After the completion of the long January camp and the first United States match of a highly anticipated World Cup year (last weekend’s 2-0 win over South Korea), let’s look at which players appear to be shipshape for a golden seat on that charter into Brazil.
Don’t forget, the first match is just a little more than four months away.
Four months out from the World Cup, as we talk about any decisions still remaining on the U.S. forwards, we’re really talking about one thing:
Who is the last guy that will be chosen, because three of the four chairs already have someone’s butt firmly planted in them.
We put Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan in the list of midfielders, even though both have a certain utility and could have been listed just as easily as forwards. That’s where they were four years ago as Bob Bradley augmented the list with four guys who were more “pure strikers,” guys who are best when a little more central, a little closer to goal.
Either way, regardless of classification, there are probably four spots available for designated goal-getters.
I know there is some thought is the U.S. Soccer fandom of bumping Jozy Alitore (pictured) from the “lock” list; I just don’t personally believe Jurgen Klinsmann is thinking that way. Rather, he’s probably brainstorming for ways to quickly boost Altidore’s diminished stores of confidence upon arrival into May training camp.
Last summer the Sunderland striker put himself so far in the lead in the pecking order of U.S. frontrunners that he’s still surely Klinsmann’s first pick at the position. He’s a roster lock, no matter how ridiculous things get at the Stadium of Light.
Johannsson increases his burgeoning value because he can not only play as a central target, but also a little further back (in the position for which Dempsey and Donovan will battle). Eddie Johnson has shown what he can accomplish coming off the bench, which seems likely to his role in Brazil.
That brings us to No. 4 and Klinsmann’s fairly disparate, available options.
It will probably come down to this: What does the U.S. boss decide he wants from that fourth selection?
If he wants someone who will doggedly, dependably chase and harass and help close out a game, then look for Boyd, who seems to be progressing nicely at Rapid Vienna.
Or, if it’s a little more of a scoring touch the manager seeks, someone with a nose for goal who might become the third natural forward in a desperate situation that calls for the garbage goal of all garbage goals (and nobody cares how you get it), maybe it’s Wondolowski who gets the call.
Then again, if Juan Agudelo gets on a run at Utrecht (he had a goal today, you know), maybe he’s the designated late-game toss-in?
The other wildcard here: where is Gomez in his quest to get on a good run? At this time last year, the Tijuana attacker was a U.S. starter. Remember the Snow Clasico? Starter. Or the huge point earned a few nights later in Mexico, the second of two matches that turned it all for the United States? Starter.
But an injury here, a bad run for his club there and, well, who knows?
Going to Brazil: Jozy Altidore, Aron Johannsson, Eddie Johnson
On the bubble: Juan Agudelo, Terrence Boyd, Herculez Gomez, Chris Wondolowski