We know that Tim Howard will be in goal as the United States lines up this June in Brazil.
We know Michael Bradley will supply the midfield brain, organizing the center, filling gaps with prudence and connecting the lines sensibly, as he always does.
With a bit less certainty, we think Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler are first choices at center back.
Past any of that, when it comes to the U.S. national team’s top lineup for World Cup Brazil 2014, it’s all a bit of a stew-in-progress, isn’t it? Jurgen Klinsmann has plenty of chopped fresh vegetables, spices and meats on hand, so to speak, but hasn’t quite settled on the final recipe.
Fabian Johnson’s injury over the weekend truly drives that point home. There are, and will continue to be, plenty of moving parts as Klinsmann puts the pieces together. And that’s without any further, destabilizing elements being introduced, like another injury or confidence sinkholes (like the one that Jozy Altidore seems to have stepped into.)
Let’s just take a quick look at some connected parts, how Johnson’s injury could shape or shake-up the order:
- DaMarcus Beasley’s performance at left back has made him the top U.S. pick at that spot. That left Johnson has the United States’ best alternative at left midfield, or quite close to it.
- With Johnson ably manning the left, Landon Donovan would be free to play on the right, or even centrally if Clint Dempsey can’t get his game pointed in the right direction. Now all of that is in question.
- If Donovan plays on the left, that makes a starting spot more likely for Graham Zusi on the right.
- Or, could we see a return to the left side for Dempsey, where he played so often through the Premier League years? It’s a fairly attack-minded position in Klinsmann’s preferred formation, a modified 4-3-3, so it’s hardly a stretch for the Seattle Sounders DP.
- If Johnson isn’t available or in form, the chances that Brek Shea lands a roster spot would seem to increase, assuming he can keep logging minutes in England. Somewhere. (Which is why he needs to stick around Barnsley a little longer, as we suggested the other day.)
- If Johnson is available, that even gives Klinsmann the option of playing the Bundesliga man on the left, deploying Dempsey as the most highly positioned forward – not his ideal spot, but it might be the best option by June – with Donovan tucked in behind. The odds for this one aren’t strong, but it’s not that far-fetched either.
These are just the moving parts connected someone with one man, Fabian Johnson.
The ongoing instability at right back, the expanding choices at striker, the lack of a natural left back, the form of Dempsey and Altidore all come with their own implications and ramifications. And that’s without factoring in further injury; and you can almost bet we’ll have some of that.
See … lots of moving parts.