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Road To the Gold Cup: June Friendlies USMNT Roster Breakdown

The full USMNT roster for the team’s upcoming friendly matches against world powerhouses Netherlands and Germany was released during halftime of Sunday’s MLS match between New York Red Bulls and Seattle Sounders. These friendlies serve as some of the toughest tests that the USMNT will face during their run of tune-ups as they head towards the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament this July. It seems that head coach Jurgen Klinsmann will use these matches to find out which individuals can show well against some of the best in the world and prove themselves worthy of a spot on the final Gold Cup roster and who gets left behind.

The full USMNT roster breakdown for the June friendlies is as follows:

GOALKEEPERS: Brad Guzan, Nick Rimando, William Yarbrough

DEFENDERS: Ventura Alvarado, John Brooks, Timmy Chandler, Brad Evans, Michael Orozco, Brek Shea, DeAndre Yedlin

MIDFIELDERS: Kyle Beckerman, Michael Bradley, Mix Diskerud, Miguel Ibarra, Fabian Johnson, Jermaine Jones, Alfredo Morales, Danny Williams

FORWARDS: Juan Agudelo, Aron Johannsson, Bobby Wood, Gyasi Zardes

This roster will surely raise some eyebrows, and even if you’re one of the fans who is totally resigned to accepting the seemingly whimsical nature by which Klinsmann chooses his players, you’re probably scratching your head over at least one or two names.

So let’s start at the back and move forward, shall we?

As far as the goalkeeper position is concerned, Klinsmann has said that Guzan is still the number one choice heading into the Gold Cup. That makes sense considering he has a wealth of experience at the highest level with Aston Villa, even though his recent benching could be considered worrisome, especially for confidence-related reasons. Clearly, Klinsmann still believes that Guzan is the best keeper at Aston Villa, as do the majority of US fans and others. The important question to keep in mind is whether or not Guzan believes it.

Behind Guzan, Rimando is the clear option. His track record with the Nats as well as his recent form for Real Salt Lake serve as excellent credentials, and he’s done more than enough to show that he is still deserving of the backup keeper spot in this squad.

The only positional competition here to watch for before the Gold Cup will be for the number three spot, which seems to be between William Yarbrough and Bill Hamid. Both have been called into recent camps, with Yarbrough seeming to continually be gaining favor in the eyes of Klinsmann. However, Hamid has been one of D.C. United’s most important players in 2015, and is a key part of why they sit atop the MLS Eastern Conference.


Moving up the field to the defense, this group seems to be pretty well set. We could see Omar Gonzalez on the final Gold Cup roster if he continues playing well for the LA Galaxy, but there shouldn’t be a lot of movement expected to take place within this group.

Klinsmann definitely enjoys the ability of Timmy Chandler to get up and down the right side of the pitch, which is why we see him called in again even though he’s virtually guaranteed to produce one or two moments of absolute boneheadedness per match. To his credit, it was Chandler’s ball into the box that led to Jozy Altidore’s goal against Denmark.

On the opposite side of the back four, it’s becoming evident that Jurgen rates Brek Shea very, very highly as a left fullback and prefers him over the likes of Greg Garza. Much like Chandler, Brek presents a very dangerous attacking option on the overlap and has already scored two goals for the U.S. in 2015, one of which came on a sensational free kick against Switzerland.

Here it is:

As we head into the midfield portion of the roster, it’s important to note that Alejandro Bedoya is currently nursing a knee injury and was left off of this squad as a precautionary measure, otherwise the Nantes ace would have surely featured in Klinsmann’s plans. Jermaine Jones could also be replaced in the near future after suffering a groin injury on Sunday during the New England Revolution’s match against the LA Galaxy.

Presumably, the USMNT will be operating in a 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield. This formation has been used quite a bit recently, including April’s match against Mexico. The U.S. dominated that match, which ended Dos A Cero.

As such, Klinsmann has brought in two solid No. 6 options in Kyle Beckerman and Danny Williams, who had an excellent season for Reading and was instrumental in their run to the F.A. Cup semifinals.

Fabian Johnson is listed as a midfielder on this roster, so it’s likely we’ll see him working the left wing for the majority of the time during these friendlies. His pedigree in that position is very solid and his performances in the second half of the Bundesliga season with ‘Gladbach are just what U.S. fans hope he can replicate against two very tough upcoming opponents.

Given Klinsmann’s penchant for playing Michael Bradley in the No. 10 spot, it will be interesting to see how Mix Diskerud factors into this roster. His current club situation is less than ideal, with the NYCFC attack grinding to a halt in recent matches and Diskerud looking generally disconnected from his forwards. However, his performance against Mexico in April, in which he lined up adjacent from Bradley on the right side of the diamond, was perhaps his best in a USMNT jersey to date. His box-to-box abilities were unleashed in that position, and his combination play with DeAndre Yedlin and Jordan Morris was as notable and effective as his unusually-venomous defensive effort.

Without an injured Jozy Altidore, the USMNT forward pool looks a lot different. Currently, there is not an out-and-out target forward available for selection, which presents a problem for the U.S. given their style of play. This lack of positional depth could be magnified against the likes of  the Netherlands and Germany where, whether it’s part of Klinsmann’s game plan or not, the U.S. may start hoofing long balls to break pressure. The problem is that it’s hard to break pressure without a target forward who can win those balls and be relied on for hold-up play. The closest forward option on this roster to that type of player is Juan Agudelo. Gyasi Zardes’ size and strength are useful components of his game, but he’s more of a winger than a target forward, and has been used as such by Klinsmann during his recent call-ups.

Much to the chagrin of many U.S. fans, Bobby Wood is back! But, to be totally fair to him, Wood’s form for Erzgebirge Aue has been pretty stellar (by comparison) since he left the purgatory that was 1860 Munich. In nine matches with Aue, Wood scored three goals and added an assist, equaling his 2. Bundesliga goal tally during the entirety of his time at 1860.

Many will be delighted to see Aron Johannsson back in the national team picture after ankle injuries derailed the start of his Eredivisie season and hampered his ability to perform with the Nats. With Jozy out, Johannsson is the one forward on this roster with perhaps the most to gain and will probably push for significant minutes during this camp to follow up the brace and assist which he tallied on the last day of his AZ Alkmaar campaign.

Perhaps more interesting than the players on this roster are the players left off of it. The biggest surprise has to be the exclusion of Benny Feilhaber from this roster, despite his amazing form for Sporting Kansas City and his status as possibly the best-performing midfielder in the American player pool right now. Sadly, this seems to be becoming a trend and the word on the street is that Klinsmann simply doesn’t rate Feilhaber. That is an incredibly disappointing story line if true, especially since Feilhaber’s style of play fits right into the mold of what Jurgen desires in a midfielder– a tenacious, box to box runner with the technical ability to take the game to high quality opposition and vision to find the killer pass in the final third.

Overall, there are certainly some eye-catching selections by Jurgen Klinsmann on this roster, but this doesn’t seem to be any indicator of who we’ll see at the Gold Cup. Most likely, this camp will decide which of the fringe and less-than-regular players will fill out the Gold Cup roster. Jurgen will key on certain individuals throughout the week in training and during these matches against extremely tough opposition as a way to gauge their ability to be effective at this Summer’s tournament.

Jurgen is an enigmatic guy as far as coaching decisions go, and this portion of the road to the Gold Cup will be as important as any to analyze as we head towards a very important Summer for U.S. soccer.


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