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Roster Speculation

Outside Looking In: 7 U.S. Players Pushing for Brazil

Last-minute World Cup roster surprises are so commonplace that the word "surprise" needs to be reconsidered. Blake Thomsen takes a look at seven Americans who could muscle their way onto the team.
BY Blake Thomsen Posted
April 08, 2014
10:03 AM
LAST WEEK'S MATCH against Mexico gave Jurgen Klinsmann plenty to ponder regarding his 23 roster spots for the World Cup. Here are seven players who are on the outside looking in—none of them made ASN's Consensus World Cup team—but still have a chance to make it to Brazil, ranging from most to least likely to claim a spot.

You can create your own 23-man roster for Brazil, of course. We assume you already know about our custom-built tool. If not, be sure to check it out.

1. Maurice Edu

Edu likely improved his stock considerably with an impressive 20-minute spell against Mexico. With Kyle Beckerman now a lock to go to Brazil, it’s probably between Edu and Sacha Kljestan for the final center midfield spot (or perhaps Danny Williams, which we’ll get to later).

After the Mexico game, the argument is growing for defensive-minded central midfielders who can stay tactically disciplined, do the dirty work, and help unleash the full Michael Bradley Experience. Edu can do that, and there’s a real case to be made that he can do it better than Kljestan can.

The Philadelphia Union man will need to continue playing at a high level in MLS to surpass Kljestan, but it’s certainly within his reach, especially considering that Kljestan has failed to impress in numerous chances with the national team.

2. DeAndre Yedlin

Consider the situation: June 22nd; Manaus; the United States vs. Portugal. The U.S. desperately needs a late goal. Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Aron Johannsson, and Michael Bradley started and are still on the field. The U.S. has three subs left. Graham Zusi comes on for Jermaine Jones. Chris Wondolowski replaces Altidore. But who to bring on third? How about DeAndre Yedlin?

Though he’s a defender, the jet-heeled Seattle Sounder right back could make a legitimate offensive impact off the bench. We saw a brief glimpse of his attacking ability against Mexico. And those who watched last weekend's manic 4-4 Sounders vs. Timbers affair saw him drive Seattle forward late and ultimately win a crucial penalty.

The penalty was won strictly on the strength of his electric pace, which could prove vital for the U.S. in Brazil. His still-developing one-on-one defending means he likely wouldn’t start if he makes the roster, but that sort of pace is hard to ignore and could earn him a plane ticket.

3. Danny Williams

Williams’ consistent quality for Reading has put him back in the discussion for a spot in the World Cup squad. In the early days of Jurgen Klinsmann’s tenure, Williams was a regular starter. A shocking giveaway against Russia and a string of unfortunate injuries contributed to his national team “demise” of sorts, but there’s still time for the old Klinsmann favorite to work his way back into the team.

Like Edu and Beckerman, Williams is well-suited to playing right in front of the back four and covering for Bradley so he can dictate the play farther up the field. Williams will need to beat out both Kljestan and Edu for the last center midfield spot, so he still has plenty of work to do. But yes, he can do it.

4. Juan Agudelo

Chris Wondolowski may have gained the inside track for the last striker spot, but Juan Agudelo is certainly not out yet. In a roundabout way, Agudelo may have temporarily hurt his cause for a World Cup spot by leaving MLS for the Eredivisie and missing out on the Mexico friendly. Klinsmann was a big fan of his move to Europe, though, and may be keen on rewarding Agudelo’s ambition with a World Cup place.

When’s he on, Agudelo brings a combination of skill, speed, and strength that Eddie Johnson and Wondolowski can’t match, but the 21-year-old hasn’t been as consistent as his striking counterparts. He’ll need a strong showing in the May camp, but a World Cup place is by no means out of the question.

5. Luis Gil

The 2014 World Cup will probably come too soon for the Real Salt Lake midfielder, but he does provide a unique skill set that no one else in the player pool offers. His creativity could potentially be essential if the U.S. needs to break down a bunkered defense. However, given the quality of the opposition in Group G, that scenario is unlikely.

The most likely scenario is that Gil waits until the 2018 Cup in Russia. Still, an uptick in form for Real and an injury or two to his competitors could be enough to get him on the plane.

6. Jonathan Bornstein

Bornstein could easily work his way into the conversation with continued strong play for Atalante.

......just kidding.

7. Will Packwood

Packwood is the longest of long shots on this list, but Klinsmann can’t be pleased with what he saw from Oguchi Onyewu and John Brooks against Ukraine, and Packwood has done nothing but play well since returning from a horrific leg break.

The versatility of Geoff Cameron and Michael Parkhurst means Packwood’s services will also likely not be needed until 2018, but stranger things have happened with U.S. World Cup rosters, especially if the injury bug hits the U.S. backline.

Did we miss anyone? Who on this list is most likely to sneak onto the plane?

Blake Thomsen is a frequent ASN contributor. Follow him on Twitter.

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