USMNT Roundtable: Who has the most to gain (or lose) in Arizona?

Save your welcome for when we say thank you, Arizona. (Photo: azkicksit.com)

Save your welcome for when we say thank you, Arizona. (Photo: azkicksit.com)

There’s plenty at stake for USMNT against Mexico in Arizona, but who has the most on the line? The roundtable airs its views…

It’s the last USMNT get-together before the 30-man preliminary squad for Brazil is announced, so you’d think Jurgen Klinsmann probably already has a clear idea of who is in the frame and who is not.

You would be right. Still, when Klinsi says “the door is still open”, he means it: if you are in the last national team squad before the World Cup, you have a much better chance of making the final roster than most your fellow citizens. Conversely, you also have a much better chance of completely blowing that opportunity than most of your fellow citizens.

There are 20 men in Arizona preparing to play for USMNT against El Tri on April 2nd. Which of them has the most to gain (or lose) from the match?

The roundtable has a few ideas – and let us know what you think in the comments.

 

You can relax, DMB, this match was never really about you anyway. (Photo: americansoccernow.com)

You can relax, DMB, this match was never really about you anyway. (Photo: americansoccernow.com)

Brendan Carr

What a roller-coaster two years it has been for Clint Dempsey. His move to Tottenham move did not work out well for him, so he moved to the Seattle Sounders – and it’s early in his career there, but it has not been one for the books, so far.

After only scoring one goal last season, and one at the start of this year, Dempsey has been in a funk. The first match of the season saw him take a swipe at another player, for which he was disciplined — rightfully so. He seems to be acting up and, whatever the reason, it is not good for US soccer.

Another worry is Jurgen Klinsman, who defended Dempsey’s actions. Indeed, it seemed as if he was making excuses for him.

Going into the match against Mexico, Clint has a massive statement to make: is he going to continue to pout and flail his arms when something does not go his way, or will he man up and play to his ability?

It would obviously be good if he plays well, but one thing to watch is his off the ball reactions. Clint has been a very good national team player, but it seems his head is not in the right place. Watch his body language, it tells all.

He is a great player, but it is time to step up and be a leader.

Just bring the joy back to your game, Captain. (Photo: yanksarecoming.com)

Just bring the joy back to your game, Captain. (Photo: yanksarecoming.com)

Jason Iapicco

To date, DeAndre Yedlin has all of one cap for the US Senior team, and that was a friendly vs South Korea in February. It isn’t all that surprising given that Yedlin is only 20 years old, but it does show that Jurgen Klinsmann is at least paying attention to our youth players. Yedlin won’t crack the starting lineup for the World Cup, and might not make the squad for Brazil, but he can help himself out big time in this camp and friendly vs Mexico, if he plays.

Yedlin is an up and coming player. He is currently in his second year with the Seattle Sounders, but is already making waves. He scored 3 goals and tallied 3 assists in 31 games last year, which is decent for a defender. He was named to the MLS All-Star Team, and played 23 minutes in the exhibition against Roma.  He was also named #3 in MLS’s “24 Under 24” list in September.

Most impressively, according to Opta, Yedlin had an interception rate of 4.2 in 2013, and only 1 other player eligible for the “24 Under 24” list (Oriol Rosell – 4.4) achieved better. If he can keep his play up, he’ll become a US regular, but not right now.

Yedlin has a tough task ahead of him, as the US has always produced two types of players well: Goalkeepers, and Defenders. Yedlin has no real shot at making the squad for Brazil, which is due to the logjam of capable defenders with international experience. If he plays well, however, and shows Klinsmann something in training, he’ll keep himself on the radar and on the fringe of the roster, which is the most important thing for a player his age at a stacked position.

The US roster will see a lot of turnover after Brazil, as we have a lot of aging players, evidenced already by Klinsmann not continuing on with US stalwart Carlos Bocanegra (age 34), who has racked up 110 caps and is one of the most experienced internationals in the USMNT player pool.  

It’s inevitable that we’ll see turnover to younger players, the question will be who will step up and earn their spot. Yedlin needs to prove to Klinsmann that he can grow into the type of player who fits the mold of a US player, and his road starts in Arizona.

Fun fact: "Yedlin" is an archaic term meaning "inspiring profound feelings of sartorial inadequacy in others." (Image: thefightingcock.co.uk)

Fun fact: “Yedlin” is an archaic term meaning “inspiring profound feelings of sartorial inadequacy in others.” (Image: thefightingcock.co.uk)

Rob Thompson

There are two reasons Julian Green has the most to gain in the upcoming USMNT friendly against their biggest rival, Mexico, on April 2nd.

First, Green will get the opportunity to prove to the world that he should be on the final 23-man roster when the Red, White, and Blue board that plane to Brazil. Second, a solid performance in the match would vindicate Coach Klinsmann and his recruiting staff, validating their pursuit of an 18-year-old player in Germany’s 4th division.

I haven’t heard this much US-based media hype about a rising talent since the days of Freddy “Futbol” Adu and, to a lesser extent, during Juan Agudelo’s surge into the USMNT picture.

It would seem the hype rarely lives up to the expectation. Adu can’t even find a club that will take him – his latest trial, with Blackpool, appears to have been unsuccessful (you heard that right – Blackpool).

Honestly, the only player I can remember making such a big impact at the international level at such a young age was eighteen-year-old prodigy Michael Owen. If you need a refresher, check out his goal for England against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup.

So there are some questions about Julian Green. I’m sure 98% of the USMNT hard core supporters have not seen him play, except for the few, short YouTube videos in circulation.

However, the wait will finally be over on Wednesday for the American public. Personally, I don’t think Green will get the start in this match, but I do expect him to get about 45 minutes of playing time.

To be successful in this friendly, Green will have to prove that he is a dangerous option about every time that he gets a clear chance to run at defenders. If he gets an assist or a goal, then he will have surely surpassed all expectations.

Coach Klinsmann knows he is running out of time to try new striker pairings. Klinsi also knows Jozy Altidore is not performing to expectations in the EPL. I’m sure the coach wants to test whether USMNT can play a different style of soccer – one not as dependent on using a typical target striker like Altidore.

Will Julian Green prove the answer to that test? If he does, look for a vindicated and emboldened USMNT recruitment team to put a hard sell on Arsenal product Gedion Zelalem. 

Listen, Julian, when I said 'welcome, aboard', I wasn't necessarily talking about a plane to Brazil...(Photo: ussoccerplayers.com)

He’s younger than I am, Klinsi – you remember it’s called the MEN’S national team, right? (Photo: ussoccerplayers.com)

James Vlahakis

Keepers don’t receive as much criticism as other players because fans seldom blame a keeper for a goal unless it’s a “howler.” At the same time keepers are given too much praise for making routine saves.

Criticize a USMNT keeper and you will face the wrath of USMNT fans. I experienced this in Columbus last year when fans lofted unnecessary praise on Tim Howard for routine saves.  When I pointed this out, the boozed-up masses said I was “unpatriotic.”

I’ve called out Howard on Twitter for “not doing enough” where most fans put all the blame his back line. Howard has it too easy. Week after week he plays with a solid Everton defense.  Without that protection, he’s not that great. He’s lost his quick athleticism and his desire to put his body on the line. In contrast, Sean Johnson made two athletic saves in the 16th and 18th minutes against DC United this past weekend. 

Turning to the Mexico match, short of Rimando letting in a few howlers or getting hurt, he’s a lock for third keeper. But if Johnson plays for a half, he can’t afford to make a mistake. 

In the event Rimando gets hurt leading up to the WC, Johnson should take over: he’s more level headed and consistent than Hamid.

Because we will have a tough time in our group, Jürgen should start Brad Guzan in Brazil. Guzan  is a natural choice as he has been under fire 24/7 with Villa. But fret not, Johnson is a future starter for USMNT.  #Timmyout

That shirt is a good look for you, sir (Photo: chicago-fire.com)

That shirt is a good look for you, sir (Photo: chicago-fire.com)

Alex White

In the World Cup run-up, I’d expected the national side to schedule friendlies against smaller countries, as with a club’s preseason. Instead, USMNT has the intensity turned up to 11, and the panic button in arm’s reach, with a southwestern rumble against the arch-rivals.

As for the players themselves: there are quite a few guys working to make the squad or the starting lineup, but I’ll be watching to see how a few of the American All-Stars perform. 

Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey have made well-profiled moves from European leagues to MLS. The chorus of doubt accompanying those discussions echoed the refrain that playing against the diminished competition of the domestic league will dull the skills of the States’ best.

Well, here’s the chance to see it. Will Bradley and Dempsey come out, control the midfield and create goals? That’s the standard they have set and the expectation we have for them. I want goals, assists, and for them to look good doing it. 

Even so, my expectations are not high: any consistent cohesiveness or fluidity of play would be enough for me. And not because I think MLS has dragged their skills down.

While none of the Klinsmeister’s men have gotten a lot of match time together, the scientific purity of this experiment is further clouded by the presence of another variable: here, again, it will be early-season Americans going up against mid-season Mexicans.

A drum call for changing the season’s start was well beaten following the Liga MX sweep of MLS sides in the Champions League, and we’ll probably hear it again if USMNT has a poor showing in Arizona.

But let’s see if the boys can prove me wrong — and if (God forbid) they excel, my excitement may even get turned up past 11. 

Guys, you're going to have to figure out how to carry MLS's reputation BETWEEN you...otherwise, one of you will keep falling over. (Photo: bigstory.ap.org)

Guys, you’re going to have to figure out how to carry MLS’s reputation BETWEEN you…otherwise, one of you will keep falling over. (Photo: bigstory.ap.org)

T.J. Zaremba

Contrary to the majority opinion of the US soccer community, I believe one player who has a lot on the line this week in Glendale is Eddie Johnson. 

Since he helped the USMNT punch its ticket to Brazil, his career has rapidly gone in the wrong direction. At one point, he was a success story who had resurrected his career in MLS. Then he became a greedy malcontent who was more concerned with his paycheck and stature than the team in Seattle. 

Finally he got the paycheck he was looking for, along with his chance to be the focal point in DC. However, since that night in Columbus where he finished off Mexico with the second goal, his form both in MLS and with the Nats has fallen off a cliff.

I think the cratering of his current form is only half of the problem for EJ. The competition for the remaining forward spots has become white hot. It is a given that Aron Johannsson has passed up EJ on the depth chart; now combine that fact with the addition of Julian Green to the national pool: Eddie’s spot just became a lot less certain. 

The team already has Jozy and Johannsson to play the lead forward position, but there is also Donovan, Deuce and Green — who can all push up when the time calls for it.

The bottom line: Eddie Johnson needs to be a “grown-ass man” against Mexico this week. If he isn’t, he may just be available for a few more MLS games this summer.

We wouldn't keep repeating it if you would just say something more interesting. Please. It's been 10 years, FFS.(Photo: mlssoccer.com)

We wouldn’t keep repeating it if you would just say something more interesting. Please. It has been almost 10 years, FFS. (Photo: mlssoccer.com)

****

The roundtable is everywhere, but mostly on Twitter: @brendanc23@DoctaStooge, @roblthom66, @jvlaha, @A1exWhite, and @TJZaremba. Follow ’em – they’re good company.

To join the next roundtable, contact Austin Fido @canetop.

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