning to field a pair of holding mids against the CONCACAF minnows. And in light of Dempsey’s tremendous club season, there’s no reason to think that pairing Deuce, Altidore, Donovan, and some combination of Bradley/Jones/Edu/Torres will be anything but sufficient to bag a pair of victories in qualifying. The roster even has enough attacking punch to score a goal or two on both Scotland and Brazil. It’s just a bit odd that youngsters Joe Corona and Fabian Johnson are the only creative types likely to be backing up the more established stars.

Same old, same old at the back

Center back might not be the deepest position in the pool, but at least the cupboard’s not as bare as it is at fullback. There are just two natural attacking fullbacks on the roster, Steve Cherundolo and Edgar Castillo. Granted, it’s not Klinsmann’s fault Timmy Chandler turned down his spot, and it’s not as if the squad will be compromised if Castillo or Cherundolo get injured, as any number of players are capable of platooning at fullback (Bocanegra, Michael Parkhurst, and Fabian Johnson chief among them).

But the absence of Chandler brings into light the failure to not call up Eric Lichaj. Along with Cherdunolo, he’s the only attacking fullback facing top flight opposition week in and week out. No, he didn’t play a full season, but, again, given that the Americans are likely to control possession in the qualifiers, Lichaj could have provided valuable injury cover, if not fight for a starting role.


Klinsmann should get a pair of victories to start the 2014 campaign, and there’s even enough talent to beat Scotland and compete against Brazil. We feel that some type of 4-3-3 will be used in all 5 matches, though the friendlies could naturally play host to a variety of formations.

Gringos, what do you think of the roster? Why didn’t Klinsmann call in more fullbacks and creative center mids? Do you think he’ll play two holders in all five matches, even when heavily favored?

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