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Roster Analysis

Out of the Playoffs...and In With the USMNT?

From Kyle Beckerman to Dax McCarty to Graham Zusi, here's a look at 7 players who got bounced from the MLS playoffs, and as a result may land a plum spot on the U.S. national team roster against Russia.
BY John Godfrey Posted
November 10, 2012
2:40 PM
WHILE HE STOPPED SHORT of naming names, United States men's soccer coach Jurgen Klinsmann made it clear that he plans to name a Europe-centric roster for the November 14 friendly in Krasnodar, Russia.

"The approach was...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," Klinsmann said last week. "The distances will be shorter for those players."

While this statement bodes well for the likes of Sacha Kljestan, Terrence Boyd, and Michael Parkhurst, Klinsmann also suggested that the results of the MLS playoffs would influence some of his roster choices.

"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," Klinsmann said "But it’s up to how things end up in MLS and who I have available from MLS."

Now that four more teams have been eliminated from the MLS playoffs—Kansas City, New York, Real Salt Lake, and San Jose—Klinsmann now has a full list of MLS players available to him, and is no doubt making lists and checking them twice as he prepares to make a roster announcement early next week. Here's a quick look at some of the MLS players who lost in the playoffs but could end up as winners from a national team perspective.

Kyle Beckerman
Klinsmann loves Beckerman's grit, and in the past the coach has not been shy about praising the Real Salt Lake midfielder. But what about now? Beckerman's role with the national team seems to be in decline. Beckerman started against Jamaica in Kingston, but did not perform particularly well and was pulled in the 58th minute of that U.S. defeat. Since that match, Beckerman has not seen one minute of action for the Yanks. In that time the U.S. has won three matches in a row. Coincidence? Or is it a sign that Beckerman's role on the national team is at risk? Given Danny Williams' emergence at the No. 6 role, Beckerman, 30, will be hoping for a call-up and another chance to demonstrate the intangibles Klinsmann has praised in the past.

Steven Beitashour
San Jose's Iranian-American right back received a call-up ahead of the August friendly against Mexico, but Beitashour did not see any action. Following the Earthquake's surprising—and thorough—playoff collapse against the Los Angeles Galaxy, Beitashour seems like a strong candidate for a roster spot against Russia. Back in August, Klinsmann told reporters that "Steven has built his case over the last couple of months" adding that "I’d love to see him over a longer period of time." Given Steve Cherundolo's age (he will be 35 when the 2014 World Cup begins) and Timothy Chandler's fickle ways, right back is a position of some uncertainty for the United States. Beitashour, 25, could be a useful insurance policy.

Matt Besler
Like Beitashour, Sporting KC's Besler was called into the national team camp ahead of the Mexico friendly but did not earn a cap. Beitashour and Besler, also 25, will be disappointed that their seasons ended earlier than they anticipated, but a national team call-up would be a fabulous consolation prize. For Besler, one of the highest-rated central defenders in MLS, the Russia match would be an opportunity to 1) get a first cap; 2) play against top-tier competition; and 3) do so in an environment where the result doesn't really matter.

Alan Gordon
During his nine-year professional soccer career, 31-year-old Gordon has played a grand total of 17 minutes for the U.S. national team. He certainly made that time count, earning a key assist on Eddie Johnson's stoppage-time winner against Antigua & Barbuda. Will Gordon see an 18th minute for the U.S.? A 19th? It could go either way. But it would somewhat surprising if Klinsmann called in Gordon ahead of younger, Europe-based strikers who are ready for a chance.

Dax McCarty
Might Beckerman's loss be McCarty's gain? The feisty midfielder had a great season for the New York Red Bulls, and some have speculated that the witty redhead was the team's most valuable player in 2012. Five years younger than Beckerman and more technically inclined, McCarty has settled into a defense-first midfield role that could earn him a cap in the near future. He's a longshot for the Russia match, but he deserves to be part of the conversation.

Nick Rimando
Yeah, but what's the point? Rimando is firmly ensconced as the No. 3 keeper for the U.S., and nothing will happen in Krasnodar—good or bad—that will change that one way or the other. Better to give somebody like Dan Kennedy or Steve Clark a chance to train with Tim Howard and Brad Guzan, so that either can see what it will take to unseat one of the two big boys.

Chris Wondolowski
Wondo could not have been thrilled to miss the two most recent World Cup qualifiers, and the ultra-competitive forward will want to show Klinsmann that he deserves to be on the short list of U.S. striking options. Eddie Johnson and the Seattle Sounders remain in the MLS playoff hunt, so he is unavailable. Will Bruin, Landon Donovan, and Chris Pontius are busy as well. And with Jozy Altidore in Klinsmann's doghouse, the forward position seems wide open in terms of this particular match. Wondolowski should get the nod. If he doesn't, it will raise serious questions about his international prospects in the months ahead.

Graham Zusi
He is so there. Zusi has rocketed up the ASN 100 rankings—he is currently No. 10—and Klinsmann seems convinced that Zusi is one of his core players. It will be an absolute shock if the SportingKC midfielder does not make the long trip to Krasnodar.

Did we leave anybody out? Of the four recently eliminated MLS squads, are there any other players who deserve consideration for next week's friendly? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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