So now that the dust has settled on the United States National Team’s time in Brazil I thought I would take some time and, instead of reflecting on the American World Cup past, look forward to how this team might look in Russia for the 2018 finals, should they qualify.
Firstly, World Cup Finals qualification for the Americans in 2018 is by no means assured. As it has been proven this year, CONCACAF are no longer a division of pushovers plus Mexico, there is some real talent in Central and North America and the smaller nations like Costa Rica,
Honduras, and Panama should not be overlooked.
Secondly, four years is an eternity in football. If I were to accurately predict 10 of the 2018 23-man roster I’d have done some remarkable work.
For the purposes of this experiment we will be working with a five man midfield, as I expect the 4-2-3-1to remain the dominant set-up of this squad at least through the next cycle. Let us
GK: Brad Guzan, Tim Howard, Sean Johnson
Goalkeeper is a tricky one. Following his absolutely monstrous performance against Belgium, I am tempted to slot Tim Howard in. However, Howard recently turned 35, and will therefore be 39 at the start of the next tournament. Now, that’s not to say it’s impossible for a 39-year-old goalkeeper to maintain world class form, but it is definitely a challenge.
Brad Guzan, on the other hand, is only 29, and regular followers of the Premier League will tell you that Guzan may be every bit as good in goal for Aston Villa that Howard has been for Everton. That being said, it’s still too close to call, and I will assume that both make the roster,
though who will start will be up for grabs.
As for the other ‘keepers in the pool, keep an eye on promising Chicago Fire youngster Sean Johnson. At 25, his best days are surely ahead of him, and at 6’4, he is a commanding presence between the sticks that just needs a bit more polish and maturity.
DF: DeAndre Yedlin, Alfredo Morales, John Brooks, Omar Gonzalez, Shane O’Neil, Tim Ream, Fabian Johnson, Timothy Chandler.
The defence is probably the most difficult to predict with one glaring exception. First let’s speak on the centre-backs. While Gonzalez is large, Besler quick, and Cameron versatile, none of them really command the box, and only Cameron, whose natural position is hard
to mark down, is really comfortable with the ball at his feet.
John Brooks made his impact felt coming off the bench to score the game winner against Ghana, and I believe that success will spur the young Berlin defender on to greater things. Brooks is more a combination of Besler’s speed with Gonzalez’s frame, and given some experience and development could well be at the heart of the American defence in the
I just have a feeling that Besler was a one and done. Gonzalez I think will be back. As for the wing backs, on the left, this was clearly DaMarcus Beasley’s swan song, and what a career with the USMNT it has been.
I’ll always have a soft spot for the speedy winger turned defensive engine. Now here is where it gets exciting. Two of this tournaments stand out players both happened to be playing the same position at right-back, the veteran stand-out Fabian Johnson, and the speedy youngster DeAndre Yedlin. Both were phenomenal in spurts. The brilliant bit is; Johnson often plays on the left side in the Bundesliga.
Assuming he continues to play on the left for new club Monchengladbach, the wing back combination of Johnson and Yedlin storming down the flanks could pose many teams quiet a problem. I am adding a few youngsters to the list that I think, as long as Klinsmann is
still around, will get some attention.
MF: Michael Bradley, Luis Gil, Mix Diskerud, Gedion Zelalem, Brek Shea, Julian Green, Graham Zusi, Darlington Nagbe, Will Trapp
The midfield was always going to be a bit of a mixed bag for this World Cup cycle. While there
is plenty of talent on the more defensive side of the ball, going forward, the team’s creative options seemed very limited, especially on the wings where it seemed like almost every attack were being driven by the wingback pairing of Beasley and Johnson, and later Yedlin.
Let’s start with the deeper lying players. Both ages 32, it would seem as if time is up on the World Cup careers of Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman. For me, Jones was one of the best Americans in the tournament, and often outshone Michael Bradley, who many expected would be the focal point of play.
However, Klinsmann’s decision to move Bradley forward and drop Beckerman in behind him, while freeing up Jones up to have a superb tournament, really did not do Bradley any favours. Who knows how things may have played out had Jozy Altidore not gone down injured in the first game of the tournament, forcing the move of Clint Dempsey into the lone striker’s
Speaking of Dempsey, he will be 35 in 2018 and while I greatly admire him for his heart, steel and talent, I don’t think he’ll be a part of the final 23 for Russia. Still, the attacking wing play is really where I think the team was lacking offensively and where I see room for a lot of roster turnover to the next go around.
Bedoya was great at tracking back, and Zusi had some moments, but for me, neither offered enough going forward, and I’m not sure if either will still be around for 2018. If one of the pair does survive, I think it will be Zusi based purely off the fact that his set piece deliveries continue to get better and better, and he has more room for growth.
FW: Jozy Altidore, Aron Johannsson, Terrence Boyd
The forward position will be under the least scrutiny following the 2014 World Cup, incumbent
Jozy Altidore was sidelined just as the tournament was getting going, and replacement Clint Dempsey is more attacking midfielder with goal scoring instincts.
The only other strikers to see field time were Altidore’s initial replacement, the young but promising Aron Johannsson and the forehead-smack-inducing Chris Wondolowski. Wondo is done, this was his chance and honestly, he squandered it.
Luckily, Altidore is still, incredibly, only 24-years-old, and will most likely star again for the Red, White and Blue in 2018. Johannsson at 23 is more a compliment to Altidore at this stage in his career, not the physical type of lone striker that Altidore is. Still, I wouldn’t mind seeing a formation that allows the two to someday play together and see what they can do.
For the average football/soccer fan, what you may not notice is the ever increasing number of foreign born internationals on this list. In particular, the majority of the youth I have predicted will climb to the next level were born overseas.
Included in this list are; Gedion Zelalem, the Arsenal youth product who may still declare for Germany, where he has been capped at the under 17 level, Darlington Nagbe, the Liberian midfielder who currently plies his trade in the MLS, and current, young, USMNT pool players like Mix Diskerud Terrence Boyd, and Aron Johannsson.
I think that Klinsmann does not deserve enough credit for bringing these German-born players into the fold. If you look at the statistics from Brazil, you’ll quickly realise that of the five goals scored by the Americans, three came off the boot of German born players, the other two came from goal machine Clint Dempsey.
I see this trend continuing under Klinsmann, and I, for one, am all for it as long as their dedication to the team is true.
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