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Roster Analysis

Youth Group: Klinsmann Goes Young for Czech Rep.

With the Czech Republic friendly just around the corner, U.S. national team chaperone—er, coach—Jurgen Klinsmann announced a roster featuring four teenagers and six uncapped players.
BY Brooke Tunstall Posted
August 28, 2014
7:09 PM
SAY THIS FOR Jurgen Klinsmann, when the U.S. boss goes young, he goes young!

After the U.S. national team’s elimination from the World Cup earlier this summer, Klinsmann revealed that he’d spend the next few games looking at some younger players. He proved true to his word on Thursday, announcing an inexperienced-yet-talented roster for a September 3 friendly against the Czech Republic.

We’re not saying this roster is young—OK, we are—but on this one, 19-year-old Julian Green with all of three caps to his name, is practically a veteran. Green is one of 10 players on this squad who participated in this summer’s World Cup.

Sure, there are some older hands brought in—Jozy Altidore (though just 24) and Brad Guzan are veterans of two World Cups and Nick Rimando is 35—but some on this lineup are closer to getting their driver's license than they are being allowed to drink legally in the U.S.

Four of the players are still teenagers and 11 more are 24 or younger. Six of the 22 players summoned are uncapped and, including Green, five more have fewer than 10 caps—including two players with just one each.

The babies of this very young bunch are forward Rubio Rubin and midfielder Emerson Hyndman, both less than six months removed from their 18th birthdays. Rubin, an Oregon native, is a product of U.S. Soccer’s residency program in Bradenton, Fla., and recently made his first-team debut for Utrecht in the Dutch top flight.

Hyndman—yes, he’s the grandson of former FC Dallas skipper Schellas—has been part of Fulham’s academy for several years and just made his first-team debut in the English Championship earlier this month.

Perhaps most noteworthy is the inclusion of 19-year-old forward Jordan Morris, who is about to start his sophomore campaign at Stanford. There was a time when college players regularly dotted American rosters but those days were thought to be in the past.

Expected to be an anchor of the U.S. U-23 team that prepares for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Morris is the first active college player called in by the U.S. national team since Bruce Arena called Chris Albright, then a sophomore at the University of Virginia, for a camp preceding a friendly with Argentina in 1999.

Albright didn’t play in that game and if Morris sees action against the Czechs he’ll be the first current collegian to play for the U.S. since Ante Razov was capped in 1995 against Uruguay—Bora Milutinovic was still U.S. coach—before his senior season at UCLA.

This is a roster made by a coach with a guaranteed contract for the next four years, someone who has the confidence to experiment and look to the future. A win will be nice but evaluating these players and getting them some experience at this level is the primary goal in this friendly.

It will be interesting to see which of the new forwards Klinsmann plays alongside Altidore, who looked sharp off the bench last weekend for Sunderland. Green is the obvious first choice but will Klinsmann give Rubin, Morris, or 1860 Munich 21-year-old Bobby Wood a shot?

Mix Diskerud, who went unused in Brazil, will begin his quest to show he can be a viable two-way midfielder. We know he can create but can he do the work on the other half of the field that was done so nobly at the World Cup by Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman?

Assuming Diskerud starts—not necessarily a safe assumption—who plays opposite him in central midfield? Joe Corona has played well in that role for Tijuana and Hyndman has looked sharp in his brief time for Fulham, but don’t sleep on Alfredo Morales. He only has one cap but the Ingolstadt man has shown he can be the engine between the backs and the attackers.

Some of the forwards—including Green and Wood—have the ability to drop back and play as wide midfielders. So does Alejandro Bedoya, who got a lot of minutes there in Brazil. And prodigal son Brek Shea—the Tom Hulce of the U.S. national team to Klinsmann’s Jason Robards—is back for yet another shot with the U.S. despite his club situation being in complete limbo and Stoke City unable to give him away. Klinsmann can’t shake his Shea habit and he’ll likely give him another chance to resurrect his career with the U.S. with a sub appearance on the left wing.

There are places to be won on the backline, starting at left back, where the search for DaMarcus Beasley's replacement begins in earnest. Timothy Chandler was his backup on paper in Brazil but never stepped on the field. After being in and out of the national team picture for much of the past three years, it’s important for Chandler to begin this cycle with a strong showing. However, a starting spot isn’t guaranteed as he should be pushed by Greg Garza, a 23-year-old Texan who is making his senior team debut this camp after getting off to a strong start at left back for Tijuana this season.

The opposite fullback spot is Fabian Johnson’s to lose unless and until Klinsmann wants to experiment. He had a strong World Cup and at 27, will still be in his prime in Russia. Based on who was called up for this game, the starting centerbacks will likely be World Cup veterans Geoff Cameron and Jonathan Brooks, backed up by Puebla’s Michael Orozco. (A recent injury could force Cameron to miss the match.)

The closest thing to a lock on this roster is Guzan starting in goal. With Tim Howard taking a national team Ross-and-Rachel-like break, this U.S. goal is finally the 30-year old Guzan’s to keep. And it would be a shock if he didn’t guard it with an iron-like grip.

Other than Garza, the experimenting for this lineup won’t be on defense. It’ll be with the young colts at midfield and forward. Klinsmann’s going to give them a chance to run, it’s up to them to show they're ready for the race.

Which player(s) are you most excited to see? Share your thoughts in the Comments.

Brooke Tunstall is an American Soccer Now contributing editor and ASN 100 panelist. You can follow him on Twitter.

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