110112_klinsmannjurgen_isi_usmntfe11112011083 Florian Eisele/isiphotos.com
Godfrey's Column

10 Players Klinsmann Should Consider for Russia

The November 14 match against Russia provides U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann an opportunity to work with some fresh talent, but will he take advantage of the opportunity?
BY John Godfrey Posted
November 07, 2012
6:46 AM
U.S. NATIONAL TEAM COACH JURGEN KLINSMANN doesn’t need to defeat Russia on November 14.

He’d love to win, of course, and another big road victory in 2012 would look great on his resume. And yes, U.S. supporters would no doubt be thrilled if the Yanks marched into Krasnodar and got a victory against the 12th-ranked team in the world.

But really, what is this match all about? Klinsmann has delivered impressive road wins against Italy and Mexico this year, and while those historic results made for great headlines, they didn’t help the U.S. get World Cup qualifying victories in Kingston, Jamaica, or Guatemala City.

American Soccer Now asked Klinsmann how he planned to use the Russia friendly to prepare for CONCACAF’s final round of World Cup qualification. Here’s what he said.

“The approach is that it’s another learning opportunity against one of the best teams in Europe at the moment. In a different environment, the approach was also to play that game in Europe so that all our European players don’t have to fly back again after recently being in the World Cup qualifiers. The distances will be shorter for those players. If we see that there is an opportunity to break in another player or invite somebody that wasn’t part of the roster yet, we might do that, but it’s up to how things end up in MLS and who I have available from MLS.”

“Every time you have an opportunity like that and go into these countries to play Italy or Russia or other big nations, you’ve got to take that opportunity. We got there and try to play a good game and get a win, but we want to see how the players connect and the chemistry develops within the team and we get a lot of good information out of a short, three-day camp.”

Fair enough.

But it’s also worth pointing out that Klinsmann should already have a very good sense of the chemistry that exists within his core squad. European-based first-team players such as Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Tim Howard, Steve Cherundolo, Fabian Johnson, Danny Williams, Carlos Bocanegra, Jermaine Jones, Sacha Kljestan, and Michael Parkhurst know each other well and have played together often in the last year. These 10 will almost certainly be part of the Hexagonal, so while we expect to see many of them on November 14, the bigger question is: Who will join the core team and get a chance to develop some chemistry with the first-team regulars?

Here is a look at 10 players who deserve a chance to make an impression against Russia.

Note: Due to recent injuries, we are leaving Eric Lichaj and Seb Hines off this list. Likewise with any MLS players still active in the playoffs.

10. Jack McInerney
If DC United gets eliminated from the MLS playoffs, Chris Pontius almost certainly gets a call before Philadelphia Union striker McInerney. The same holds true with Will Bruin, Eddie Johnson, Chris Wondolowski, and Alan Gordon. But if Houston, Seattle and San Jose are still chasing the 2012 MLS Cup, the hard-nosed, goal-poaching McInerney would be an intriguing option. Maybe he just trains with the team and doesn’t make the gameday 18. Maybe he only comes on for a few minutes against Russia. But circumstances just might provide the 20-year-old striker with an opportunity to show that he belongs.

9. Zak Whitbread
The oft-injured Whitbread is a seasoned veteran of both the English Premier League and the English Championship, but due primarily to his own fragility, the 28-year-old has yet to appear for the Stars and Stripes. While he may not be anybody’s idea of a savior at center back, he could be a useful stopgap measure should a rash of injuries strike those ahead of him on the depth chart. Klinsmann should get a close-up look at Whitbread just to see what he is all about.

8. Aron Johannsson
U.S. soccer nerds are obsessed with Johannsson, and it’s easy to see why. The 21-year-old Alabama native, who was raised in Iceland and now plays for AGF Aarhus in the Danish Superliga, has scored 12 goals in 13 starts this season. This phenomenal return has catapulted Johannsson to the top of the Superliga scoring chart, and has people wondering if he will play his international soccer for the U.S. or Iceland. American Soccer Now contributor Brian Sciaretta tracked down Johannson and asked him that very question. Johannsson’s response: “If Jurgen Klinsmann calls me and says he wants me to play for the United States, then it would be pretty hard to say no.”

7. Josh Gatt
Young, fast, and talented, Gatt is the It Boy among up-and-coming European-based prospects. The Molde winger is already on Klinsmann’s radar—he was called in for the September 2012 World Cup qualifier camp but could not participate due to a hamstring injury. If Gatt is healthy when rosters are announced early next week—a huge If considering Gatt’s tendency to pull up lame—he should get the call again. Maybe this time he will actually get to work out with the team.

6. Mix Diskerud
Now fully recovered from a thigh injury that forced him to miss time earlier this season, Diskerud is a fascinating prospect. The offensive-minded midfielder plays for Norwegian power Rosenborg and possesses the sort of vision and technique that could prove useful for an American squad still in search of a central attacking midfielder.

5. Jay DeMerit
With Vancouver out of the playoffs and the U.S. backline in a state of disarray, DeMerit deserves his first opportunity under Klinsmann. DeMerit has not represented the Stars and Stripes since March 2011, but he had a strong year for the Whitecaps and the steely veteran could be an asset during the Hexagonal.

4. Timothy Chandler
Chandler’s standing with American fans continues to plummet, but the fact remains that the Nuremberg winger is a promising talent. And Klinsmann knows it. “I’m in contact with him,” Klinsmann said of Chandler during a teleconference last week. “I always told him to take it at his pace.” If Chandler is worried about committing to the U.S. and losing a chance to play with the German national team, that is not an issue here. The Russian friendly cannot cap-tie the 22 year old, so perhaps he will get the call (and answer it). Klinsmann, for one, is keeping the door wide open: “He is maturing,” Klinsmann said. “He is getting more experience and he’s getting more focused. We are in touch and we respect his decision so far that he was not part of the qualifiers, but the World Cup is coming along pretty soon.”

3. John Anthony Brooks
He’s 6’7” and smooth on the ball. He plays center back, a position of need for the U.S. national team. He is earning regular minutes for the 2.Bundesliga side Hertha Berlin. He is only 19 years old. And he told ASN contributor Brian Sciaretta that Brooks would rather play for the U.S. than Germany. Klinsmann absolutely needs to call in Brooks for the Russia friendly. He probably will.

2. Terrence Boyd
Klinsmann left Boyd off the roster for the October qualifiers against Antigua & Barbuda and Guatemala, but there is no reason to leave him off the roster for Russia. He’s too good, and too full of promise, to miss this match.

1. Jozy Altidore
Klinsmann made it clear that he has not been happy with Altidore’s work rate for some time. And Klinsmann told reporters that he and Altidore aren’t exactly texting each other on a daily basis: “We’ve had no further contact since the [October qualifiers] and I haven’t made up my mind yet if I’ll call him in for Russia,” the coach said. Despite that, Altidore continues to score at a phenomenal rate for his Dutch club team, AZ Alkmaar. Will Altidore get a shot in Krasnodar? It’s hard to say, but a friendly staged in a remote corner of Russia could provide the perfect opportunity for Klinsmann and Altidore to repair their damaged relationship and work toward their common goal: Brazil in 2014.

Who would you like to see on the roster that faces Russia? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and be sure to check back for updates as the MLS playoff results will no doubt influence our projections and recommendations.

Post a comment