USMNT: Injuries Hit Qualifying Roster
There are always injury concerns when an international manager selects his roster for a round of World Cup qualifying. On Monday Jurgen Klinsmann was forced to name a roster devoid of more than a few first choice players. He will need to be creative heading into the first home qualifier of the Hexagonal against Costa Rica and then going to Azteca.
The roster named by Klinsmann is:
Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa, England), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
Defenders: Tony Beltran (Real Salt Lake), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City, England), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Clarence Goodson (Brondby, Denmark), Justin Morrow (San Jose Earthquakes)
Midfielders: DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla, Mexico), Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Roma, Italy), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana, Mexico), Maurice edu (Bursaspor, Turkey), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04, Germany), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht, Belgium), Brek Shea (Stoke City, England), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
Forwards: Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar, Netherlands), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna, Austria), Clint Dempsey (Tottenham Hotspur, England), Herculez Gomez (Santos Laguna, Mexico), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders)
The part of the roster hit hardest by the injuries is by far the defense.
Brad Guzan will be forced into the #1 jersey with Timmy Howard’s back injury. This shouldn’t be too much of an issue though, as Guzan has been in fine form, making some great stops against QPR this past weekend. With a very suspect defense in front of him at Aston Villa he should be prepared to organize a makeshift backline.
Speaking of backlines, the injuries to Timmy Chandler, Fabian Johnson, Jonathan Spector, Steve Cherundolo, Edgar Castillo, and the lack of playing time from Carlos Bocanegra leaves a giant hole in the back. Geoff Cameron and Omar Gonzalez were the starting center backs the first Hexagonal match and can be expected to be in the lineup for these two matches.
Without either starting or back up outside backs there is cause for concern. Maurice Edu has been in great form lately in Turkey and has played center back in the past for Klinsmann. I would expect him to slot back in the central defensive role next to Gonzalez and Cameron pushed to right back, which he has played recently for Stoke City.
That takes care of one opening. The other will need a bit more creativity. The options are MLSers Tony Beltran or Justin Morrow who are outside backs by trade or having someone play out of their natural positions that has played the role of left back at some point in their careers. Those players would be DeMarcus Beasley and Brek Shea. Each player has 25% chance of being the starting left back, and your guess is as good as mine at this point.
In terms of the rest of the lineup there is no doubt in mind that there a few guys that will be in the starting lineup barring a training injury: Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Herculez Gomez, and Jozy Altidore. That leaves one starting spot that will be determined based on the lineup Klinsmann decides to use.
Sacha Kljestan could be used in a 4-3-3 slotting in as an attacking central midfielder to be used with Bradley and Jones.
Graham Zusi could be used as a wide attacker in a 4-2-1-3 with Dempsey trailing the three prong attack in a very attacking styled roster.
Kyle Beckerman could be used as a continuation of the 3 defensive central mid triangle in place of the injured Danny Williams.
There is always the chance that Eddie Johnson is used to play wide again.
Costa Rica is as much of a must win as any second game of qualifying can be. If the USMNT wants to make the road to Brazil a lot easier on themselves they will need to win at home and make points on the road a bonus and not a necessity.