KANSAS CITY — Fate has conspired to give a few World Cup hopefuls an additional chance at impressing U.S. boss Jurgen Klinsmann.
That’s the same Jurgen Klinsmann who tipped his hand just a little more Thursday when he said, almost matter of factly, that there “aren’t many suprises coming around the corner.”
What he meant was that none of us should expect some young buck who has yet to spend a minute with the national team to burst spectacularly onto the scene.
But it’s also a reminder that his core group will continue to be the core group; chances to gather his top players are dwindling, down to five FIFA dates between now at training camp time for Brazil.
That said, there are some choices ahead for the U.S. boss. Injuries to some of the front line men mean a few guys who weren’t going to get a chance tonight in Kansas City now may get one. So, here are the players who have the most to gain from some kind of standout night at Sporting Park:
Alejandro Bedoya: This is a great chance to follow up on some good work near the end of the Gold Cup. The lack of true wingers around the U.S. program will help, but Klinsmann won’t take Bedoya (pictured, on the left) just because he can play out wide; he’s got to be effective at it. Clearly, Klinsmann isn’t afraid to deploy guys to the wings who are better suited for inside positions, Eddie Johnson and Graham Zusi as good examples.
Aron Johannsson: Klinsmann knows by now what Chris Wondolowski can and cannot do. With the recent Icelandic-American addition to the player pool … not so much. Again, the chances to impress are shrinking fast. Johannsson has lots of potential; Klinsmann needs to see that the young striker is far enough along that he could be useful by next summer is Brazil.
Terrence Boyd: Between Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Landon Donovan, Eddie Johnson and Herculez Gomez, there just is not much room on the roster for young strikers. For guys like Boyd and Johannsson, they’ll have to force Klinsmann into considering them. How can they do that? Well, scoring a goal or two in a World Cup qualifier (even a mostly meaningless one like tonight’s) is a fantastic start.
Sacha Kljestan: Micheal Bradley is easily Klinsmann’s most important man, and the brain of this U.S. bunch will find himself on the field every possible minute he can be. That said, the team needs a Plan B in that linking midfield role. (Other than Jermaine Jones, that is, who mans the position when Bradley doesn’t). Either way, they need one more versatile, two-way man like Bradley. It’s probably going to be Mix Diskerud or Kljestan, and at the moment Diskerud is a little ahead.
Brad Davis: The Houston Dynamo man sits on the bubble. Davis has been on the list for some World Cup qualifiers this year, so that’s a check mark for him. And his set piece service can come in handy if Landon Donovan or Graham Zusi are not around, for whatever reason. All that said, nothing is guaranteed for the 31-year-old midfielder, and a few good minutes against Jamaica (likely off the bench, since he played Wednesday for Houston) sure wouldn’t hurt.
Brad Evans: The U.S. right back spot is wide, wide open. Longtime fixture Steve Cherundolo remains in the picture, but even if the Bundesliga vet regains his health and good form, the team needs a backup, and nobody has stepped up forcefully to lay claim to it. Klinsmann seems determined to use Geoff Cameron as a center back or a reserve holding midfielder (Klinsmann said Thursday that center back was Cameron’s best spot). So Evans, Michael Parkhurst and others remain in the hunt. (Fabian Johnson, too, although he is better suited on the left.)