U.S. World Cup 2014 roster outlook: GOALKEEPERS AND DEFENDERS

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The goalkeeper position has been a given throughout the cycle, but just over one month before of the U.S. Men’s National Team’s pre-World Cup camp convenes, the defense is coming into focus, too. Perhaps the order of the depth chart isn’t as clear as in goal, where the position’s one (Tim Howard), two (Brad Guzan), and three (Nick Rimando) are indisputable, but the names on the tickets are becoming evident. We don’t know who’ll make it into Jurgen Klinsmann’s ideal 11, but we’re starting to get a good idea of the options.

In the wake of last week’s friendly against Mexico, here’s how we see the U.S. roster picture for Brazil 2014:

GOALKEEPERS

This is where I apply analysis to something that’s obvious. If you’re unaware that Tim Howard will be starting June 16 against Ghana, you probably don’t know who the U.S. number one is, let alone which goalkeepers will serve as backups. Sorry, but introducing Howard, Guzan, and Rimando’s beyond the scope of this post.

The goalkeeping situation is so clear, we don’t even bother with a bubble, but it’s probably worth mentioning who’d get called in should somebody get injured. Like the main roster, that picture is crystal clear. If one man goes down, the Chicago Fire’s Sean Johnson will get the call. D.C. United’s Bill Hamid waits in the wings’ wings.

  • Going to Brazil: Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Nick Rimando
  • On the bubble: none

DEFENDERS

There’s still an inordinate amount of incredulity about why Klinsmann’s using natural midfielders at fullback, but whether fans like it or not, the picture is pretty evident. Players like DaMarcus Beasley and Brad Evans are not only locked into the squad, they could start in Brazil. Critics may not see the virtues of Evans over somebody like Geoff Cameron, but Klinsmann does. As far as the final squad (and lineup) is concerned, that’s all that matters.

Not that there’s any doubt about Cameron’s spot, either. He’s a lock, as are Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez, and Clarence Goodson. We’ve added Michael Parkhurst to the group, too. Given his versatility, performances against South Korea and Mexico, and the gap between the Columbus captain and the rest of the list, Parkhurst’s likely to go.

As for the rest of that list, odds are nobody from “the bubble” makes it. That’s partially because of the versatility of players like Parkhurst and Cameron, partially because Fabian Johnson, a possible starter at left midfield, could also get time at left back. There just aren’t backup spots that need to be filled, and once you look at the needs at midfield and forward, the roster’s flexibility looks more likely to be used there rather than in defense.

  • Going to Brazil: DaMarcus Beasley, Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron, Brad Evans, Omar Gonzalez, Clarence Goodson, Fabian Johnson, Michael Parkhurst
  • On the bubble (zero-to-one spots available): Tony Beltran, Anthony Brooks, Edgar Castillo, Oguchi Onyewu, Michael Orozco, DeAndre Yedlin

MORE: Goalkeepers and defenders | Midfielders | Forwards

PODCAST: Bob Bradley talks MLS past, USMNT

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Scott Nicholls and Otis Earle welcomed Bob Bradley to their “Beyond The Pitch” podcast to discuss his time coaching the Chicago Fire, the Fire’s current squad, how MLS has evolved, the new generation of players coming into the USMNT and more.

Perhaps most interesting is Bradley talking about previous losses with stinging emotion that sounds like they happened yesterday, including the 2000 MLS Cup.

[ MORE: Latest Men In Blazers pod ]

Since being fired from Swansea City after less than 100 days, Bradley has been linked with the Norway national team gig as well as a return to Los Angeles. Keep up with the U.S. coach here, and check it out:

U.S. Open Cup preview: Which underdog has best odds?

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Every dog has its day, and the three lower-tier clubs remaining in the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup are hoping for a second.

Miami FC, Sacramento Republic, and FC Cincinnati enjoyed wins over Major League Soccer sides in the fourth round, and now get further MLS tests in this week’s fifth round.

[ MORE: Lampard linked with manager opening ]

Once FC Dallas and Colorado Rapids tangle on Tuesday, attention turns to the underdogs on Wednesday. Who has the best chance to advance?

  1. Miami FC vs. Atlanta United — Playing an MLS expansion side at Riccardo Silva Stadium will give Miami a bit of confidence, and this is also a side with some good experience in pressure spots. Whether it’s manager Alessandro Nesta or MLS vets Michel, Gabriel Farfan, and Michael Lahoud, MFC won’t shy away. Upset chance: Solid.
  2. FC Cincinnati vs. Chicago Fire — The visitors are having a heck of a season in MLS and don’t have a group which will be worried by a huge crowd, but there’s no debating that 25,000-plus in Southern Ohio give FCC more than a puncher’s chance. Upset chance: Improbable, but possible
  3. LA Galaxy vs. Sacramento Republic — If LA puts something close to its best side out there, Sacramento will struggle to stop its attack.  Upset chance: Long shot.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, New England hosts DC United, Philadelphia visits the Red Bulls, Seattle is off to San Jose, and Houston hosts Sporting KC.

WATCH: Spain’s Saul smashes a shot past Italy’s Donnarumma

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Since returning from a loan at Rayo Vallecano, Saul Niguez has been a somewhat under the radar star at Atletico Madrid.

Coming off his best season with Atleti, the 22-year-old Saul is making an even bigger name for himself at the U-21 EURO this summer.

Spain’s Saul scored a hat trick past Gianluigi Donnarumma and Italy on Tuesday, and the second goal was laced with venom.

Getting onto the ball from 30-plus yards out, Saul smashed his shot with enough power that the ball barely had occasion to rotate.

Saul is under contract at the Vicente Calderon through 2022, and has three caps for Spain’s senior team, too. He was rated Atleti’s third-best performer by WhoScored this season.

Men in Blazers podcast: Transfer window, USMNT at Gold Cup, RBNY-NYCFC

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Men In Blazers are back with their latest podcast, and the boys are hitting club soccer here and abroad as well as Bruce Arena’s men in the red, white, and blue.

Rog and Davo break down transfer window activity, rumored and real; get a heat check on the USMNT heading into the Gold Cup; and recap the (Ray) Hudson River Derby.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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