USMNT Report: The Path to Russia is Unclear

USMNT coach Jurgan Klinsmann announced his latest training camp roster, and it doesn’t offer any clue to what the next era will be.
by Herb Scribner   |   Monday, January 12, 2015

USMNT Report - coverage of the United States Men's National Team

United States Men’s National Team coach Jurgen Klinsmann just pulled a Jurgen Klinsmann.

His latest lineup, announced late last week, is a mix of verterans, youngsters and odd experimentations — all of which combine to create a lineup that may not help the USA grow as a group.

Here’s a look at the call-ups:

GK: Alex Bono (unattached), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Jon Kempin (Sporting Kansas City), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

DEF: Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), Christian Dean (Vancouver Whitecaps), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Jermaine Jones (New England Revolution), Shane O’Neill (Colorado Rapids), Oscar Sorto (LA Galaxy)

MID: Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Mix Diskerud (out of contract), Dennis Flores (Club Leon), Luis Gil (Real Salt Lake), Perry Kitchen (D.C. United), Miguel Ibarra (Minnesota United FC), Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution), Marc Pelosi (Liverpool), Dillon Serna (Colorado Rapids), Brek Shea (Orlando City SC), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC)

FWD: Tesho Akindele (FC Dallas), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Julio Morales (Tepic), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Bobby Wood (1860 Munich), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)

It’s not surprising Klinsmann included some World Cup vets, like Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore. But it’s just another sign that Klinsmann has no idea where to go next. For one, Alitodre rarely made an appearance with Sunderland in the last year. His head also can’t be in the right place with all the rumors he’s on the move to MLS. He’s one of the veterans of this team — impressive, sure, given his age — but a USMNT call-up isn’t deserved with the lack of time he’s spent on the field and the off-field drama surrounding him.

Similarly, I’m not sure Bradley deserved this call-up either. Toronto FC’s star defensive midfielder rarely made an impact in MLS, with his team faltering and not qualifying for the playoffs. Bradley played poor all season, which is why it’s perculiar he’s being rewarded with a call-up when other successful MLSers, like Kyle Beckerman for RSL and Chad Marschall for Seattle Sounders, get left behind.

Some of the players who did make the cut from MLS don’t seem ready for this level. Gyasi Zardes had a hot streak in the summer, but since he’s been clouded by the attention and didn’t really help the LA Galaxy win the MLS Cup. Wil Trapp and Luis Gil didn’t have memorable MLS seasons either, which are even more odd call-ups. Klinsmann may be giving these a players a shot to see if their USMNT caliber, but it might make more sense for him to see how successful they are at the club level before bringing them into international waters.

There are also a lot of Klinsmann experiments in this lineup that may need be to shut down. Jermaine Jones once again gets brought in to the defense. And though he played well for New England this year, Jones won’t have the skill he has now when 2018 comes around, which makes this almost a waste of his efforts. Bobby Wood hasn’t panned out in the last couple of USMNT sessions, so it’s unclear why Klinsmann wants him back in this lineup.

All that said, there are some exciting prospects from this lineup. Tesho Akindele is a young stud who should be fun to watch at the USMNT level, as are Christian Dean, Miguel Ibarra and Marc Pelosi. It’s also nice to see Perry Kitchen, Lee Nyguen and Brek Shea back in the lineup. These are capable players who could turn their international careers around with a successful start in 2015.

But overall, you can see there’s no real path for the USMNT with Russia just three years away. Klinsmann seems to be trying out every last possibility before settling on a core group. Then again, he never really had a core during the last qualifiying phase so this may be par for the course. But if the last round of qualifying and the World Cup showed us anything, it’s that the constant flux in tactics and lineups spell doom for the USA. And with a rough end to 2014 already on the fans mind, a poor start to 2015 may soon be coming.


UMass Amherst
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SN managing editor and award-winning journalist, Herb has always been known as "The Soccer Guy" wherever he goes. He's a leftback in most outdoor and indoor leagues. He also writes for Deseret News National.