USMNT: Personnel Problems
Jurgen Klinsmann and the USMNT were able to qualify for the last stage of qualifying in CONCACAF, but face a tough test ahead as they look to navigate through the Hexagonal.
The best chance in successfully booking a flight to Brazil in 2014 is by having the best players suit up in the red and white stripes for the games ahead. While it seems like a pretty easy concept to pick the best players at each position with American citizenship. However, there are a couple factors that make the decision process a little more difficult.
Here are a look at 5 different situations that Klinsmann is dealing with on the personnel selection front:
- Landon Donovan
Arguably the best player to ever represent the red, white, and blue has been absent more than he has been available for selection in Klinsmann’s tenure as USMNT coach. Injuries have been an issue of concern, but Donovan has made it very clear he is working through his own issues mentally about where he is in his career.
Without a doubt the USMNT is a better team when Donovan is on the field and in the right state of mind. It is in Klinsmann’s best interest to give this situation the white glove treatment. Put pressure on Donovan and he could walk away from the game forever. Turn your back on him and the same could happen. No matter what happens here Donovan has to be shown he is still wanted on the team, but also given the space to make this decision for himself. As fans we can only hope this doesn’t turn into US Soccer’s Brett Favre retirement saga.
- Timmy Chandler
The outside back, born of an American military father and German mother has been the center of a heated debate between USMNT fans. The young defender has shown great promise in his handful of appearances for the US national team, but has yet to commit his future to his father’s country. It seems he is still waiting to see if the German national team comes calling for his services.
Much like the Donovan situation, this is a very talented player that could go either way in his future with the team. The current right back, Steve Cherundolo, is maintaining a very high level of play and would probably still be the first choice at the position if Chandler was firmly in camp USMNT. However, “Dolo” is nearing the end of his international career and the ability to have a more than capable player to step in to the role would be an amazing advantage for the team. There’s no reason to close the door on the German-American at this point and force him to make a decision. If he picks the USMNT it is a bonus for the team, if not, the team will be fine for the 2014 World Cup cycle.
- Carlos Bocanegra
Boca has worn the captain’s armband for the USMNT for more than a few years now. He’s a vocal leader and a flexible option on the backline. He normally mans the center of defense, but can also cover the left flank if need be. At 33 years of age questions are starting to arise about how long he will be able to play at the international level. There is no doubt his level of heart, it is just a question of how much is left in his legs.
This situation is made a little more complicated by the lack of quality alternatives at the position. With no real options to take his place, Klinsmann may be forced to see just how long Bocanegra can play. The good news is that Bocanegra is still playing at a relatively high level internationally. It is still yet to be seen how his club situation will effect his play for the national team. Bocanegra is currently on loan at Racing Santander in the Spanish second division from Rangers in the Scottish third division.
- Maurice Edu
Edu has fallen into the same hole that Bocanegra is. He had been playing well and getting good minutes for Rangers before their financial collapse and was forced to find a last second switch in order to escape the Scottish third division. His move to Stoke City kept him in a top league, however the amount of playing time he will see will be the question. He has been a center piece to Klinsmann’s best XI from day one, but a lack of playing time could hurt those plans.
We can all hope that once Edu has settled into the side he begins to get routine minutes. Klinsmann has used Edu at both central mid and centerback and in the short term playing time at either position at Stoke will be a relief. Long term though it is in the best interest of the USMNT to have our players playing the same position for both club and country. This is a wait and see situation, but Edu might be losing grip on his starting spot.
- Jozy Altidore
There is a lot of mystery around what is actually happening between the young striker and Klinsmann. In the two must-win games at the end of the third round of qualifying the standard starter was left off the roster completely. Rumors are that there was a dispute between Klinsmann and Altidore, but no one is quite sure. The sizzling club form for Altidore makes him a player that should be somewhere in the top 18 USMNT options.
Whatever the reason behind the absence, it is clear a message was trying to be sent by Klinsmann. In the best interest of the team one of them needs to step up and patch up the relationship. There are really two ways of looking at how to go forward from this point. The first is that Klinsmann should be the more mature one and initiate the make up. The other is that no coach in the world should let a 22 year old kid dictate the relationship between player and coach so until Altidore is ready to admit his fault should stay on the outside looking in.
With the Hexagonal starting early in 2013 it is highly unlikely that many, if any, of these issues will work themselves out in time for the first game. The real test of Klinsmann’s worth will be how he manages all the issues needing his attention. Don’t forget that beyond these individual problems Klinsmann is also dealing with injuries, two different club schedules between MLS and the rest of the world, and rebuilding a youth soccer structure to better prepare the USMNT for long term growth. No easy task for any manager in the world.