Timothy Chandler has not played for the US national team since the lowest point of the its World Cup qualifying campaign some 15 months ago. But just a month out from the final tournament, the polarizing right back finds himself very much in play for a roster spot in Brazil.
Chandler was one of 30 players named by US men’s national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann on Monday to the side’s preliminary roster for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, a huge step for a player whose international career looked to have stalled after last featuring in the USMNT’s infamous 2-1 loss in Honduras to start the final round of qualifying in February 2013.
Despite a late-season knee injury that looked to have quashed Chandler’s already-slim World Cup hopes, Klinsmann explained that on the whole he’d taken positive conclusions from the 24-year-old’s campaign with the Bundesliga’s FC Nürnburg.
“Timmy has done extremely well throughout the most part of the season,” Klinsmann said on a conference call with reporters after the roster was revealed. “But he knew he had to kind of do a lot more work to come back into our picture because of the situation that happened in Honduras and how I saw the team developing and they did extremely well throughout last summer, obviously with World Cup qualifying and the Gold Cup, so he had to be very patient.”
The US were able to turn things around without Chandler, riding a hot streak throughout last summer to a dominant stretch in qualifying and the 2013 Gold Cup title, with a series of players featuring at right back.
That simply raised the stakes for Chandler, who retained his spot with Nürnburg heading into the new European season. He finished the 2013-14 Bundesliga campaign having started 19 of the 21 matches he played in, including two upon his return from knee surgery, registering a goal and two assists on the year.
“He kind of got the message and worked harder and he played at a very, very high level throughout the season until the knee surgery came,” Klinsmann explained. “But I kind of encouraged him always to keep going. He’s fully fit again, he played the last two games [he was eligible for].
“I had him scouted many, many times, also in training. I think he’s a player that can make a difference if he’s on his highest level. He has experience to play against very, very good and strong players throughout Europe and that’s why he earned his way back in the group.”
If Klinsmann does take Chandler to Brazil, however, it will mean one less spot for another player, in all likelihood a right back like Chandler. Michael Parkhurst, Brad Evans and DeAndre Yedlin will all be competing with him for time at right back, while Geoff Cameron – a virtual lock – can also play the position.
And though Evans, Parkhurst and Cameron are no surprises after all featuring heavily for the US over the last couple years, 20-year-old Seattle Sounders right back Yedlin is in a much different boat, having only earned the first of his two US caps in January 2014.
"With Julian [Green] and DeAndre, we have two huge talents being part of that 30-man roster," Klinsmann said. "I think it’ll be interesting to see now how they take that challenge because they don’t have the experience like other players have. It will be very interesting for us coaches to see how they take it on and how they compete for the 23[-man] roster."