Brazil 2014: Who will be missing from MLS and for how long? The March Edition.
OTF’s Austin Fido is back with another look at who might be missing from the rosters of MLS clubs when the World Cup comes along …
If you missed the first installment of this survey of MLS’s likely sacrifices to FIFA’s quadrennial jamboree, here’s the main point, per article 10 of section 29 of the regulations governing the 2014 World Cup:
So clubs will give up players to Brazil-bound squads on May 19th, and probably won’t see them again until their respective nations are eliminated from the World Cup. In other words: some MLS clubs will be losing players BEFORE the league’s two-week hiatus for the group stage, as well as whatever time a lucky few are able to eke out should their team get to the knockout rounds.
This post is not concerned about which World Cup squads are getting to the knockout rounds. It is instead focused on the question of which players will likely go missing from their MLS teams around 5/19, when they might return from a group stage excursion in Brazil, and how many league games they’ll miss as a result.
There is one new piece of information to add: confirmation of the dates and identities of the pre-World Cup friendlies.
In addition to those competing in Brazil, there will be several national teams roaming the world this summer, providing last-minute opposition for the World Cup squads. These teams – like Ireland, Jamaica and Panama – will need players.
The pre-World Cup friendlies are something of a grey area for FIFA, since they don’t technically take place on official international dates, but they are clearly an essential part of preparation for the tournament.
Will MLS clubs hold on to the players on their rosters who aren’t obligated to play in the World Cup? Will the league even be asked to give up guys who aren’t playing the big gig in Brazil? Those are questions for another day.
For now, guys who might get called up to be friendly opposition for World Cup teams are classified as long shots to miss out on MLS play in the discussion below.
Still no Goats in danger of going to Brazil. Nor does it look likely any will even be considered for a call-up to a pre-tournament friendly squad.
This could work out in the club’s favor. During the month or so in which MLS will be impacted by World Cup warm-up and group stage games, Chivas will play four league matches – and they are all at home.
If they can add momentum to home advantage, the Goats could lay down a marker for a playoff place, should their rivals struggle to pick up points with depleted squads.
It still doesn’t seem likely that any Chicago players will be making the plane to Brazil. Sean Johnson remains the presumptive first-reserve should anything happen to USMNT ‘keepers Brad Guzan, Tim Howard or Nick Rimando.
The rest of Chicago’s could-be internationals all appear to have taken a step back since we last looked at MLS squads. Two weeks into the season, Mike Magee has yet to play for the Fire in MLS 2014. Lack of match play could make him a stretch for the April 2nd USMNT roster, and he was already quite the long shot to make the plane to Brazil.
Juan Luis Anangonó hasn’t been involved in his national team set-up since last June, and may have his hands full getting playing time in MLS this season, let alone Brazil. Gonzalo Segares is still an emergency call-up for Costa Rica at best.
Lovel Palmer has yet to feature in a Reggae Boyz squad under head coach Winfried Schafer, thought it is certainly conceivable he could play his way back into his national team if he has a good year in Chicago. Whether Schafer will be inclined to argue for Palmer’s release for Jamaica’s trio of pre-World Cup friendlies (5/26 to 6/8) is another question entirely.
Similarly, though Mali is scheduled to provide pre-Brazil opposition for Croatia on 5/31, Bakary Soumare would seem to have a lot to do to persuade Henryk Kasperczak to stick his neck out and request the center back’s release for the match.
There could be a bunch of American Rapids on USMNT’s April 2nd roster, depending on form and availability — Shane O’Neill and Chris Klute merely foremost among them. But there is still only one player in the Rapids’ squad who can be confident of heading to Brazil this summer: Marvin Chavez.
He didn’t get off the bench for Los Catrachos‘ 2-1 win over Venezuela on 3/5, but he’s still a favorite to make the 30-man preliminary roster for the World Cup, and more likely than not to be among the final 23.
He may not, however, be among the starters (Boniek Garcia and Andy Najar might be considered favorites to start on the wings), which could mean he’s fit and ready to suit up for the Rapids by 6/28.
5/24 – vs. Montreal Impact
6/1 – vs. Houston Dynamo
6/4 – vs. Chicago Fire
6/7 – @ FC Dallas
6/28 – vs. Vancouver (Honduras’s last group stage match is June 25th…in Manaus)
Guys on the bubble:
It will cross Panama Head Coach, Hernan Dario Gomez’s mind to call up Gabriel Torres for Los Canaleros’ 5/31 friendly in Chicago against Serbia and the 6/3 kick-about with Brazil in Brazil. He hasn’t seen the Panama squad up close since taking over the head coaching job.
Jamaica is scheduled to provided World Cup warm-up opposition to Serbia, Switzerland and France from 5/26 to 6/8. All three matches will be played in Europe, suggesting Winfried Schafer will focus on looking at Jamaican players based over there, with perhaps a smattering of guys from the domestic league who deserve a chance to impress whichever scouts haven’t already headed out to Brazil. Still, Schafer does admire the talents of Deshorn Brown.
The Crew has bounced to the top of the list of MLS clubs likely to lose players to Brazil this summer. Since the last iteration of this list, Columbus has picked up Giancarlo Gonzalez – pretty much in the same bracket as Bryan Ruiz and Keylor Navas when it comes to guys near-guaranteed to be representing Costa Rica in Brazil.
Waylon Francis made the squad, but not the field, for Los Ticos’ last match – a 2-1 friendly win at home over Paraguay. Jairo Arrieta didn’t make that roster, but he started his MLS season with a goal, and there are worse places to be than in front of Federico Higuain, if you are a forward who needs to make a case for a national team call-up.
Michael Parkhurst‘s selection as a stand-in left back for USMNT against Korea, over specialists in the position, tells you everything you need to know about Jurgen Klinsmann’s opinion of his versatility. His likely role for Columbus as a center back probably won’t hurt his case with Klinsi at all – it just underscores his utility.
If selected, Arrieta, Francis and Parkhurst all project as subs, more likely to watch games than play them. If their respective nations don’t advance from the group stage, they will all likely be fit and available to play the Crew’s 6/28 home game against FC Dallas.
But Gonzalez is a Costa Rican starter. After three World Cup matches in 10 days, expect him to need to sit out the Crew’s last game in June.
5/24 – vs. Chicago Fire
5/31 – @ Toronto FC
6/4 – vs. Real Salt Lake
6/7 – @ DC United
6/28 – vs. FC Dallas (Probably only Giancarlo Gonzalez out for this one)
Guys on the bubble:
Kevan George has featured regularly in Trinidad & Tobago’s last five squads. He’s just been loaned out to USL Pro’s Dayton Dutch Lions, and Columbus will probably want him back should three-quarters of the starting defense (Gonzalez, Francis, Parkhurst) be whisked away to Brazil.
The Soca Warriors have scheduled friendlies with Colombia (5/27), Argentina (6/4) and Iran (6/8), and George’s name is likely to be considered for his national team squad, especially if he’s still hanging out in Dayton.
One ordinary game in MLS doesn’t rule Eddie Johnson out of USMNT’s World Cup plans. He’s still very much in the frame to make Klinsi’s 23 for Brazil, and therefore miss up to six league games for DC United.
5/21 – vs. Houston Dynamo
5/24 – @ New England Revolution
5/31 – vs. Sporting Kansas City
6/7 – vs. Columbus Crew
6/11 – @ Montreal Impact
6/28 – vs. Seattle Sounders
Guys on the bubble:
Bill Hamid isn’t going to the World Cup unless at least two ‘keepers get injured, since Sean Johnson is the presumptive #4 on Klinsi’s depth chart for the USMNT #1 shirt.
Michael Seaton bagged a goal for Jamaica on 3/5 against St. Lucia. He could be picked to test himself against top-level international opponents when the Reggae Boyz head to Europe to help Serbia, Switzerland and France warm up for Brazil – especially if he isn’t making much progress in his quest to crack DC’s match day squads.
No Dallas players are in the running for trips to Brazil, but there are a few of them who may be the subject of inquiries from national team coaches putting squads together for late-May, early-June friendlies.
Peru is scheduled to play England (5/30) and Switzerland (6/3), which could trigger a request for Raul Fernandez to represent his country. Blas Perez could be asked to help Panama take on Serbia (5/31) and Brazil (6/3). Je-Vaughn Watson was part of Winfried Schafer’s Jamaica squad for the March internationals, and could be offered the chance to join the Reggae Boyz early-summer European tour (5/26 – 6/8).
Oscar Boniek Garcia has extra incentive to hang around in Brazil for a while – he’s on pace for his 100th cap for his country if Honduras makes the quarterfinals.
He remains Houston’s only certain summer absentee, but the club has started MLS 2014 in good form, which puts a number of guys on the bubble for call-ups.
5/21 – @ DC United
5/25 – @ San Jose Earthquakes
6/1 – @ Colorado Rapids
6/6 – vs. Sporting Kansas City
6/29 – @ Montreal Impact
Guys on the bubble:
Brad Davis has a good shot at making Klinsi’s 30-man roster, and probably isn’t far away from the final 23. If the Dynamo keep their hot start to MLS going, throw Corey Ashe, Will Bruin and Kofi Sarkodie next to Tally Hall as guys who could get a look if injuries start to affect Jurgie’s planning.
Conversely, Houston’s early success may keep Alexander Lopez stranded on the bench, and out of the reckoning for a late run into the Honduran World Cup squad.
Giles Barnes recently expressed an interest in playing for Jamaica, which could bring Winfried Schafer inquiring about some friendly action this summer. Jermaine Taylor and Jason Johnson might also be of interest to the Reggae Boyz.
Los Angeles Galaxy
Still just Landon Donovan and Omar Gonzalez looking likely to miss games for LA Galaxy this summer.
5/21 – vs. FC Dallas
5/25 – vs. Philadelphia Union
6/1 – @ Chicago Fire
6/8 – vs. Chivas USA
6/28 – @ San Jose Earthquakes (USMNT’s last group match is 6/26)
Guys on the bubble:
Ireland is cashing on the pre-World Cup friendly bonanza with unparalleled gusto, scheduling four games between 5/25 and 6/10, including one against Turkey – a nation which isn’t qualified for the main event in Brazil. Robbie Keane could play in the final Irish friendly, against Portugal (6/10), without missing any games for LA Galaxy.
While it is doubtful Bruce Arena will be receptive to any appeal to sentiment, Jaime Penedo could win his 99th cap for his country in Brazil against the World Cup hosts, on 6/3, if he plays both Panama’s scheduled pre-tournament friendlies.
Two consecutive losses to start MLS 2014 are two very good reasons for concern about this season in Montreal. Losing players to Brazil is not, however, a pressing issue for this squad.
New England Revolution
It took Jerry Bengtson five minutes to score for Honduras in his first appearance for his country this year (3/5 against Venezuela). He has zero goals in two appearances for the Revs so far this year in MLS – though no New England player has scored in the opening games of the season.
Whether he finds the net for the Revs or not, Bengtson is going to Brazil with Los Catrachos, perhaps to showcase his skills for a move out of Boston.
5/24 – vs. DC United
5/31 @ Montreal Impact
6/7 – vs. New York Red Bulls
6/28 – vs. Philadelphia Union (Honduras’s last group stage match is 6/25 vs. Switzerland in Manaus)
Guys on the bubble:
O’Brian Woodbine has yet to make a competitive appearance for the Revs, and isn’t high on Winfried Schafer’s list of Jamaican national team players either.
New York Red Bulls
Tim Cahill‘s last appearance for Australia (3/5’s 4-3 loss to Ecuador in England) brought him two goals and the Australian international goal-scoring record. He’s going to Brazil.
Roy Miller also won a cap on 3/5, in Costa Rica’s 2-1 win over Paraguay. He too is going to the World Cup .
5/24 – vs. Portland Timbers
5/27 – @ Sporting Kansas City
6/7 – @ New England Revolution
6/27 – vs. Toronto FC (Four days rest and his ceaseless desire to play might see Cahill line up for this one; Miller will probably have played Costa Rica’s last group match on 6/24, and therefore will likely rest)
Guys on the bubble:
Maybe Jonny Steele gets a call-up to join Northern Ireland’s two-game tour of South America (Uruguay on 5/30; Chile on 6/4)
Carlos Valdes‘s move to San Lorenzo is apparently a loan, meaning he is still technically a Union player. He won’t miss any games for Philly, but he is the team’s most likely representative in Brazil (and he’s no certainty to get into Colombia’s final 23).
Maurice Edu could play his way back into Klinsi’s USMNT plans, and is likely to be among the men named to play El Tri on April 2nd. But it’s too early in his comeback to count him as anything other than an option for the Nats should injuries force Jurgie to improvise.
If Zac MacMath continues to keep Jamaican Andre Blake on the bench, it’s plausible the young ‘keeper will join the Reggae Boyz for their trip to Europe in May.
Keon Daniel’s future as a Trinidadian international has been in question for several months, and he doesn’t seem likely to play for the Soca Warriors any time soon.
Still count Rodney Wallace as the most likely Timber to see the World Cup from inside a national team squad, and he’s not going because he is injured.
Portland may be asked to decide whether Alvas Powell and Donovan Ricketts can skip a few games to join Jamaica’s summer trip to Europe.
Real Salt Lake
RSL will probably lose the core trio of Kyle Beckerman (USMNT), Nick Rimando (USMNT) and Alvaro Saborio (Costa Rica) to the World Cup. On the bright side, they are more likely to be unused subs or off-the-bench impact players than every-minute-of-every-game starters for their respective countries.
So they probably get back to Salt Lake relatively fresh, as soon as the group stage is over in Brazil (unless, of course, their respective nations make the knockout rounds). And, perhaps surprisingly for one of MLS’s deeper squads, there really isn’t anyone else on the roster likely to be affected by the tournament, or the friendlies preceding it.
5/24 – vs. FC Dallas
5/31 – @ Seattle Sounders
6/4 – @ Columbus Crew
6/7 – vs. Portland Timbers
San Jose Earthquakes
Victor Bernardez and Clarence Goodson are the team’s current presumed World Cup absentees. If both go, expect Goodson to be back a little earlier than Bernardez, since he is third or fourth choice center back for USMNT while Muma is a starter for Honduras.
5/25 – vs. Houston Dynamo
5/31 – @ FC Dallas
6/7 – @ Toronto FC
6/28 – vs. LA Galaxy (probably only Bernardez)
Guy on the bubble:
A couple of goals against El Tri in April, or an improbable run through the latter stages of CONCACAF Champions League, could put Chris Wondolowski on the plane to Brazil. Right now, however, he is a long shot.
Cordell Cato appears to be rapidly maturing into a key player for this ‘Quakes team – a fact which will eventually catch the attention of his national team, Trinidad & Tobago, perhaps even in time for the Soca Warriors’ summer friendly schedule.
Clint Dempsey and Brad Evans are likely the Sounders’ only Brazil-bound players. And Evans could well spend most of his time on the bench, and be ready for a return to MLS action a little sooner than Dempsey.
5/24 – @ Vancouver Whitecaps
5/31 – vs. Real Salt Lake
6/7 – @ Chicago Fire
6/28 – @ DC United (USMNT’s last group stage match is 6/26)
Guys on the bubble:
Obafemi Martins might get a call from Nigeria, but then again DeAndre Yedlin could get brought to Brazil by USMNT, or Damion Lowe could get whisked off to Europe to play Serbia, Switzerland and France for Jamaica. These are all unlikely events.
Sporting Kansas City
Graham Zusi and Matt Besler are still solid bets to go to Brazil with USMNT, and play significant minutes.
5/23 – vs. Toronto FC
5/27 – vs. RBNY
5/31 – @ DC United
6/6 – @ Houston Dynamo
6/27 – @ Portland Timbers (USMNT’s last group stage game is 6/26)
Guys on the bubble:
Benny Feilhaber‘s chances of making USMNT’s World Cup squad remain better than most, but he’s currently looking like a 30-man roster kind of player, not a final-23 selection.
Michael Bradley will go to Brazil with USMNT. Julio Cesar will play for Brazil in this summer’s World Cup – and is perhaps the only player mentioned here for whom the pretense that his national team won’t get past the group stage seems unsustainable.
Count Bradley out for Toronto until at least the beginning of July. Cesar will be planning on staying in Brazil for a couple of weeks longer, which might mean as many as five additional TFC games missed for the ‘keeper.
5/23 – @ Sporting Kansas City
5/31 – vs. Columbus Crew
6/7 – @ San Jose Earthquakes
6/27 – @ RBNY
Guys on the bubble:
Jermain Defoe is basically England’s Chris Wondolowski: doesn’t get a huge amount of respect, but he keeps scoring goals, which makes him hard to ignore. And if he’s the English Wondo, then of course he’s in MLS.
Two goals in his first match for TFC would suggest Defoe is going to keep on doing what he’s done throughout his career. He made the 30-man squad Roy Hodgson called up – but not the pitch – for England’s March 5th friendly against Denmark, and could very easily make Hodgson’s preliminary squad for Brazil.
Steven Beitashour played the second half of Iran’s 3/5 home loss to Guinea. The match came just two days after Team Melli’s final Asian Cup qualifier, a 3-2 over Kuwait, also played in Iran.
But the Iranians wrapped up Asian Cup qualifying in November, allowing Carlos Queiroz to treat the competitive fixture as a run-out for some emerging players, and the friendly as a test for his senior internationals. As part of the latter group, with significant minutes (Iran shipped two goals in the first half, but held steady after changes made at the interval) played, Beitashour looks a serious candidate for a place in Iran’s final 23.
5/24 – vs. Seattle Sounders
6/1 – @ Portland Timbers
6/7 – @ Philadelphia Union
6/25 – vs. Montreal Impact
6/28 – @ Colorado Rapids
Guys on the bubble:
Neither Johnny Leveron nor Carlyle Mitchell have managed to crack Carl Robinson’s starting lineup in the opening games of the season. That’s bad news for Leveron, who needs playing time as well as an injury or two to some fellow Catrachos if he is to make it out to Brazil.
Mitchell’s national team, Trinidad & Tobago, will be going to Brazil: to play Iran in a pre-tournament friendly on 6/8, after matches against Colombia (5/27) and Argentina (6/4). If Mitchell still isn’t getting minutes for the Caps in May, he might conceivably get a call from the Soca Warriors for the trip.
Darren Mattocks will probably be considered too important to Vancouver’s season to be excused for Jamaica’s summer friendlies, but don’t be surprised if the Reggae Boyz at least ask the question.
OTF’s USMNT and CONCACAF editor Austin Fido tweets @canetop.