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Friday, June 6, 2014

The FIFA World Cup Team Runthrough Thread #2 For 6/6/14: #21 United States

Photo from USA Today Sports


Projected lineup: 

                        Howard 

Chandler  - Cameron -  Besler - Johnson 

             Davis  - Jones - Zusi 

                        Bradley 

              Altidore        Dempsey    

Team Runthrough: 

With the Landon Donovan exclusion saga finally over, Jurgen Klinsmann has at least been fortunate to not have major injury concerns like his UEFA rivalries in Group of Death Group D. His once protege Joachim Low and Paulo Bento are mired in figuring out who will be in their starting eleven, as a plethora of injuries to a title contending German side and Cristiano Ronaldo  tendinitis - tendonitis fears for Portugal have placed an already difficult group in total disarray. 

Klinsmann couldn't have all the luck fall into place for him, as Ghana has also seen their World Cup preparation not feature any unfortunate ailments. And the CAF power, who has bounced the United States out of the last two World Cups, will serve as a great test as to whether giving Klinsmann an extension into 2018 was an all-time ridiculous decision or not. 

As with the case with many lower teams this tournament, centerback is still the top question surrounding this team. After sharing good chemistry together during the Hexagional stage of CONCACAF qualifying, both Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez's partnership appears to be over for the moment. 

With the LA Galaxy defender's injury concerns, questionable form this spring and lack of natural pace, Klinsmann has decided to pair Besler with Geoff Cameroon. One of the best right backs in the Premier League this season, Cameroon has had to adjust back to the position he played at during his MLS days with Houston Dynamo. Besler and Cameron have to develop a synergy real fast, as the pre friendly buildup has seen the expected shaky moments a new centerback pairing will have. It makes Tim Howard's responsibilities to communicate properly with them more essential as to whether this backline will be respectable or concede a boat leg of chances. 

From then on, you begin to see the German born and developed players featured in the team, especially at the fullback position. Fabian Johnson had a decent season with Hoffenheim and earned himself a move to his hometown club Frankfurt for next season, while Timothy Chandler  has gotten himself out of Klinsmann's doghouse by likely being the team's starting rightback. While both are blessed with a natural ability to get forward and cause damage with their great pace, both German converted outside defenders can fall asleep and get caught out for their aggression. Remaining steadfast to their defensive responsibilities against the likes of Kwadwo Asamoah, Majeed Waris, Andre Schurrle, and, if healthy, Ronaldo is simply mandatory for them.  

Allowing Johnson and Chandler not to be exposed on the flanks will need to be a steady, organized midfield. Jermaine Jones is slated to get the nod over fast charging Kyle Beckerman for the holding midfield position right in front of Besler and Cameron. Jones needs to stay disclipine and not make the World Cup debut pairing susceptible to constant attacks in the middle, as well as find a way to do something he struggles with consistently: pass calmly. If the now Fenerbache man can do those tasks, it will allow the physically fit Michael Bradley to focus on being a makeshift playmaker. 

Like his long time Sporting Kansas City teammate and friend Besler, Graham Zusi is a man who may not be known globally but will play a massive factor as to whether the United States has any success in Brazil. Holding the place where Donovan played at with this side, Zusi is among the best assists providers in CONCACAF and will be counted on to deliver key passes up front. Zusi most also be on deck to end his midfield runs with a firm crash in the box, finishing any chances that may pop up for him.  

On who operates the other wide midfield flank come June 17th for Klinsmann is yet to be determined, as left foot specialist Brad Davis, energetic Alejandro Bedoya, and converted 23-year-old Norwegian Mix Diskerud battle for that nod. 

Along with Bradley, the other star outfield player for the US is once again Clint Dempsey, who  after a rough return to MLS was the league's best player with Seattle at this season's beginning before World Cup prep call. His goal scoring revival couldn't come at a better time for Klinsmann, as Jozy Altidore's 1-goal campaign at Sunderland this season makes his options limited for a top class goal scorer. Some have rumored that Altidore should lose his place to Icelandic developed Aron Johannsson, another converted 23-year-old international, or even MLS stalwart Chris Wondolowski. But for the United States to get out the toughest group, against two teams that have knocked them out of the last three World Cups and one looking for revenge after suffering a humiliating loss in 2002, Klinsmann will need Altidore to be immense.  

The bench options for Klinsmann isn't too bad, as the aforementioned list of Gonzalez, Wondolowski, Beckerman, Davis, Diskerud, and Bedoya are joined by possible four World Cups participant DaMarcus Beasley and  emerging Hertha Berlin centerback John Brooks. Looking unlikely to factor in however is 19-year-old Julian Green, who Klinsmann will have to take firm responsibility with choosing over the proven Donovan if the Bayern Munich adolescent is inactive. 

The winning streak and smooth qualification process is all irrelevant for Klinsmann's tenure with the United States. It is what he does at the World Cup that matters to whether he is deserving of all the praise or all the damnation, of that contract extension or instant termination, and if excluding the nation's greatest player ever was bold genius or irrational idiocy. 

It is truly that black & white, as the red, white, and blue hope they won't be too blue in the face when Klinsmann does the June 26th postmatch handshake with his once understudy Low.  

Under The Radar, Key Figures: 

Zusi: While the centerback questions surrounding his long term teammate Besler remain the main focal point, with Altidore's goal drought also receiving its share of headlines, Zusi being the natural replacement to Donovan in the side has long gone under the radar. He is almost as important now to the side as anyone else, and that includes Bradley, Dempsey, and the centerbacks. If he is able to produce quality, the U.S. chances of advancing go up immensely. 
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