New faces, second chances and trusted veterans mingle on the roster for the US national team’s final match of 2012, as head coach Jurgen Klinsmann looks to give fringe members of his player pool a fair chance to show themselves ahead of next year’s Hexagonal qualifying round.
Fans should take heart from the US coach’s selections, which in tactical terms may represent the most balanced unit he’s yet built, capable of filling out any of the 4-3-3, 4-5-1 and even 4-4-2 shapes Klinsmann has tried in recent months.
The most attention-grabbing theme is Timmy Chandler’s return to the fold after his prolonged period of waffling regarding an international career with the US. The German-American fullback (above) is the only new addition to the defensive corps and with Steve Cherundolo left out this time, he looks well-placed to earn a starting spot in Krasnodar.
“I understand that a lot of people in the USA may be unsure,” the Nuremburg standout told ussoccer.com. “All I can say is that I am clear in my head about the commitment moving forward. This was about me being ready to accept the responsibility of being a part of the national team and everything that goes with it, and now I am ready. I hope I will get chances in the future. I am in 1,000 percent.”
In midfield, a hybrid grouping anchored by Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones and Danny Williams seems designed to try out new faces on the wings without endangering the quest for a positive result against Russia’s substantial quality.
Fresh off another successful club campaign in Norway, Josh Gatt should finally make the USMNT appearance that hamstring problems denied him when Klinsmann came calling earlier this year. Hoffenheim prospect and Maryland native Joe Gyau, a member of Caleb Porter’s ill-fated Olympic qualifying squad, is currently building his pro resume on a loan stint with German side FC St. Pauli and presents the ideal complement on the opposite flank.
Gatt brings blazing speed and directness while Gyau, himself an impressive athlete, has enough guile and technique to work as a winger in any of Klinsmann’s tactical setups.
Their involvement dovetails with the return of Jozy Altidore and Terrence Boyd, muscular, mobile spearheads who thrive on service from out wide and offer a focal point for attacking possession. Should Klinsmann limit his love of defensive midfielders to just one or two in the starting XI this time, both Sacha Kljestan and Norwegian-American schemer Mix Diskerud are well-equipped to roam and create in the attacking midfield “hole” behind those strikers.
We can also detect further signs of Klinsmann’s inner psychologist at work. Dropping Altidore (right) for the most recent qualifying matches now appears to have been a calculated statement by the coach, who will be looking for signs of renewed drive and determination from the Holland-based star. Another would-be Olympian, Chivas USA’s Juan Agudelo, is the wild card of this bunch but may benefit from a confidence-building international experience with the USA just like Brek Shea did.
The exclusion of Clint Dempsey, Graham Zusi and Kyle Beckerman is also intriguing, given that all three were firmly-established cogs in the semifinal round of CONCACAF qualifying earlier this season.
According to a source close to the team, Zusi will sit this one out due to an injury concern – no great surprise at the tail end of a long MLS campaign in which he was a constant presence for Sporting Kansas City. Beckerman logged similar mileage for Real Salt Lake, while Dempsey continues to fight for a regular place in Tottenham Hotspur’s starting lineup and could benefit from a focus on club soccer as the English season intensifies over the next two months.
Charles Boehm covers the US national team for MLSsoccer.com.