For every cut, there’s a player that pushed somebody out of the team. Often, theirs are the more interesting stories. We can look at the Landon Donovans and Clarence Goodsons of the world and come up with a theory as to why they’re not going, but what is it about those other, borderline players that got them over the hump?
As we hear more from Jurgen Klinsmann, we’ll get better explanations for why the 23 players he named to the U.S.’s World Cup squad are going to Brazil. More likely than not, the more iffy players will have to win hearts on the field.
Here are some of those more iffy players and what they can offer next month in Brazil:
John Brooks, Hertha Berlin – A young, central defender, Brooks seemed to play himself to the brink of contention with a poor March showing against the Ukraine. If preparing for 2018 was a factor in today’s thinking, however, Brooks is an obvious choice. At 21 and already starting in the Bundesliga, Brooks projects as a potential first XI player in Russia. In Brazil, he’s purely a squad option.
Timothy Chandler, Nuremburg – Three weeks ago, he was a long shot, to most. Then word got out Klinsmann and his staff where inquiring about his fitness. Now the German-born American looks like a contender to start at right back against Ghana.
Brad Davis, Houston Dynamo – Davis is one of the most limited players on this roster, but he may also be one of the more reliable. His set piece delivery could prove valuable at the end of matches, part of the reason Klinsmann called on him to help kill off games during the last rounds of CONCACAF qualifying. Despite those virtues, Davis will be one of the toughest sells for fans who’ll rightly ask why he’s going in Donovan’s spot.
Mix Diskerud, Rosenburg – Diskerud was seen as on the bubble, but Klinsmann’s nod to 2018 may have pushed the young midfielder over the top. He’ll offer an attacking option off the bench should Klinsmann see the need to deploy a more advanced midfielder (without messing with Clint Dempsey).
Julian Green, Bayern Munich – Was he guaranteed a spot in exchange for his switch? Some will never be convinced otherwise, but in Brazil, he still serves a purpose. The U.S. needs a change-of-pace option from wide – a need that kept Brek Shea in the World Cup picture for too long. Green is still young, raw, and inexperienced, but he fills that role.
Chris Wondolowski, San Jose Earthquakes – As with Davis, fans will look at Wondolowski’s lack of physical skills and never be convinced he’s an international-, let alone World Cup-, caliber player. Klinsmann, however, has long been headed in this direction. Late, against bunkered teams, he could be the first forward off the bench.
DeAndre Yedlin, Seattle Sounders – Given the team’s other options at right back — Geoff Cameron, Timmy Chandler, Fabian Johnson — this is as much a 2018 choice as any, but Yedlin may still be able to help. As a late defensive substitute for Graham Zusi, the 21-year-old Sounder could have value,. He also has three weeks to show he can offer something at his natural position.