World Cup Roster React

Submitted by Brian on May 23rd, 2014 at 1:03 PM

ALL RIGHT FINE IT STARTS NOW. If you weren't around four years ago or four years before that, when the World Cup rolls around I cover the USMNT like it is the subject of this blog. I'll be interested to see if the ratio of people pleased by this to people disgusted because 'Murica has gone up.

But whatever man. It's the offseason, and I like the World Cup a lot.




That's that for Landon Donovan, who didn't even make the 23. This made me a little EMOTIONAL last night, because I mean seriously.

This man was in a Mexican lottery commercial trying to sneak into Mexico wherein he says "it's easier to win in Mexico," which brings a threat of violence until he explains he's just talking about the awesomeness of Gana Gol. And then he gets kicked out because Mexicans hate Landon Donovan.

Before the existence of Donovan it was impossible to envision Mexican fans hating any specific USA player more than he hated whatever it was the jerseys stood for in their minds, because he killed them in a way no USA player was capable of before. Because Donovan was a little weird, a little effeminate he got saddled with unflattering nicknames like "Landycakes" as soon as anything went wrong with his career. And he may even have (momentarily) lived up to that nickname when he went a little stir-crazy last year. But never forget: Mexico feared Landon Donovan.

And then there's all this other stuff.

The Analytical Hat in re: Donovan

I still don't get it unless Klinsmann's doing it for You Must Step Up purposes. Brad Davis's inclusion is solely because he can play Tiny Beckerman on set pieces and the (very) occasional cross a high-level opponent will let him swing in. He's a legit A in that department; Donovan is at worst a B+ and is also Landon Donovan.

The only thing that makes sense other than hand-waving motivational stuff is that Donovan's performance on the infamous "beep test" was so bad that they couldn't look the rest of the team in the eye and bring him. I don't mind dragging Green along since player #23 is never going to play, so locking that guy down and prepping him for 2018 is worthwhile.

Brad Davis, though? I look at this roster and see no way he's getting in a game. Might as well bring Landon.

The unquestioned man, then

Michael Bradley of USA

Not that there was much of a question before, but minus Donovan and coming off this display of Keyser Soze-level will…

…Michael Bradley is the engine the team is built around. I mean.

"This will be a World Cup where teams that do well will suffer. We want to be the team that can suffer the most."

This is a man with an armband whether he has it or not.

I've expressed my opinion on this repeatedly elsewhere, but to reiterate: the USMNT looks its best when Bradley is paired with an outright holder and allowed to range upfield as far as he wants. With someone else maintaining a screen to help prevent breaks, Bradley has the fitness to recover when the US is caught out. When Bradley can become part of the rushes upfield on the regular, his passing, vision, and late runs into the box give the US attack verve it lacks otherwise. Bradley also does excellent work providing the kind of high pressure that leads to dangerous turnovers and central backs hoofing it upfield. There is no substitute.

Unfortunately, Klinsmann fave-rave Jermaine Jones is around and likely to start despite his inability to be that player. When paired together it's Jones flying up the pitch more often than not, and generally to little effect other than taking a long shot. Bradley stays back and plays well, but has much less impact on the game. And at this point it's clear that Klinsmann either can't or doesn't want to rein Jones in.

I would prefer Cameron or Beckerman, but with Goodson cut and Gonzalez shaky Cameron is at least the #3 center back and will compete to be #2. Meanwhile Beckerman struggles mightily against speed. The thing he has going for him is that the US has clearly focused on having quick outside backs, which may allow for Beckerman to do his positioning and passing thing as others cover for his lack of range.

Outside backs: fast


Yedlin also brings hair to the table, so much hair that GIS asks you if you'd like to search for not just "Yedlin hair" but "Yedlin hair 2013."

The US cut Parkhurst and Evans to include DeAndre Yedlin, a 20-year-old with one cap to his name, and Timmy Chandler, who hasn't been on the team in six months. And, yeah. Had to do it. Evans and Parkhurst were consistently exploited by low-level players because they simply could not keep up with them, and since they were no less likely to get skinned by the likes of Ronaldo you might as well roll with the guys who can catch up to him after.

Pair with DaMarcus Beasley and you've got a set of gentlemen who can keep up when pressed. Are things going to go spectacularly well there? No. But Evans seemed like a disaster waiting to happen at the World Cup level and I'm saying there's a chance things are okay with Chandler and Yedlin.

Again, I would prefer Fabian Johnson at right back but with the cut of Donovan he is the most obvious choice for left wing. In fact, he is about the only choice.

Who's on the left?

Johnson and Beasley have played a lot on the left side of the US formation. Nobody else on the roster has. And nobody else on the roster seems like a natural fit there. Bedoya and Zusi are right-sided players, Johannsson and Green are striker types, Diskerud is a central player… what happens if injury or cards knock out either one of the presumptive left sided starters?

A: the other one plays left back and the US tries something along the lines of what it was doing with Eddie Johnson playing "left wing" as an in-cutting player trying to get a shot off with his stronger right foot. That could be Dempsey if the US is in a two-striker formation with Bradley its defacto attacking mid; it is most likely to be Johannsson, who has a combination of speed and deftness on the ball that no one else on the roster does except possibly Green, who is… wait for it… really green.

Johannsson does have experience on both wings, and while he says he wants to play closer to the box, in-cutting wingers opposite crossing specialists (hi, also hi) are very close to strikers anyway.

The only thing about that in-cutting formation is that it does place demands on your left back to be a high-placed defacto winger… and demands on your right back to be quite good defensively. (Like the 4-3 under is halfway between a 4-3 even and a 3-4, a setup like this is kind of halfway between a 4-4-2 and a 4-2-3-1.) In the event that Johannsson ends up as a left winger that might be a spot where you play Cameron at right back.

Chance to start against Ghana rankings

  1. Michael Bradley
  2. Tim Howard
  3. Clint Dempsey
  4. Fabian Johnson
  5. DaMarcus Beasley
  6. Matt Besler
  7. Jozy Altidore
  8. Jermaine Jones
  9. Graham Zusi
  10. Geoff Cameron
  11. Timmy Chandler
  12. Omar Gonzalez
  13. DeAndre Yedlin
  14. Aron Johannson
  15. Kyle Beckerman
  16. Alejandro Bedoya
  17. Mix Diskerud
  18. Julian Green
  19. Brad Guzan
  20. Chris Wondolowski
  21. John Brooks
  22. Brad Davis
  23. Nick Rimando

WAG at what it looks like

Don't take this bit too seriously, as Klinsmann has shown a penchant for changing things based on opponent. Bob Bradley would settle on a thing and roll it out over and over; Klinsmann has been experimenting.

But the most likely things is the 4-2-3-1 he's been rolling out on and off since his arrival:


Johnson                       Dempsey                          Zusi

                            Jones           Bradley

Beasley               Besler            Cameron              Chandler

I would prefer something like the 4-4-2 diamond they tried out in a recent friendly, with Bradley dropping back when faced with opponent possession and  Dempsey moving under Altidore to provide an outlet and link to Altidore up top.


                              Altidore          Dempsey


Johnson                                                              Zusi


Beasley                Besler          Cameron             Chandler




Johnson                                                                Zusi

                            Beckerman       Bradley

Beasley                Besler               Cameron            Chandler

I do think the Johannson-as-left wing scenario is in the mix, in which case Johnson would likely bump Beasley at left back and Cameron may flip to RB and allow Gonzalez to enter.

How I'm feeling

Nervous, man. This was supposed to be the last hurrah for this generation of players, but there are only five guys on the whole team who were at the last World Cup. This is uncharted territory for everyone save Dempsey, Bradley, Beasley, and Howard. I mean:

But I guess I'd be nervous anyway.



May 23rd, 2014 at 1:14 PM ^

I don't disagree that Donovan's omission is weird, but it sounds like he just wasn't up to Klinsman's standards for whatever reason.  I also wonder if Davis was brought along for the random set piece late in games, though now that I say that it doesn't seem likely.

I do agree that people crap on Donovan too much because of his personality and temperment.  Guy has been the face of a decent resurgence these past 10 years or so.



May 23rd, 2014 at 1:52 PM ^

Ah, if only Donovan had been born to "an American serviceman father and a German mother", he surely would have been along for the ride. 

Jokes (sort of) aside, I have a feeling this will be a rough World Cup for the U.S. Our top striker, who seems locked in as a starter, has scored 2 goals in 38 appearances for Sunderland this year. 

The defense is a mess. Not sure who you can trust on the backline, especially on the outside. In 2010, what would have been the odds of DaMarcus Beasley being included in this squad with Donovan missing out? 50 to 1? 100 to 1?

About the only place where I have any confidence is the midfield, but Germany (especially), Ghana and Portugal have more than enough talent to match us and even better us. 

It'll be 0-3 for the U.S. this time around. 


May 23rd, 2014 at 4:18 PM ^

Altidore played off the bench during the impressive run Sunderland pulled off to come back from the dead and avoid relegation. I could be wrong, but I think no team has ever come back from being that far down that late in the season.

He started at the beginning of the season, but after the first month he was used off the bench. Then they sent him down to their under-21s in early April. However, the historic run started when they brought him back up -- his first game back was the draw against Manchester City that began the run.

My point is, maybe he learned something this season. He is surely a better player for it. That, and he came off the bench for most of the season -- so not a lot of minutes.


May 23rd, 2014 at 9:05 PM ^

Echoing some of the previous responses, but Altidore's performance at Sunderland was unimpressive at best. Without the emergence of Fabio Borini and Connor Wickam, both around Jozy's age, Sunderland would be planning for the Championship division. It is hard to say that he is any better now than when he arrived at Sunderland. The U.S. needs to sort out their striker situation in order to compete with the above-average and top teams.


May 24th, 2014 at 8:56 AM ^

Not disagreeing, but getting benched after four or five games and spending the rest of the season as a late-game replacement, and getting sent down to the minors for two weeks, can have an effect on a player Jozy's age.

A reality check -- here you are on the highest professional level of your sport, and you're not good enough to start and maybe even not good enough to play at all. Okay, well, barely good enough to play when most of the other players have been running for more than an hour. Maybe some things need to change?

Anyhow, I was mainly disagreeing with ww's abuse of that games/goals stat.


May 24th, 2014 at 12:39 PM ^

Ah yes, my "abuse" of statistics. 

Going by just starts, Jozy has 2 goals in 27 starts for Sunderland. 

I stand corrected, Jozy's definitely on form. He's clearly earned his spot based on him tearing up the EPL this year. If only Sunderland had played him more, they might have tasted Champion's League football next year. 


May 23rd, 2014 at 3:44 PM ^

I love Donovan as much as anyone else because I'm a big La Galaxy fan, but I'm goint to trust JK with this decision.

The truth is Donovan is not in form and not in shape. He hasn't scored a goal yet this year in the MLS. He even looked overweight in the March to Brazil episode 1.


May 27th, 2014 at 12:15 AM ^

It's not just Donovan missing from the 23 man roster.  Clarence Goodson was expected to compete for a starting centerback slot and he was passed over for John Brooks, Geoff Cameron and an injured out of form Gonzales.   

There is a lot of youth on this roster now with Brooks, Yedlin and Green. That points towards getting experience for Russia 2018. 


May 23rd, 2014 at 1:15 PM ^

the WC is a really cool event, but..... I just can't get past the diving-followed-by-injury-followed-by magic -spray.... Then again, I love the Tour de Frace so who the hell am I?

03 Blue 07

May 23rd, 2014 at 3:41 PM ^

I agree completely re: the fake injuries. It's the only thing about the sport I cannot stand. I think the solution is a simple one: Have a rule like they do in basketball, where it is actually a strategic disadvantage to get injured. They don't stop play automatically when someone is down. You have to call a timeout. 

If they changed it so that when someone went down, and there was no card issued, the referee allowed play to continue for no less than 15 seconds, and, ideally, until there is a stoppage (out of bounds, etc). It could be tweaked, but, basically, if you make the cost of faking injury outweigh the benefit, it stops immediately. This is also not to say that basketball doesn't have faking or, for sure, embellishing occur; I think of Paul Pierce in the playoffs with the wheelchair, etc. But, still, faking injury is generally disincentived, and that is the optimal statutory regime, IMO. 


May 23rd, 2014 at 5:38 PM ^

People that say this about soccer don't watch the game and instead watch YouTube clips.  It simply doesn't happen as much as people bitch about it.  

Your premise is out of whack - the game doesn't stop if you "fake" an injury in soccer unless a foul was called.  Just as in basketball.  Since when do they automatically stop a soccer game when a player goes down?  


May 24th, 2014 at 10:35 AM ^

Look, I'm a big "Soccer" fan.  I've played Soccer for years, I've attended World Cup games, Qualifiers, Friendlies, MLS games, Women's World Cup games . . . just about everything.

And yet I'll be the first to say there is way too much gratuitious diving, especially in the World Cup.  

But teams do it because it works.  If the Refs would just ignore it more and play on, teams woud not do it as much and risk being out of position.



May 24th, 2014 at 2:45 PM ^

And it's US biased to say this but the diving increases drastically the larger the global scale. You don't see it nearly as often in the MLS as you do in say the Champions League, and you don't see it nearly as much there as you do in international matches, and even more so when you get up to this. There will be no shortage of flopping this summer, especially in the Brazilian heat.


May 24th, 2014 at 6:14 PM ^

Flopping/diving is a cultural and a tactical aspect of the game that is hard to understand if you're judging from outside. In South America, flopping/diving is seens as another skill: it demonstrates that you're clever enough to fool the referee. Tactically it is about a player doing everything he can to let his team win. My friend's wife played D1 soccer; and though he is against flopping, he expressed his disappointment in his wife not diving for a penalty when she took a nudge in the box. I don't think there is a game in which players don't push the rules to their limit and force officials into tough decisions. As someone posted before the Super Bowl, the Seattle Seahawks push the pass intereference rule to its limit. There isn't much difference between this and the diving and flopping that occurs in soccer. Do I want it to stop and be eradicated? Yes, it ruins the flow of the game, and it is down right dirty/unsportsmanlike. But it is up to the officials and the governing associations of soccer to stamp it out.


May 26th, 2014 at 5:11 AM ^

in last night's Madrid-Madrid game; when the replay was shown the crowd roared, but it had worked. Believe me, his team and the people who pay him appreciate it. Yes, there are dumb flops and bad floppers, but that doesn't mean that diving--or exaggerating the fall--isn't often simply part of the game, and (in fact) of many sports. It can also buy teams a badly-needed breather.

Flopping has kind of become a way for some people who hate the game anyway to suggest these guys aren't manly enough, which--phtt--let's see some NFL players run 20 miles in a game. We know football is gladiatorial; that's why we don't let our own kids play it.


May 23rd, 2014 at 5:53 PM ^

If a player is down injured (or faking it) and no foul was called play continues (unless it was a head injury, a recent change). However it is considered good sportsmanship for the team with posession to put the ball out of bounds so the injured player can get treatment, but it is NOT a requirement. Teams almost always kick the ball out unless they have a clear scoring chance.

If the team doctors have to come on to the field to attend to a player, that player will have to leave the field and play will restart with his side a man down until the ref allows him back onto the pitch (which is typically less than 30 seconds).

03 Blue 07

May 24th, 2014 at 2:51 AM ^

Well, I stand corrected gents. And will pay more attention to the frequency of what I perceive as faking of injuries. It may just be subjectivity and small sample size getting the best of me. I will say that I have never, in my life that I can recall, watched a soccer highlight on YouTube. I will be honest- I generally only watch when the USMNT is playing, but watch the games. Regardless, thanks for the responses. 


May 23rd, 2014 at 1:23 PM ^

Keep on keepin' on Brian. I like the World Cup but I'm not ambitious enough to actually search out soccer blogs so I appreciate when it's on here... you're enabling my laziness nicely.

yossarians tree

May 23rd, 2014 at 5:02 PM ^

Most of this goes over my head but I appreciate the effort. I enjoy the World Cup for the spectacle and will cheer for America because America, man. And because the rest of the world wants us to lose, so fuck the rest of the world (which I guess is a kind of feedback loop of sentiment).

Brian did very well, making it nearly 10 paragraphs or so before his first Soccer/American football analogy.


May 23rd, 2014 at 2:50 PM ^

is our best USA coach that we have. I'll wait and see if Klinsmann have good success in the World Cup.  Bradley did beat Spain A team in Confederation Cup and was the one who broke their long unbeaten streak.  USA made the knockout stage in the World Cup as well.

Let's not discredit Bradley, he has done well for the USMNT.


May 23rd, 2014 at 3:15 PM ^

Bradley just got things done. USA won their group last World Cup. Dramatic fashion, too, and Landon's goal vs. Algeria is one of the highlights of my life as a sports fan.

Not including Landon here is a mistake.  I hope Klinsman proves me wrong, but this reeks of 1998. I mean... really. Have we seen anything to suggest that Johnson or Johansson or anyone else is going to threaten more from that spot than Donovan would? Is it reasonable to think that Klinsmann has seen it in the few dozen closed practices they've had this year? I don't think so. That's a huge gap to make up. Donovan isn't some A-Rod choke artist or Laudrup could-have-been. He's an absolute gamer who has performed at his best in this tournament. I don't get it.


May 24th, 2014 at 8:39 PM ^

On the other hand, have you seen Jozy Altidore play lately?

I'm not saying Landon's as good as 2010 Landon, but come on, except for Bradley, who on the team is as good as 2010 Landon? If even Bradley. As Bruce Arena said, if you've got 23 players better than Landon, you've got a very good shot at winning the World Cup. Does anyone think that we've got a very good shot at winning the Cup?


May 24th, 2014 at 9:26 PM ^

2014 Landon couldn't possibly hold down a position in the Bundesliga. Or the Premier League. Or La Liga. Or Serie A.

How many German players start in those leagues? Spanish players? Brazilians?  Every team that actually has a chance to win the WC has 100 or 200 players better than Landon Donovan, and I'm being conservative.


May 25th, 2014 at 7:33 AM ^

Maybe. I'm not so sure Belgium, for example, has more than 200 players better than 2014 Landon Donovan. But maybe you just mean Spain, Germany, Brazil... I guess Argentina. Belgium is around a 20-1 favorite, though, and probably from Bruce's view that's looking like a very good shot (as an American fan, I'd certainly take it!).

And Bruce could well be exaggerating out of personal loyalty or gamesmanship, seeing as how he's LD's coach and all. On the other hand, we really haven't seen much of 2014 Landon. Bruce has seen a lot more than we have. It could also be that Bruce has seen something positive re-emerging in Landon's game and is just being fair, in which case his evaluation of talent should be ranked ahead of our own.


May 25th, 2014 at 2:56 PM ^

there's no chance in hell Landon would make Belgium's world cup lineup. that's the third most valued team in the world by transfer fees. who's he going to displace? hazard? mirellas? de bruyne?


May 25th, 2014 at 4:18 PM ^

Brazil, Argentina, Italy, Germany, Spain, the hosts whoever they might be.

Nobody else has won since 1950. Add France and the Netherlands and you've got the full list of finalists since 1962.

Another way of looking at it: here's the list of all teams that won their first Worlc Cup on foreign soil:

  1. West Germany 1954 (Switzerland)
  2. Brazil 1958 (Sweden)

That's it. Every other cup was won by the hosts or by a team that had already won one.