photo by John Todd/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
Only a few weeks remain before U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann names his preliminary World Cup roster, and one position where places are still up for grabs is forward.
Klinsmann has what could be the deepest (though not necessarily the most talented) pool of forwards in U.S. history, and that will make for some tough decisions ahead of this summer’s trip to Brazil. How many forwards Klinsmann brings will likely depend on how he views other positions, like central midfield and centerback, but it is unlikely that any scenario ends with him not cutting at least one talented player.
From Jozy Altidore to Eddie Johnson to Chris Wondolowski and more, each of the U.S. forwards that are realistic options for the World Cup provide different qualities. That is why Klinsmann will need to think long and hard about who he takes to Brazil as the Americans try and advance from a tough Group G.
Here is a closer look at the forward options Klinsmann currently has at his disposal and will have to sift through next month:
Might not be enjoying his best run of form, but Altidore is still the forward of the bunch that possesses the best combination of size, skill and World Cup experience. There is no denying that the 24-year-old veteran has had his share of struggles at Sunderland, but he has shown in the past that he can score in bunches when fed with steady service. He did it in large stretches in 2013 for the U.S., something Klinsmann should try and address ahead of this summer’s World Cup and something that seems to be forgotten far too often these days.
The 23-year-old Johannsson’s red-hot season at AZ Alkmaar has cooled off a bit as of late. He has scored just one goal in his last nine matches across all competitions and failed to convert on a couple of penalty kick opportunities. Still, he is a dynamic option that is good on the dribble and can create his own shot, making him a safe bet to be on the plane to Brazil.
The veteran striker has not found his footing just yet at D.C. United, but his versatility, speed and athleticism make him a player on the bubble that Klinsmann will have to think long and hard about. The 30-year-old Johnson might not have a proven track record of scoring against the more elite teams at the international level, but the physical tools that he provides might make him too good of an option for Klinsmann to pass up on given that the U.S. will face far from diminutive teams in Ghana, Germany and Portugal in June.
This is the one forward who has been raising his stock in recent months. Ever since opening his scoring account with the U.S. at last summer’s Gold Cup, Wondolowski has continued to find the back of the net with regularity in his handful of starts under Klinsmann. He has not lit up MLS defenses this season, but the 31-year-old forward’s knack for being in the right place at the right time could see him book a ticket to his first World Cup.
Boyd scored twice this past weekend and that performance for Rapid Vienna served as a reminder as to why Klinsmann has continuously brought the 23-year-old Boyd into camps, even if he has not earned all that much playing time. Boyd has to round out his game outside of the penalty area a bit more, but his nose for goal, size and promising potential make him an interesting depth option that Klinsmann will likely give plenty of consideration to.
The darkhorse of the bunch, Agudelo is seeing the field regularly with FC Utrecht. The 21-year-old striker scored last week to end a two-month scoring drought, and that combined with his potential and skill could see Klinsmann – who thinks big picture constantly and is big on grooming young players – take Agudelo to the World Cup so as to give him experience at being at a tournament like this.
What do you think of the USMNT’s current pool of forwards? Which players do you think will be taken to Brazil? Who should start at the World Cup? Why?
Share your thoughts below.