KANSAS CITY, Mo. – With their trip to Brazil already booked and two World Cup qualifiers yet to play, US national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann is less interested in experimenting with new talent than he is getting his established squad solidified and ready for next summer's tournament.
“I've always said that the door is always open, and maybe there are still some surprises around the corner that we don't know yet,” Klinsmann said at a news conference on Thursday ahead of Friday's match against Jamaica at Sporting Park (6:30 pm ET, ESPN/UniMas).
“But in general, obviously we're getting closer to the World Cup. And throughout the last two years we saw a lot of players come into the program, and some changes happened, and that's normal when you have a team between two cycles.
“I think we have a pretty good picture to understand where the players are at right now, and we have a very good idea of how we want to plan things toward Brazil,” Klinsmann continued. “But still we use the FIFA fixture dates to the full extent, and that's why it's also crucial to have the best group here and constantly working on certain elements to get better. So there's a way to go, but I don't see a lot of surprises.”
Still, the roster isn't set in stone – and injuries to several key players could open the door for others to win spots.
Midfielder Michael Bradley's quad injury, for example, could give Mix Diskerud his first start of the Hexagonal stage – either Friday against Jamaica or next Tuesday in Panama.
“There are a lot of guys who want to perform and show what we have,” Diskerud told reporters before Thursday afternoon's training session. “Games like this, when we've already qualified for the World Cup, can provide that chance for me. For every game, there's going to be one game less. So of course, it's closing a little bit. But one good game and another player's in there.”
Another player who could get a shot to impress against the Reggae Boyz is forward Aron Johannsson – if Klinsmann decides to keep a second forward alongside Jozy Altidore, after Eddie Johnson went home on Wednesday with a groin strain.
“We will talk through that still today,” Klinsmann said. “We have a training session to make up our minds. Eddie was planned to start, but we'll come up with a very good solution.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.