100912_gordonalan_isi_mlsdb07182012120 David Bernal/isiphotos.com

U.S. Roster Reactions: Twelve Quick Takes

Why publish one opinion when you can get a whole lineup's worth? We asked 12 soccer obsessives to share thoughts on Jurgen Klinsmann's roster selections for the two upcoming World Cup qualifiers.
BY Various Posted
October 09, 2012
6:29 AM
George Quraishi
Editor, Howler Magazine
Klinsmann said he wants to play like the U.S. did in our last game against Jamaica in Columbus, but noted that field conditions (or Antigua's tactics) may necessitate a more direct approach. And if Antigua is smart, they’ll be grazing cattle at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium all week, then bunkering down at kickoff to force us into Plan B. So where will the goals come from? Klinsmann included Johnson and Gordon because “both are really strong in the air." I expect either Dempsey or Gomez to be paired with one of these guys up top, where he'll benefit from playing off someone who can knock down and hold up balls played into Antigua’s box. Gordon does this extremely well for Wondolowski in MLS, and I think he'd be a gutsy, inspired choice to play in the first match. Without someone like him in the McBride role, I fear that we’ll find it more difficult to go through, rather than over, Antigua.

Phil Schoen
Announcer, beIN Sport
You could sense Jurgen Klinsmann was frustrated with Jozy Altidore. However, considering his impressive form with AZ, leaving him out entirely when the U.S. needs goals and wins is shocking. The U.S. should still advance to the final round but it's a gamble Klinsmann didn't have to take. After his solid return in Columbus, Carlos Bocanegra should get the call again. Geoff Cameron, Steve Cherundolo and Fabian Johnson likely round out a solid starting back four. I felt Klinsmann would reach for a new playmaker, but thought it might be Mikkel Diskerud. Of all times to call in Sacha Kljestan, Klinsmann does it in crunch time. Looking for a more "vertical style" as he calls it, Klinsmann could also rely on Graham Zusi after a solid performance last game. Still, with Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, and Landon Donovan nursing injuries, and Danny Williams and Zusi coming off of breakout games, it's the midfield that will decide the fate of the U.S. and Klinsmann.

Dan Levy
National Lead Writer, Bleacher Report
While everyone is so hung up on Alan Gordon being selected over Altidore or Terrence Boyd, I am more focused on how a midfield with Bradley, Donovan, and Dempsey will actually function at full strength. I chuckle when the USMNT lists Donovan and Dempsey as forwards, but it may be more interesting that Maurice Edu is listed as a defender. With Cameron and Johnson having midfield experience, there is a solid case that Klinsmann's most effective lineup might include seven or eight midfielders. Eh, as long as one of them can score. Depth is still an issue, especially for games that mean this much. Unless a key starter gets hurt, there are, by my count, as many as 11 players in camp who have very little chance of seeing meaningful minutes. That seems dangerous in a must-win situation.

Brent Latham
Freelance soccer writer
Forget Jozy. More important with qualification on the line are proven veterans who know what to do when the chips are down. Klinsmann has that: Boca, Dempsey, Cherundolo, Bradley, and—thankfully—Donovan. Scarier: By the look of things, the plan may be to play not to lose first (as it was at Jamaica). Against Antigua but especially Guatemala, that’s probably the best way to improve the odds of not getting a result. The smoothest way to come through is to put four or five on Antigua and hope Guatemala loses to Jamaica. The Chapines, devastated by injury and with club inactivity a factor, would then have to blow out the U.S. in Kansas City. I’ll leave you with one final thought: Marco Pappa—Guatemala’s best player—is yet to see a single minute in a league from which Klinsmann deemed the top scorer excess to requirements.

Maura Gladys
Writer, American Soccer Now
Best move is keeping Zusi on the roster. The midfielder was a pleasant surprise against Jamaica last month. Having him play alongside both Donovan and Dempsey will only boost his effectiveness. Worst move is no Altidore or Chris Wondolowski, and the inclusion of Alan Gordon. There are big consequences to these games, and if it comes down to the wire, I would rather have the proven goal-scoring ability of Wondo or Jozy coming off the bench instead of the hot, yet internationally unproven, Gordon. Overall, the roster just gives me a strange feeling. Between the striker snubs and Donovan and Brek Shea’s rumored injuries, it’s hard to feel fully confident in this group, which due to the magnitude of the games, is something Klinsmann should be aiming for.

Eric Beard
Founder, A Football Report
It's difficult to gauge exactly how intentionally dramatic Klinsmann's decisions are meant to be. Every World Cup qualifier drifts along the lines of being labeled a "must-win," yet these two matches against Antigua & Barbuda and Guatemala fall closer to "should-win" games. On the surface, leaving Altidore off of the roster reeks of insanity, but—the thing is—he has been here before. I wish this were a copyrighted Klinsmann tactic, but the coach looks to be taking a page out of AZ Alkmaar manager Gertjan Verbeek's book. Early last season, Altidore was in decent form, but out of nowhere Verbeek left the striker on the bench, citing a lack of technical ability. Still only 22, Altidore has grown through being pushed down, and this appears to be a similar situation. That being said, he cannot be impressed with seeing Gordon and Johnson's names on the roster.

Luke Lohr
Founder, MLSReserves.com
Omitting Altidore from this latest round of call-ups was not about form, not about class or skill-sets. It was about sending a message. The message sent: No position is safe; work hard, and bring the right attitude. Gordon and Johnson both received the message. Each is enjoying another chance at the national team thanks to this new mantra. Both are in good form, powerful in the air, and have something to prove. It’s likely only one will be deployed at a time in the box where their prowess to handle crosses and hold up the ball can be exploited, though neither will complain. It’s a shame that, for all his talk of club form being important, Klinsmann has overlooked Wondolowski. The striker is a proven finisher with work rate unrivaled. The decision is tactical. Nonetheless, it would have been nice to see his efforts rewarded.

Brian Sciaretta
Writer, NYT Goal blog and Yanks Abroad
There are clear concerns with the roster. Let’s start with Altidore. This has obviously been brewing for some time but it shouldn’t have come to this. The striker's head coach in Holland is Gertjan Verbeek, who is a no-nonsense disciplinarian. So Altidore can thrive under a demanding coach. Why not Klinsmann? Perhaps Altidore should be in camp so he can work on his relationship with Klinsmann. It’s crucial the USMNT has younger forwards–there are none on this roster and that’s a problem. The call-ups of Gordon and Johnson? I have no problems with more MLS players but I’m not sure about these two. I would have preferred younger and more well rounded players like Pontius or Sapong. Bottom line is that this roster has enough talent to get six points and qualify for next year’s Hex. But lots of work must be done in the future.

Jared DuBois
Co-host, Best Soccer Show
Klinsmann's roster reads like a reverse mullet. Business in the back and party up top. The dude may be out of touch but my man knows how to party. By not choosing Altidore or Boyd in favor of Johnson and Gordon, it is obvious that Klinsmann has Sunil Gulati's permission to go "Thelma & Louise" with this program. But will it be glory or tragedy? The lasting image in my mind is Klinsmann as Gene Hackman waving his black book to the doubting Hoosier crowd as he tells the ref "My team is on the floor." Is he crazy or does he just see the program at a level beyond us? One thing is for certain, the man is strong in his convictions, and he's trying to play the long game. The problem is, if things go wrong, the long game could be just two more matches.

Dan Wiersema
Founder, Free Beer Movement
With all the handwringing about the roster, Klinsmann has it mostly right. Except Donovan (injury) and Bradley (just coming back from injury) those that should be on include: Dempsey, Howard, Boca, and Cherundolo; they’re locks. Then there’s the guys earning their keep under JK’s watch: Kyle Beckerman, Herculez, Shea, Zusi, Fabian Johnson, Williams, and Cameron. These guys are forming what he sees as the now and future. Wondo? He’s having an amazing MLS season, but not going to be fixture in 2014. Where’s Boyd? Beats me. Kljestan, Eddie Johnson, and Gordon are newbie selections, but Klinsmann sees these two qualifiers (and is not as worried as we all are with them) as a first/fresh look at potential role players for the Hex and needs to look at them now or never. Altidore’s omission says, despite club form, he’s just not cutting it in camp and needs to take a breather.

Jon Arnold
Writer, American Soccer Now
If this roster gets six points from both matches, and it should, history won’t remember how strange it was. With that said, the long-term implications of the omissions of Altidore and Boyd are concerning. Altidore is obviously in the best club form of his life with Boyd not far behind. They miss the team while Gomez, who hasn’t been seeing game action with Santos, gets in, as does Maurice Edu, who has played once this season. If club form doesn’t matter and Klinsmann is trying to fit players to a system rather than call in the best available team, the coach should come out and say as much. It would explain a lot about this puzzling roster.

Jason Davis
Co-host, Best Soccer Show
It's clear at this point that Jurgen Klinsmann has an insatiable need to meddle with his team. That's his prerogative as head coach, but the questions that surround so many of his choices—both inclusions and exclusions—makes for an unsettled feeling when the USMNT might need a solid base to work from more than at any other time in the German's tenure. Sure, it's an island nation and Guatemala, not the toughest outs in the region; but sometimes the simplest thing (pick your best players and go play) is the one that gives you the best chance to complete the business at hand. Altidore's exclusion is curious, just because the U.S. hasn't often had goalscorers on the type of form he is enjoying in Holland. But there's Bradley in the middle, and we're told Donovan's knee is fine, so perhaps it's a lot of noise for nothing. Let's hope so.

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