STANFORD, Calif. – Jurgen Klinsmann’s 30 US national team hopefuls have drawn their fair share of criticism since they were laid bare to an anxious American fanbase last week.
Too young? Check. The group has seven players under the age of 24, including a teenager in 18-year-old German-bred midfielder Julian Green and two aspiring defenders in John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin who couldn’t buy a beer in Palo Alto without a fake ID.
Too inexperienced? Sure. Only six field players from the 2010 World Cup squad are back in the current group, and two of them – defenders DaMarcus Beasley and Clarence Goodson – either played scant minutes in South Africa or didn’t play at all.
Too dependent on MLS talent? Perhaps. Of the 30 men in camp, 15 ply their trade somewhere in MLS and there’s an argument that at least 10 are locks for the final roster, more than double the four MLSers on Bob Bradley’s roster four years ago.
But for at least one USMNT veteran, it all adds up to an intriguing and talented group that compares quite favorably to the Americans’ last World Cup squad.
“The 2010 team was a good team because we had a lot of experience,” goalkeeper Tim Howard told reporters before the team’s training Wednesday at Stanford Stadium. “This team is younger, but I think we’re slightly better than 2010, only because of that youth, and that inexperience almost helps you. Guys don’t actually know what to expect, they’re just hungry and ready to go for it.”
"We've got some good playmakers and we know who they are," Howard added. "Collectively as a group this is a strong, very athletic team."
While the numbers actually show that the final 2010 roster was slightly younger – the average age of the 23 players in South Africa was approximately 26 years old, while it’s roughly 27.5 years old at Stanford this week – the current group feels less experienced than Bradley’s squad in 2010.
Perhaps that’s because of a perceived lack of proven international defenders – Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo and Jay DeMerit are all long gone – or simply because it’s surprising to some that youngsters like Green, Yedlin, Brooks or striker Terrence Boyd will get a long look from Klinsmann before the final cuts are made.
Either way, veterans are taking the camp’s new look as a positive. Beasley last week called this group “the deepest national team we’ve had” outside of the 2002 squad that reached the World Cup quarterfinals, and Landon Donovan echoed that thought on Monday.
“From a talent perspective, it should be the case that it’s always getting better,” Donovan said. “And it certainly is in this camp. From a competition standpoint, there’s no question that it’s as good as it’s been.
"There are a lot of guys who aren’t here who would be competitive in this camp too, so that’s a good thing for us, for US Soccer and it makes us all push more, which is good for all of us.”