The last time I appeared at the EJSIC, I wrote a post about the firing of Bob Bradley and the potential candidates to take over. One of those candidates, the former German player and coach Jurgen Klinsmann, was hired. His signing marked the end of a roughly five year flirtation period with US Soccer.
Klinsmann has a pedigree on the international level. As a player, he led West Germany to the 1990 World Cup, won a few UEFA Champions League titles (the highest trophy in European club football), and was a prolific scorer with snake-like ability to slither between defenders to find the ball.
As a coach, he took over the German national team after a poor showing in the 2004 European Championships. He fearlessly left older players off the roster in favor of young, unproven talents. That gamble paid off with Germany’s third place finish in the 2006 World Cup, a tournament the country hosted.
Now Klinsmann seeks to revamp a U.S. national team while simultaneously transforming the youth development system in this country. Just a guess here, but it’s probably one of the hardest jobs any soccer coach has ever undertaken.
The coaching at the national team level is not that hard part (though there will be challenges). It’s changing the development system so that the U.S. can perhaps finally achieve the potential its wealth and population supports which will prove difficult.
While those goals are long-term, let’s look to the near future. Next Wednesday (August 10), the U.S. will play Mexico in a friendly (exhibition) in Philadelphia. The only problem is that there is no such thing as a “friendly” against Mexico, a sentiment that U.S. midfielder Freddy Adu shared via Twitter yesterday.
U.S. Roster vs. Mexico
Yesterday, Klinsmann unveiled his first 22 man roster for his first game as coach of the Yanks.
Forwards: Freddy Adu, Juan Agudelo, DaMarcus Beasley, Edson Buddle, and Landon Donovan.
Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman, Michael Bradley, Ricardo Clark, Maurice Edu, Jermaine Jones, Brek Shea, and Jose Torres.
Defenders: Carlos Bocanegra, Edgar Castillo, Timothy Chandler, Steve Cherundolo, Clarence Goodson, Michael Orozco Fiscal, Heath Pearce, and Tim Ream.
Goal Keepers: Bill Hamid, and Tim Howard.
The roster includes some old and some new blood. Let’s go position by position looking at each player in some detail.
1. Freddy Adu: the former prodigy’s international career looked ruined until two successful Gold Cup appearances with a sub in the semi-finals and a start in the finals. Klinsmann’s style of play can only help Adu even more.
2. Juan Agudelo: the future of the U.S. at striker, Agudelo has learned a lot at the club level from playing and practicing alongside French legend Theirry Henry. Now he’ll study under one of the greatest goal scorers of a previous generation.
3. DaMarcus Beasley: when I first saw Beasley’s name, I was shocked. At one time, Beasley was a better player than Landon Donovan. Once his prime passed, his usefulness did too. However, Beasley has had somewhat of a career resurrection while playing in Mexico’s top professional league. Intriguing pick who may still have something left to help.
4. Edson Buddle: Buddle was on the 2010 World Cup squad thanks to a hot hand (foot?) in the MLS that season. He’s since moved on to play in Germany’s second division. Honestly, I have no idea how well he has played there. One thing he’s always had is speed and judging by the rest of this lineup, Klinsmann likes speed.
5. Landon Donovan: the most interesting aspect of this pick is that Donovan is listed as a forward and not a midfielder. Under Bradley and at the club level, Donovan has commonly played the right midfield position though he has shown the ability to play up when needed (Gold Cup final against Mexico).
1. Kyle Beckerman: the dread-locked midfielder for Real Salt Lake has never really impressed wearing the national team colors, but Klinsmann should evaluate every possible player to better grasp his new team. Beckerman has some good attributes that he regularly displays in MLS. Perhaps a new coaching philosophy will benefit him as well.
2. Michael Bradley: the son of our former coach, Bradley’s future seems a little uncertain. He always started for his dad (something I defended in the previous post about Bob Bradley’s firing) which will probably not continue. Regardless, Michael has earned his role on this American squad and should continue to see lots of playing time.
3. Ricardo Clark: I hate this player. I perhaps hate him more than Johnny Bornstein (who, thankfully, was left off the roster). Hopefully he doesn’t continually give the ball away in the midfield this time (I’m not holding my breath).
4. Maurice Edu: while included on the Gold Cup roster, Edu did not see the pitch at all. He’s not an attacking player so his role is a little unclear, but he’s still good enough to see playing time.
5. Jermaine Jones: the German-American citizen teamed up with Michael Bradley in the central midfield during the Gold Cup. Maybe Klinsmann can get him to stay in his freaking position.
6. Brek Shea: a promising young talent for the MLS’ FC Dallas, Shea had yet to see major action under Bradley. However, if Klinsmann goes with a youth movement like he did with Germany in 2004, expect to see Shea a lot in the future. Good player.
7. Jose Torres: a permanent resident of the Bob Bradley doghouse, Torres was called in by Klinsmann for his attacking prowess and Latin flair for the game. Klinsmann has repeatedly said he wants to include Latin players in the U.S. squad so here’s a good start. I can’t wait to see what Torres can offer under a more attacking-oriented approach.
1. Carlos Bocanegra: the captain (will he retain that title?) still has some game left in him despite a poor showing in the Gold Cup final (along with the entire defensive line minus Cherundolo).
2. Edgar Castillo: another young Latin player, Castillo has made one prior appearance for the U.S. One aspect he brings to the team is his ability to pass out of the back, a key to maintaining possession of the ball.
3. Timothy Chandler: Chandler is another German-American citizen who is a future cornerstone for the U.S. at right back. He can play on the flanks and possess the ball well.
4. Steve Cherundolo: the U.S.’s best defender as of late, Cherundolo is probably nearing the age of international retirement, but perhaps he can stick around long enough to help with qualifying and even possibly World Cup 2014. After all, he’s gotten better with age.
5. Clarence Goodson: Goodson has a unique aspect about him; he’s still young enough to have a solid future for the national team while having enough experience to be very valuable.
6. Michael Orozco Fiscal: see Edgar Castillo (honestly). Another young player with a Latin flair for the game.
7. Heath Pearce: a somewhat overlooked defender in the Bradley era (33 appearances), Pearce could potentially be a valuable sub / emergency starter.
8. Tim Ream: the future at CB for the U.S., Ream is the kind of player who will thrive under Klinsmann’s possession-based game. Ream is not afraid to have the ball at his feet with pressuring forwards nearby. He’s made some mistakes while playing for the Yanks, but there’s nothing to his game that experience can’t fix.
1. Bill Hamid: the future of the U.S. between the posts, Hamid should get some good experience in this game against a pretty good attacking team in Mexico.
2. Tim Howard: still the number one option for the U.S. as keeper. Nothing changes with a new coach.
Players left out
When the roster was first unveiled yesterday, a slight stir flowed through Twitter and other social media sites because of the noticeable absences of Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey. Nothing should be read into those absences.
Altidore is still recovering from the hamstring injury he suffered in the Gold Cup while also training for the start of a new club season with a new club in Holland. He’s still very much in the future of the U.S. team.
For Clint Dempsey, his absence is nothing more than a courtesy to Fulham, his club in England. Fulham are preparing for the start of the English Premier League season with a new coach while also trying to qualify for the Europa League (a Euro club tourney under the Champions League).
The Mexico Friendly
Klinsmann will take these 22 men into the Mexico game as his first opportunity to see many of these players and to better evaluate some veterans. The result of this game means absolutely nothing. Nada. Nil. Friendlies are nothing more than games for young players to gain valuable experience in semi-competitive settings.
And this friendly is even more. It’s a game for Klinsmann to begin the evaluation process in selecting his best squad for World Cup qualifying and World Cup 2014. His success or failure as a coach will not be decided by this game or any other exhibition in the rest of the calendar year or the early months of 2012.
That doesn’t mean both team don’t care about winning. Far from it, I imagine. Both teams would love to notch another victory over their biggest rival. It just means that a loss here is not the end of the world or an indictment of the actions of the past weeks (firing Bradley and hiring Klinsmann).
For a great article on the U.S.-Mexico rivalry though (and an elaboration of the Adu Tweet linked earlier), Grantland.com has the goods.
Enjoy the article and until next time, Go Go USA!