With defense depleted, US national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann says all options on the table
Forget Camp Cupcake. This might be Jurgen Klinsmann’s first real adventure into the perils of Camp Crisis.
Hours after he released his 23-man roster for the US national team’s upcoming World Cup qualifying matches against Costa Rica and Mexico, Klinsmann took to a media teleconference call on Monday that started not with talk of tactics, but instead with the list of injuries that could seriously hamper the US team's ability to post crucial points on the road to Brazil.
Among the wounded are defenders Timmy Chandler (hamstring), Edgar Castillo (facial fracture) and Fabian Johnson (hip), along with midfielders Jose Torres (hamstring) and Danny Williams, who is battling an illness.
Add those names to the ones Klinsmann knew certainly wouldn’t play against Costa Rica or Mexico in the next week – goalkeeper Tim Howard (back) and defender Steve Cherundolo (knee surgery) – and the camp that gets underway on Monday is undeniably scaled back from the best group the US could put forth.
Klinsmann said he'd seen such a rash of ill-timed injuries during his time as head coach of the German national team once before, but he didn't downplay the severity of the latest sequence of events, which have left at least five potential starters out of the mix.
“There are moments when things just come together and it works in a certain way, but the good thing about it is that whenever someone can come in, it’s a huge opportunity for the one stepping in,” Klinsmann said. “We aren’t complaining about the situation. We’re just taking it as it is.
“Do we wish to have those players back as soon as possible? Absolutely. But it is what it is, and we’re comfortable with this roster and with the guys coming into Denver.”
The crisis is clearly deepest on the backline, where there are no true outside backs in the group who have played in a World Cup qualifier, let along in what Klinsmann called a “must-win” against Costa Rica on Friday in Commerce City, Colo. (10 pm ET, ESPN, UniMas).
Klinsmann said that although he’s been fond of Real Salt Lake’s Tony Beltran and San Jose’s Justin Morrow as outside back options since the team’s January camp, he hasn’t cemented his back four yet and could be up for some experimentation if need be.
Center back Geoff Cameron, for example, could be one of those players in line for a change to right back, a place he’s played regularly for Stoke City in the English Premier League. Veteran midfielder DaMarcus Beasley is outside-the-box option at left back if Klinsmann opts to take a risk, and the versatility of veteran Maurice Edu could work in a pinch if youngsters Beltran and Morrow don’t perform well during the camp this week.
Klinsmann, for his part, praised the work of both Edu and Beasley when asked if they were options for the back four, and left almost all options on the table ahead of Friday’s match.
“Bringing in Tony Beltran and Justin Morrow … I think they have the quality to come to the next level now, but we also have other options coming out of midfield,” Klinsmann said. “I’m comfortable that we’re covered. We have all options.”