By IVES GALARCEP
The new year is well underway, and we are that much closer to the 2014 World Cup. The U.S. Men’s National Team is just days from kicking off World Cup qualifying, so Jurgen Klinsmann can’t really think about the World Cup just yet, but we now find ourselves just 16 months from Klinsmann naming the 23-man roster he will take to Brazil (yes, assuming the USMNT qualify).
Not too much has changed from last month to now, but there are some changes in our 23-player projection. Whether it’s the status of veterans like Steve Cherundolo and Carlos Bocanegra, or the continued uncertain state of Landon Donovan’s national team future, there are still some things that remain so difficult to project when considering what the U.S. World Cup team might look like in 2014.
The recent January national team camp didn’t do much to change the look of a potential 2014 World Cup team, though Mass Besler and Omar Gonzalez enjoyed strong camps and showings against Canada to solidify their places on our projected 2014 World Cup roster.
Who else made the cut in the January 2013 edition of 23 for 2014? Here are the selections:
PROJECTED USMNT WORLD CUP 2014 ROSTER (January 2013)
(Changes from December in bold)
GOALKEEPERS- Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Nick Rimando
Outlook- Guzan continues to strengthen his grip on the second goalkeeper spot, but the third goalkeeper remains a tough one to predict. Rimando might be a surprise to some, but with Guzan looking like such a strong No. 2, Klinsmann could be tempted to bring along a good locker room presence like Rimando rather than one of the pool’s younger options. There is no guarantee Klinsmann will use the third goalkeeper slot on a young goalkeeper, but Sean Johnson’s recent 90-minute performance in the 0-0 draw vs. Canada seems to suggest he has moved ahead of Bill Hamid in the pecking order.
Missed the cut- Sean Johnson, Bill Hamid.
DEFENDERS- Fabian Johnson, Timmy Chandler, Geoff Cameron, Omar Gonzalez, Maurice Edu, Matt Besler, Michael Parkhurst, Eric Lichaj
Outlook- Steve Cherundolo’s recent injuries are starting to raise concerns about whether he can really still be projected to be a part of the 2014 World Cup team. As things stand, until Cherundolo and Carlos Bocanegra enjoy lengthy injury-free spells, it will be tough to projected them onto the team.
Maurice Edu’s move to Bursaspor looks to be a good one for playing time, and to push him back on this list as a projected centerback convert. The development of natural centerbacks Gonzalez and Besler could allow Klinsmann to gamble on Edu, who can provide versatility.
No, Klinsmann still hasn’t called in Lichaj yet, but the fact that Lichaj continues to find playing time in a top league makes him the choice over Edgar Castillo. Michael Parkhurst breaks into the squad after completing a move to Bundesliga side Augsburg. He has yet to make an appearance for the German club, but the fact that Augsburg has enjoyed a good start to the second half of the season bodes well for the club staying in the Bundesliga.
Both Gonzalez and Besler showed well in the recent friendly against Canada, and Klinsmann sang the praises of both MLS defenders. The pair might not yet be ahead of a Clarence Goodson on the depth chart, but they’re both projected to ultimately move into the top four of the centerback pecking order.
Oguchi Onyewu remains an option, having done well with the limited playing time (eight matches in all competitions) that he has received with Malaga, but the recent signing of Diego Lugano could bury him even deeper on the bench.
Missed the cut- Bocanegra, Cherundolo, Oguchi Onyewu, Clarence Goodson, Edgar Castillo, Amobi Okugo, Brad Evans, Justin Morrow
MIDFIELDERS- Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Jermaine Jones, Danny Williams, Graham Zusi, Brek Shea, Josh Gatt, Sacha Kljestan
Outlook- We’ve got a big shake-up in this group with Landon Donovan being left out. It has become tougher and tougher to envision Donovan being a part of the 2014 World Cup team. He just hasn’t shown much of an interest in being part of the team, and until he works his way back into the fold he will be left off of our project.
Brek Shea returns to the selection now that he has recovered from foot surgery, and has completed a transfer to Stoke City. The move should help him to continue developing.
Gatt provides some speed on the flanks, and gives the team some youth in midfield. There are other players who could provide that, like Joe Gyau and Alejandro Bedoya, but we’ll give the nod to Gatt now.
Joe Corona is a player right on the fringes. He just helped lead Club Tijuana to the Mexican league title, and should have an opportunity in the Gold Cup to make his mark on the national team.
Benny Feilhaber turned some heads with his showing against Canada, and with a move to Sporting Kansas City looking like a promising change, he just might be able to break into this team.
Stuart Holden is back playing for Bolton, but is still some ways away from being considered for the U.S. National Team. We have him back on the radar, but he will need to become a starter and enjoy a steady run of play before he can seriously be considered for a projected spot.
Missed the cut- Landon Donovan, Mix Diskerud, Kyle Beckerman, Corona, Gyau, Bedoya, Stuart Holden, Nick DeLeon, Jose Torres.
FORWARDS- Jozy Altidore, Eddie Johnson, Terrence Boyd, Herculez Gomez
Outlook- There is a tough decision coming between an older player like Gomez and a younger player like Juan Agudelo. With the World Cup still a year and a half away that is plenty of time for Agudelo to hit his stride, and time for Gomez to start showing signs of slowing down. That very well may happen, but until we see some serious signs of that it will be tough to omit a player like Gomez, who brings so many intangibles and a good locker room presence.
The top three of Altidore, Johnson and Boyd feels like a lock at this point, even if Boyd is still developing as a pro. He has enjoyed an outstanding run at Rapid Vienna and looks a safe bet.
Missed the cut- Agudelo, Chris Wondolowski, Chris Pontius, Will Bruin.
What do you think of this group? Which player are you happy to see make our projected 23-man roster? Who didn’t make the squad that you think should have?
Share your thoughts below.