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It Seems To Me. . .

Americans' World Cup roles become more evident as final friendly approaches.

By Robert Wagman
SoccerTimes

(Thursday, June 5, 2014) -- Over the past two exhibition matches the United States men have played since coach Jürgen Klinsmann made his final cut to the 23 players he will take to the World Cup in Brazil, it has become somewhat clearer as to who will start when the U. S. faces Ghana June 16 in the make-or-break opening Group G match in Natal.

Let's start at the back with the most obvious choice, noting that injuries can render all planning moot. Tim Howard will be in goal, backed up by Brad Guzan with the third-choice Nick Rimando taking on the role of spectator.

It had looked that determining the four defenders would be difficult. Klinsmann surprised many by carrying eight defenders on this final roster, while many thought he would carry only seven. Then he further surprised many by cutting both Michael Parkhurst and Brad Evans, while keeping 20-year-old DeAndre Yedlin, who is lightning fast, but inexperienced with a lot to learn, even at the Major League Soccer level. Now the picture in back seems much clearer given who has started in the two friendlies, a 2-0 victory over Azerbaijan and 2-1 defeat of Turkey.

Fabian Johnson seems to have claimed the right back spot, particular after a stellar effort against Turkey.

Versatile Geoff Cameron, who has been a right back with his club Stoke City of the English Premier League, appears to be Klinsmann's choice to pair with Matt Besler in the central defense. German-American Timmy Chandler, whose ascendance with the American side has been slowed by injury, appears to now be fit and being given a chance to unseat DaMarcus Beasley on the left side of the back-line.

Klinsmann seemed to have lost faith in Omar Gonzalez as a central defender, while German-American John Brooks and newcomer Yedlin will be watching from the bench.

Figuring out the midfield comes down to guessing what formation Klinsmann will play. Weill it be the 4-2-3-1 he has used most of the past two years, or will it be the 4-4-2 with the midfield "diamond" he has tried in the past two friendlies.

In either case, Michael Bradley and German-American Jermaine Jones will be on the field. If a more defensive 4-2-3-1, they will be the two defensive midfielders. If the diamond is employed, Jones will be on the bottom and Bradley on top.

Kyle Beckerman will remain the backup defensive midfielder.

The right side of midfield seems settled in either formation. On the right will be it will be Graham Zusi. He has good pace and he can get back to provide cover when either the right back or Jones pushes forward. He appears to be backed up by Alejandro Bedoya.

The left side of midfield appears to be one of the team's "it depends" positions. If Klinsmann goes with Chandler in back, then Beasley, with his speed, could be the first choice on the left side of midfield. If he wants accurate crossing ability (as well as corner kicks and dead-ball restarts), it will be Brad Davis, who doesn't possess Beasley's pace.

Also, probably in the mix in the midfield as a reserve is 19-year old German-American Julian Green, who has zero experience playing at this level. Klinsmann appears to believe possesses the best technical skills on his roster.

Certainly, Clint Dempsey will start, either as the central midfielder in a 4-2-3-1 or as the second striker in the 4-4-2. His role will be little different. He is an attacker rather than a traditional central midfielder -- a so-called "number 10" whose role is to hold and distribute the ball. Dempsey is an attacker, not a distributer. On this roster, he will be backed up by Norwegian-American Mix Diskerud in the midfield.

Jozy Altidore, despite his recent difficulties scoring for his club, Sunderland, of the English Premier and for the U.S. men, seems to be Klinsmann's choice as the primary striker. Altidore is the veteran, but after his awful campaign at Sunderland, he is put in a position of having prove himself.

Waiting in the wings is Aron Johannsson, who has had a terrific season in the Netherlands and whom possesses greater technical skills than does Altidore. Yet, he does not have Altidore's speed or physical presence.

If Altidore keeps his place on top, Klinsmann could pencil in Johannsson on the left side of midfield. He has not played there for either club or country, but depending on the situation he might make more sense than either Beasley or Davis.

MLS's leading scorer Chris Wondolowski remains as the third-string forward and, given his opportunistic goal scoring ability, he would likely be late substitute if a goal is needed.

So, barring injuries or some kind of a great or poor showing Saturday against Nigeria, this looks to be who will play where. Whether this adds up to a team that can beat Ghana and then earn a point or more against powerhouses Germany and Portugal remains to be seen. If so, Klinsmann will look like a genius. If the Americans lose to Ghana, it will be a quick trip home barring a major upset or two.


Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.

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