Commentary: As usual, Jurgen Klinsmann throws a few wrinkles into US national team roster
Most of the expected names were called and the biggest omission had already been known to the world.
Yet the US national team roster released on Thursday afternoon still provided a few eyebrow-raising elements for fans and observers, continuing coach Jurgen Klinsmann's tradition of quirks and curveballs.
The most notable oddity was his selection of not three, not four, but a whopping six goalkeepers. The move was explained as a sort of platoon system in which Tally Hall, Bill Hamid, Sean Johnson and Nick Rimando – the MLS-based backups to Tim Howard and Brad Guzan – will cycle in and out of camp to balance their club commitments with Klinsmann's desire to expose them to the USMNT environment.
The Chicago Fire's Johnson will join the US camp from May 26-30 and Hamid will rotate in while the Yanks are in his Washington, D.C., home market May 30-June 2. Then Hall arrives for the June 2-8 period which includes the World Cup qualifier at Jamaica, while Rimando steps in from June 9-19.
“We are in a great position with our goalies,” said Klinsmann in a Q&A with ussoccer.com. “It’s exciting that we can rotate them a bit in these upcoming couple of weeks because we don’t want the MLS goalies to miss too many of their games.”
As reported by SI.com earlier in the week, Landon Donovan did not make the cut, though Klinsmann offered the LA Galaxy veteran some words of encouragement in the official Q&A that accompanied the roster release.
“I think Landon is catching up. We’re all excited that he has decided to continue to play,” said the German-American coach, referring to Donovan's four-month sabbatical from the game. “He will get sharper and more confident with every game he’s going to play now. So we’ll watch that, we’ll monitor that and we’ll decide then when to bring him back into our picture. It’s not going to be for these upcoming games, but maybe later on we’ll definitely expect him back in the team.”
Meanwhile, Klinsmann has suddenly given himself myriad options with the left flank that Donovan has roamed in past years. Often rued as a perennial sore spot for the Yanks, there are now five specialist left-siders at the coaching staff's disposal in the upcoming camp, and several more who are capable of filling midfield or defensive roles along that wing.
Fabian Johnson, DaMarcus Beasley and Edgar Castillo are listed as defenders and will likely battle for the starting left back job, though all three can handle a more advanced tasking as well. Brad Davis and Brek Shea are left midfielders by trade, while Clint Dempsey, Joe Corona, Stuart Holden, Graham Zusi and Herculez Gomez have all seen reps on the southpaw side of various USMNT formations in various contexts in the past.
Gomez would surely prefer a posting at striker, though he'll face a stiff battle for minutes in a forward group which includes Dempsey, Sounders hitman Eddie Johnson, the red-hot Jozy Altidore and his like-for-like backup (to date, at least) Terrence Boyd.
Finally, there's the twist that may have the likes of Carlos Bocanegra stewing today.
After repeatedly preaching the paramount importance of players seeing regular playing time at club level in order to maximize their consideration for the USMNT, Klinsmann has called in several men who have struggled to hold a starting place with their main employers for various reasons: Danny Williams, Michael Parkhurst and Shea. Even Matt Besler, the standout center back in March's 0-0 draw at Mexico, has missed Sporting Kansas City's last three games through injury.