USA heads to Brazil without Landon Donovan, and things will be just fine
When the U.S. Men’s National Team final 23 man roster was released just a few weeks ago, one name was notably missing. Landon Donovan, the U.S. super hero over the past decade, was cut from the team. Fans were outraged, disappointed, frustrated, and I’m sure multiple other dreadful emotions. But I want to assure everyone that the USA will be just fine in Brazil.
Manning the goal for the USA will be Tim Howard. The Everton frontman, who reached 100 caps for the national team against Nigeria on June 7th, is as consistent as keepers come. After an incredible Confederations Cup in 2009 and a stellar 2010 World Cup, Howard became a legend to U.S. fans. Was it the beard, his fierce attitude, or the fact he was demanding better of his back four? Howard is coming back to Brazil to help the US get to the next level. At age 35, this could be his last trip to a World Cup, surely he will not want to disappoint. In the terrible situation of an injury, Brad Guzan who had a great season of his own for Aston Villa, will be waiting. Guzan, 29, looks likely to take over for Howard, when the day comes when he hangs up his boots for good.
Since becoming the U.S. manager in 2011, Jurgen Klinsmann has had a merry-go-round of defenders. Rotating his back four is something he has become accustomed to. After multiple different rotations Klinsmann seems to have found a defensive back four he can rely on. During qualifying Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler have been consistent players across the back four. Along with Cameron and Besler, Timmy Chandler and Fabian Johnson have made the team. Both Chandler and Johnson switched their international allegiance from Germany to the United States once Klinsmann became coach in 2011. Two interesting choices was to bring in DeAndre Yedlin and John Brooks. Yedlin, 20 and Brooks, 21, represent the future of the U.S. backline. If speed was a factor Klinsmann was looking for, Yedlin has it. Playing right back for the Seattle Sounders, Yedlin could add some pace to a back four, especially defending the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal.
Having to face some of the most electrifying midfields in the world in group G, manager Jurgen Klinsmann will be fighting speed and power, with some of his own mix of talent. The key player for the U.S. midfield will be Michael Bradley. The son of former U.S. coach Bob Bradley, Michael impressed during spells with Chievo Verona and Roma in Italy, before returning back to MLS this past year. Having started his national team career as a defensive mid, Bradley has slowly moved into more of an attacking midfielder. With the U.S. using a diamond formation in the midfield, expect Bradley to be right below his forwards. Another key cog in the midfield is Jermaine Jones. Jones, who switched his international status to the U.S. right before South Africa in 2010, sadly broke his leg at the end of the club season, and missed that World Cup. Expect Jones to start at defensive mid.
One of the most shocking selections of the 23-man roster was 18-year-old Julian Green. He plays for the reserve team for Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga. At 18, Green is a raw talent, but has shown flashes of brilliance. Many have guessed that Jurgen Klinsmann dangled a World Cup ticket in front of Green for him to use his one-time switch from Germany to the United States. Without Donovan in the lineup, look for MLS players Graham Zusi and Brad Davis, along with Alejandro Bedoya of Nantes (France) to line up at the left and right mid positions.
In one of the more straightforward selections of the 2014 World Cup squad, Klinsmann brought in veterans Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey to play up top for the Americans. Altidore has had a difficult season in England, not netting a goal in the 2014 calendar year. Hopefully before heading to Brazil Altidore can grab a goal and gain some morale. Making their first appearances for the U.S. at a World Cup will be Aron Johannson and Chris Wondolowski. Both Johannson and Wondolowski have had massive club success this past year and bring lots of confidence into the roster. Look for Altidore to pair up with Dempsey or Johannson up top. Altidore and Wondolowski are great goal scorers, but require someone that can supply them with the ball. Don’t expect either to make a run from 40 yards out, while dashing in between defenders. If Altidore can gain some momentum before departing for Brazil he could be dangerous to the likes of Germany and Portugal who do not defend 6’ 1” bulldozer forwards on a regular basis.
U.S. Projected Starting XI: 4-4-2 diamond
Goalkeeper: Tim Howard
Defenders: LB: Timmy Chandler; CB: Matt Besler; CB: Geoff Cameron; RB: Fabian Johnson
Midfielders: CDM: Jermaine Jones; LM: Alejandro Bedoya; RM: Graham Zusi; CAM: Michael Bradley
Forwards: Clint Dempsey; Jozy Altidore