Armchair Analyst: More experiments? A roster for Jurgen Klinsmann and the USMNT

The biggest bombshells this month's USMNT friendlies, on Oct. 10 vs. Ecuador and Oct. 14 vs. Honduras, have most likely already been dropped.

That leaves 28 more spots. Klinsmann has complained about struggling to accommodate MLS clubs during the stretch run, but at the same time he's also showed a fair amount of flexibility in his call-ups and has generally tried to work with managers around the league.

What's that mean for these two games? First off, probably no Michael Bradley. Toronto FC are in the midst of playoff race, and have must-win games on Oct. 8 (vs. Houston) at 11 (at NY). We could see similar treatment for the Sporting KC pair of Matt Besler and Graham Zusi, as well as Seattle's Clint Dempsey, since those teams are playing on the 10th.

Jermaine Jones of the Revolution, Kyle Beckerman of RSL and Chris Wondolowski of the Earthquakes face less crucial games, but might not be on Klinsmann's list, anyway. The coach has talked openly about getting younger talent into the player pool, and that trio of 30-somethings have all most likely played in their last World Cup.

With that in mind, here's our 30-man roster:


Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Nick Rimando (RSL), Cody Cropper (Southampton)

This is Guzan's cycle to be No. 1, and I suspect he'll get the nod for everything except the annual Camp Cupcake game(s). Rimando – who's not exactly expendable, but does have a hell of a backup in Jeff Attinella – could come in at the half of either game, as he did against the Czech Republic last month.

Cropper is the wild card. I'm tempted to put Sean Johnson or Bill Hamid here, but Cropper got a non-roster invite to the World Cup camp and was part of the team vs. the Czechs last month. He may be The Future, and he's getting every chance to prove it.

Don't sleep on the Columbus Crew's Steve Clark, by the way. He's been a top 3 'keeper in MLS this season, and at 28 is clearly in his prime. The Crew, however, have a huge game against Philly on Oct. 11, so Clark will probably have to wait until January to get to prove his worth.


Defenders: Fabian Johnson (Borussia Moenchengladbach), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders), Greg Garza (Club Tijuana), Edgar Castillo (Atlas) Tim Ream (Bolton), John Brooks (Hertha BSC), Michael Orozco (Puebla), Will Packwood (Birmingham City), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy)

I'm giving Besler a break here. Yedlin and Gonzalez, however, both have more than able back-ups at their clubs, and will be expected to be available for 180 minutes. Johnson is one of the core players, and Chandler is treated as such, so they're going to be on the roster. Garza is playing well for a good team, and is a natural left back, so he'll be there, as will Castillo.

Johnson's skillset in particular is irreplaceable. He doesn't overlap, he "underlaps", inverting his run to become goal-dangerous in the 18:

That leaves Gonzalez and four other true central defenders. Brooks, in spite of his troubles on the club level, will probably be a starter on the left side of central defense. Ream will get his chance to take some of those minutes and (finally) prove he's able to compete at the international level. Orozco has been reliable for Klinsmann, and will get this call.

Packwood is the wild card. In a perfect world he'd be getting minutes with Brooks so that we can all see a potential Olympic team central defense, but the reality is that the youngster is in a fight for playing time and only just made his season debut. It's maybe more likely that he's left with his club to continue to fight for time.

If not Packwood, then who? Colorado's Shane O'Neill is the other real contender for starting in central defense for the U-23s, but he's struggled with injuries and form all year. Geoff Cameron is still hurt; Chad Marshall is 30; RSL can't afford to lose both Rimando and Chris Schuler; and Matt Hedges and FC Dallas are playing LA that weekend in a game that could have do-or-die implications.

The "outside-the-box" pick for Klinsmann, then, is rookie Steve Birnbaum of D.C. United. He's been the best rookie in the league since July, and though his game is still mostly reactive, he has the soccer brain, size and athleticism to adapt to a higher level of play.

Plus in Kofi Opare (who Canada should be calling up), United have a backup who can take Birnbaum's minutes and do just fine with them.


Midfielders: Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Julian Green (Hamburger SV), Luis Gil (RSL), Joe Gyau (Borussia Dortmund), Miguel Ibarra (Minnesota United FC), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Emerson Hyndman (Fulham), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Lee Nguyen (New England), Maurice Edu (Philadelphia), Wil Trapp (Columbus)

Klinsmann clearly sees Green and Gyau as the future of the program out wide, so they'll be brought in at every opportunity even if their club form is hit-or-miss. Diskerud and Hyndman get the same treatment in central midfield, while Bedoya – who's much more dynamic centrally than on the wing – is part of the core.

Gil will get the nod here because he's already been to camp, already played for the full national team, and is likely to be one of the main building blocks of the Olympic team. Yes, there are other youngsters in better form right now in the league, but none with the USMNT background and comfort that Gil has.

Corona and Nguyen both get the call based upon how well they're playing at the club level. Nguyen's technique on the ball is, in itself, worth the price of admission:

Edu gets the call he should have received back in June, and his versatility means he should be a key part of this team for at least the next two years. Trapp, the only pure d-mid on this roster, gets the last spot ahead of D.C.'s Perry Kitchen for one big reason: He (like Gil) is eligible for the next Olympic cycle. Kitchen isn't, missing the cut-off date by 10 months.


Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy), Andrew Wooten (SV Sandhausen), Rubio Rubin (FC Utrecht), Shawn Parker (Augsburg)

(Before we dive into this section, please remember that Aron Johannsson and Terrence Boyd are both hurt, and Juan Agudelo is still looking for a club. If/when all three are healthy and settled, I think they're all regulars on almost every roster)

Jozy scored! He'd be here anyway, but it always feels like a national holiday when he finds the net.

Zardes is the best American striker in MLS and the hottest American striker anywhere, and even with LA's big game against Dallas on the 11th, it would be kind of shocking if he wasn't called into this camp.

He's not just a scorer, by the way. Here's a 45-yard, left-footed through-ball to Robbie Keane:

Wooten is the second-hottest American striker anywhere, and the hottest in Germany. The 25-year-old is the son of an American serviceman who's spent his career grinding it out at various levels of the German pyramid, and seems to have finally come into his own this season.

Rubin is the wunderkind. The 18-year-old has been in and out of the lineup at Utrecht, but like Hyndman, Green, Gil, Cropper et al, I'd expect him to keep getting the benefit of the doubt until he proves he doesn't deserve it.

And for the last spot, I'm taking a flyer on Parker. The former German youth international would have to file a one-time switch to represent the US, but guess what? He turned down a call-up to the German U-21s in August.

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