USA Men’s Soccer Roster Analysis for Mexican Friendly

Posted: August 14, 2012 by vindanton in Pro Sports

By: Salvatore Eppolito

USA vs. Mexico: no rivalry is greater in the North American international scene. It is a bitter contest between the two powers of the CONCACAF region that never fails to entertain. Mexico holds an overwhelmingly superior record verses the Americans, however the Yanks progression in the past 15 years has stiffened the competition and only made the derby greater.

On Wednesday, August 15, Klinsmann and his squad head South of the Border to the storied Estadio Azteca, Mexico’s in the heart of Mexico City. Azteca is world renowned for its history, intimidation, and extremely difficult playing conditions. With over 105,000 taunting Mexican supporters, terrible smog, and sitting at an altitude well over 7,000 feet, Mexico is near impossible to beat at home.

Although this is just a friendly, American players never take a trip to Mexico City lightly. Any chance the Yanks can get to beat Mexico is taken with the upmost importance, especially at Azteca.  Klinsmann called up 22 players for the trip and this is going to be an experimental camp. Big names like Clint Dempsey (who seems to be in transfer limbo with his club Fulham) Michael Bradley, (settling at new club Roma), captain Carlos Bocanegra, Jozy Altidore, and Steve Cherundolo will not be suiting up, paving to way for many young Americans to impress before World Cup qualifying resumes. Here is the squad sheet released:

Tim Howard (Everton), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Steven Beitashour (San Jose Earthquakes), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), Michael Orozco Fiscal (San Luis), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake) Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04), Jose Torres (Pachuca), Brek Shea (FC Dallas), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Herculez Gomez (Santos), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes) Alan Gordon (San Jose Earthquakes)

Seeing as this is a very watered down US squad, it’s fairly obvious as to why Klinsmann called upon many of these players. Seeing as it is only a friendly and World Cup qualifiers resume soon, the majority of these guys are fringe players on the US roster. Many do not have much, if any World Cup experience. Seeing as Azteca is undeniably the hardest place to play in CONCACAF, the experience of playing in a hostile away environment is crucial to players that could be called upon to replace injured or underperforming regulars.

US Soccer released a 22 man roster mid-day on August 12, and later in the evening during halftime of the Los Angeles Derby a surprise addition of forward Alan Gordon was announced to complete the roster.  Klinsmann’s decision to call up the 30-year -old makes absolutely no sense. Having suffered numerous injuries in his career and scoring sporadic yet important goals, the only reason teams have relied on Gordon was because of his admirable work rate and passion. His current side San Jose is playing some fantastic football as of late, with their “Goonies never say die” reputation that has them sitting at the summit of the Western Conference. Teammate and attacking partner Chris Wondolowski, who leads the league in goals is well deserving of a call up, but Gordon receiving one as well is an enigma. With DC United’s Chris Pontius and Seattle’s Eddie Johnson both in fantastic form as of late, many fans called for one if not both of them to be called up. This was a waste of a roster spot.

The rest of the forward call ups came as no surprise. Seeing as Jozy Altidore started the season on the weekend, bagging two goals in the opener, it would not make sense to pull him away from the club at this time.

Herculez Gomez has shined in Mexico the past two years and as much as Klinsmann sees him as a starter, Gomez will always be a super sub in my eyes. His engery and pace makes him an excellent sparkplug off the bench and a great asset to the team.

Chris Wondolowski has been a man possessed this year leading MLS with 17 goals. He isn’t the biggest, strongest, or most skilled forward, but his ability to always find the ball in the box is deadly. The US’s poor service to the box during open play has led to Wondo’s forgettable caps for the Yanks, but I feel like that is about to change.

Terrence Boyd is one of Klinsmann’s discoveries that has paid off. The 21-year-old was born in Bremen, Germany to an American serviceman father and German mother. He has recently played for the US u-23 squad that failed to qualify for the Olympics and impressed. Since then he has been a constant call up for the senior squad. He is physical, agile, and has something American’s do not have: A nose for goal. He always is looking and putting balls towards the net constantly keeping the keeper busy. He is the forward we all were hoping Davies would be before his terrible accident.

Terrence Boyd

The American midfield is missing many regulars but it is still the deepest position on this roster. Landon Donovan will lead the Yanks onto the pitch at Azteca after coming off a big Derby win over neighbors Chivas USA assisting on every goal in a 4v0 win. His last experience at Azteca was a 2v1 loss where he played a full 90 with swine flu. He’ll be looking to avenge that misfortune.

One call up I am extremely excited about is that of DaMarcus Beasley. He always plays his heart out for the Yanks and was a regular before the 2006 World Cup. He got a few call ups under Bradley many injuries have kept him in the shadows. He now plies his trade in Mexico for Puebla and his regaining confidence. I have no doubt he’ll get minutes for his experience and fantastic service will only benefit. Good to have him back.

Also on the left wing we see the return of Brek Shea. The Dallas winger has been on a self-destructing path this season, having earned a lengthy suspension for throwing a ball at a ref and also fighting with his coach after being substituted. Last season was his break out year, but that seems all in the past. Klinsmann loves the potential in Brek and constantly states how he and the staff are trying to mold him into a more mature and consistent player. Let’s hope he achieves that.

The most crowded US position is in the center of the park. Six center midfielders have been called up: Jose Torres, Danny Williams, Jermaine Jones, Kyle Beckerman, Maurice Edu, and Joe Corona.

Klinsmann has been using Torres and Williams on the wings, and though their play making abilities have shown, they still look out of place out wide. Jones has been solid for the Americans as of late, becoming a true enforcer and physical presence in the middle. He has shown his commitment to the team and players, yet he is prone to yellow cards. In a major tournament, he could be one mistimed foul away from a costly suspension. Beckerman is a prime example of an American player who is great in MLS but terrible for his country. Klinsmann loves him for some reason, for he was never a true option for Bradley or Arena. He’s been getting a lot of minutes for the Yanks recently with no true positive moments. Maybe Bradley’s absence is to blame for another call up.

Maurice Edu is surprisingly called up seeing as he has an uncertain club future. Historic Glasgow club Rangers defaulted and was punished by being relegated to the lower leagues of the Scottish Prem. Players have been bailing on them and many expect Edu as well as countryman Carlos Bocanegra to do the same. But since he is in camp I am not complaining. He is a regular, has experience and is consistently average for the US. He’s due for a great performance.

Graham Zusi is a solid key player for Sporting KC. He is constantly moving and finds the ball in great positions. To me he is extremely low on the depth chart to make an impact for the Yanks. But this is valuable experience and a deserved call up.

Joe Corona is another Klinsmann discovery that played great for the u-23’s and has potential. He’s there for the experience, nothing more.

The American defense heading to Mexico City is extremely watered down and could even be described as bad. With no Bocanegra, Onyewu, Goodson, or Cherundolo, there are no true starters in camp besides the recently new fan favorite Fabian Johnson.

Johnson is another player born in Germany to an American Serviceman. He is a speedy left winger for club side Hoffenheim but his performances at left back have been phenomenal for the US. He sometimes gets forced into running in circles, but that rare downfall is overshadowed by his constant threat in the attack. Fabian is an extremely valuable asset for the Yanks and will play a huge role for years to come.

Geoff Cameron has just completed a move to Premier League side Stoke having played for Houston for the past few seasons. He was a solid force in the back for the Dynamo and his constant play has been rewarded with many call ups under Klinsmann. Cameron will most likely see time in Mexico seeing how weak the back line is. He looked a little nervous in his first start verses Scotland earlier in the summer and I hope those jitters don’t get worse at Azteca.

Two more Klinsmann favorites are Michael Orozco and Edgar Castillo. My opinion of Orozco is hugely negative. I have never seen him play well for the US at any level. Every time I hear his name I just get flashbacks of the 2008 Olympics when he got a red verses Nigeria in the early minutes forcing the team to play the whole match a man down. The US was eliminated that day. Klinsy likes him and I cannot figure out why. I attended an open training session at Red Bull Arena months back before the Ecuador game. Orozco looked out of place at training even. Jay DeMerit would have been a better call up, some one Klinsmann has ignored since he took over, but that is another story.

As for Castillo, he is a good player, but he is the poor man’s Jonathan Bornstein.

Johnson will keep Edgar out of the lineup on Wednesday.

Two defenders receiving their first call ups are Sporting’s Matt Besler and San Jose’s Steven Beitashour. Both have been fantastic for their respective clubs all year. They have a decent shot at getting their first caps on Wednesday, especially Beitashour at right back. Congrats on the call ups guys.

Steven Beitashour

Goal Keeping is America’s specialty and this roster’s selections are the usual story. The Yanks have never been in goal keeping trouble and with Tim Howard, Sean Johnson, and Nick Rimando, they should be fine.

Mexico is taking this match pretty seriously. Having called up Chicharito, Andres Guardado, Pablo Barrera, and Memo Ochoa to name a few, this weaker American side is going to be given a difficult test. My dislike for the Mexican team exceeds many words, but for the first time in my life I am going into this match fine with the fact they are most likely going to run circles around the US.

American supporters are already getting on Klinsmann’s case and he just passed his one year anniversary at the helm. In those 365 days, he has managed the team in two matches that where meaningful, and the US came away with a win and a draw. This friendly was set up to welcome Klinsmann’s reserve players to a hostile away match. Many are complaining this will weaken morale or put pressure on the senior squad to perform. I disagree; they are professionals who know how important the meaningful matches are. Wednesday night, we will see America’s B team take on a Mexican side confident, in form, and performing in front of 105,000 screaming, bags of pee throwing, group of Mexico’s faithful. Enjoy the experience boys, worry about the qualifiers.

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