It’s now or never for some American soccer hopefuls.
The U.S. men’s national soccer team will play Mexico on April 2 in its final game before head coach Jurgen Klinsmann names his provisional squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
U.S. Soccer announced its 22-man squad for the Mexico game Wednesday, and there are few, if any, surprises. The lineup includes many players who featured during World Cup qualifying in 2013 and January’s training camp.
Klinsmann is leaning heavily on MLS-based players (19 out of 22), as the Mexico game falls outside of FIFA’s official window, and clubs aren’t obligated to release their players. Nevertheless, MLS and Mexican clubs have agreed to let their stars participate next week.
Repeating last month’s mantra, Klinsmann said USA-Mexico offers players one last chance to impress him — but this time, that comment applies to those who play their club soccer in the Western Hemisphere.
“It is definitely a game we need to see where our MLS and Mexican-based players are,” Klinsmann told USSoccer.com. “They need to prove now that they badly want to go to Brazil.”
Most of the European-based players flopped in last month’s 2-0 loss to Ukraine. Their disappointing performance gives those on the latest squad a legitimate chance to book their places on the plane to Brazil.
Goalkeepers Nick Rimando, Sean Johnson and Bill Hamid have the least to gain, as Tim Howard and Brad Guzan should be Klinsmann’s No. 1 and 2, respectively, in Brazil. Rimando is Klinsmann’s third option, meaning Johnson and Hamid have little chance to make the World Cup squad regardless of how they perform this week.
The defense includes DaMarcus Beasley, Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez and Brad Evans — the back four that started most of the qualifiers. They’re safe bets to go to Brazil, barring injury, but Clarence Goodson, Michael Orozco, Michael Parkhurst and DeAndre Yedlin all are on the bubble. At least two of the four can cement their places with strong performances next week.
Landon Donovan, Michael Bradley, Graham Zusi and Kyle Beckerman will play in the midfield, perhaps the strongest part of the squad.
“It’s very important to us that our leaders in our group are really getting a rhythm and getting games in,” Klinsmann said when asked how Bradley has looked in MLS this month. The same applies to the other three.
That leaves Brad Davis, Luis Gil and Maurice Edu as long shots (in that order). They’ll have difficulty displacing Donovan, Bradley, Zusi, Beckerman or those based in Europe.
The attack will feature Dempsey, the national team captain, in a withdrawn forward role. He’ll start against Mexico and go to Brazil. Chris Wondolowski, Eddie Johnson and 18-year-old newcomer Julian Green have the most to gain from the USA-Mexico game. If any (or all) of them stand out in practice and against Mexico, it’ll be enough to lock up a spot on the World Cup squad. They have the most to gain … and lose.
Wednesday’s USA-Mexico game kicks off at 11 p.m. ET. It will be broadcast on ESPN and UniMas.
Take a look at the latest U.S. national team squad and tell us what you think.
NESN Soccer (@NESNSoccer) March 27, 2014
Goalkeepers: Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes), Michael Orozco (Puebla), Michael Parkhurst (Columbus Crew), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders)
Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Maurice Edu (Philadelphia Union), Luis Gil (Real Salt Lake), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
Forwards: Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Eddie Johnson (D.C. United), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)