Monday, May 26, 2014

Step 1: Rub Temples In Circular Motion

Alright, as promised, let's do this damn thing. To be frank, I am not sure the extra day or two of wait cooled me off much. This whole thing came off rather bizarre on many levels, all of which I will poetically whine about now.

No, this is not going to be all about Landon Donovan, folks. There is plenty of "Huh?" to go around. Right off the top, before we even get to players, let's talk about the timing of this announcement.

Hmm. Either he is foggy on the definition of 'whole' (unlikely) or something is quite amiss 'roundhya. Of course, for a couple years now I have been pointing out that Klinsmann says a lot of things and even means a few of them. Camp began with the provisional 30 on May 14th, with the coach talking about competitions and a reference to them lasting about three weeks. Nine days later and just four before the first tune-up friendly, we had a final 23-man roster.

Wait... what now? Look, I'm all for an international boss playing some bluffs in the lead-up to World Cup, but not about administrative stuff like this. Not to the players. This is cuckoo-times to me. Maybe it is only me. But even more than any player pick or snub, this was my initial shock wave. And I am not even slightly kidding about that. Not. Cool. Jurgen.

(deep cleansing breath)

Let's just move on, before I pop an eye vessel over that mess. The keeper choices brought no surprise, but then there is the back line. Eight guys, none of whom is Clarence Goodson, to me the best USMNT defender of this World Cup cycle by a fair margin. Resurgent two-time World Cup participant and Confederations Cup hero Oguchi Onyewu didn't even reach prep camp.

As such, this will be by far the greenest defensive unit seen in a US World Cup side in modern times. Check out the sum of competitive caps in the newbie edition (which counts DaMarcus Beasley as the most seasoned player with 13 "real" matches at the station currently expected when the tourney starts).

Center backs
Expected starters: 15
The full stable: 33

Wide backs
Expected starters: 6
The full stable: 20

In 2010, three starters were on their second World Cup. The 2006 defense played two pretty darn good games led by 80-cap man Pope, with support from Confederations Cup veterans Berhalter, Bocanegra and Cherundolo. The scrapping 2002 side had Steady Eddie has deputy to versatile 127-cap lefty Agoos, and again some CC on the CV.

You get the idea, it continues like this, only with more experience in the two Cups before these. The entire 2014 stable, however, has exactly zero games of experience with tourney matches outside CONCACAF. Yeah. Let that marinate for a moment.

Then, you have Cameron apparently sliding into a central position he's played all of four times for club and country in the last year. The toughest competitive CB assignment he's ever had was at Spurs, and it was not a good day. Oh, and did I mention that the competent Premier League right back has only played one US game in a central tandem with Besler?

Okay, enough freaking you out with that. Let's talk midfield. Though it is also plenty of green at this level once you get past Bradley and Jones, but there really is not much at issue - until you get to the left side.

I think everyone knows my view of Donovan's importance; he is an ink starter on my clipboard. And quoth the Red Hot Chili Peppers: If you need to ask, you'll never know. Instead of some involved side rant, I will simply turn it over to Mr. Hudson.

Yup. Pretty much. Instead, we have the firm of Davis and Green for the left flank. Setting aside the seemingly slim possibility we will see a sprinkle of Beasley or Johnson there, this is a bit unnerving. As delighted as I am that fellow St. Louisian Davis gets the privilege of going to a World Cup, I fear his impact may be limited to a spicy sub role where he gets to lay on a bunch of nasty restarts. And I'd be cool with that.

Problem is, the other guy has three career minutes of first team club ball and a brief friendly cap to his credit so far. Long story short, we have two potential bench gems up for a starting spot. And the thought gets scarier if Klinsi actually makes this sudden switch to a 4-4-2 diamond (another terrifically bad idea to discuss another day) that pushes Bradley forward.

Who knows? Perhaps Bedoya or Dempsey ends up sliding wide left (or in Deuce's case, vaguely left-ish-esque on alternating Tuesdays and Thursdays) and we can drop the DEFCON rating a little. Which brings us right into the attack, which will need to possess and produce to aid the defense (especially if they are left with just Jones to mind the gate).

Everybody knows what I will about the forwards, too. There is no air bomber to "pinch-hit" late in the game and Wondo(w) is not exactly the type you'd immediately think to put up in a do-or-die game against, say, Hummels and Mertesacker. I mean, maybe that is the trick here, but I'm not one for magical thinking just like I'm so very not for going so very green at a World Cup.

Da Bruce once said the tourney is a young man's game, but that is a Mr. Incredible stretch. Both finalists last time were laden with key veterans 28 or older. Same as 2006 and 2002 and 1998 and so on. Yes, young players can take part in splashing, but a good balance is always in evidence with the deep Cup runners. This US squad, barring injury replacements, will have three core field players of that age. Dempsey, Jones and Cameron.

There are still other tactical gripes to be had. If Davis is not a starter, then who is taking our set pieces? This is a severely important part of finding success in short tournaments. It definitely should not be Bradley, we want him in the area. And on restart defense, pushing Cameron inside gives us one less big body in the box. While we're asking questions, who is now going to do all the pressure valve work of Donovan?

I could go on targeting such things, including match-up problems, and probably will at another time. But it is too stressful to think about this for too long at one sitting. As is, I find myself reaching for some milk chocolate bar dipped straight into the peanut butter jar, otherwise known as nature's Xanax.

So... anybody else getting at all concerned we will need a sizable miracle even if the Ghana jinx is snapped with a win in the group opener? I swear, if the signed-through-2018 coach says one word about the future during this likely three-and-out, it's gonna get all Augustus Gloop up in herrrre. 

- Greg Seltzer


dikranovich said...

I'd like to be the first to call BS on tsar Gregor and his little rant.

Tony M said...

You would have been more entertaining in your immediate fury, something like my 30 or 40 Facebook posts detailing my rage.

Let's boil this down: there is no way shape or form that this makes any sense, from the naming the 23 before the first friendly, to the cuts of Donovan, Parkhurst or Goodson...

Unless... you think this is about a coach who is dying to prove how clever he is and fears nothing more than to let the guys he wants to dump prove him wrong in a game.

I was pessimistic before. Now the only thing I can bring myself to hope is that he gets fired.

This is a disgrace with no logic to argue in its favor. Even people bending over backwards, like a couple writers on, to find tactical reasons can't do it - because he has left himself nothing. Nothing. NOTHING to do when game go bad. Except maybe putting Brooks at center forward. I wouldn't put it past him

Ole said...

How many different lineups "Der Klinsi" put on the field during qualifying? He now has three games to put together the definitive lineup, which he has promised us Tuesday, to get them ready. Can we fire Sunil first, then Klinsi?

Tony M said...

dikranovich, I tolerate you as a colorful lunatic. But defending this is beyond even you.

Let’s break this down.
Competition at every position… well, no. All reports are that he had his mind made up before camp and he didn’t let guys play in the first warm up game.

Youth must be served…. Well, then explain Beckerman and Davis. And Jones and Beasley. And Wondo. And Dempsey all of a year younger than Donovan.

It’s about building for 2018… if it is, he should be fired for that along. You make it out of the group and anything can happen. And a little something called Copa American 2016 offers a lovely chance to get the young players bloodied in battle, don’t you think?

It’s about tactics….really? So why the lack of tactical options off the bench?

It’s about form…well, let’s pretend that Donovan isn’t in form. (And to do that we have to ignore actual games played and the role he was asked to ply in them.) Then why Jozy? Why Brooks instead of Ream?

There is no way shape or form that any of this makes football sense. The only explanations that make sense are psychological. About Klinsmann.

And Ole - tell you what, I have always been okay with Gulati. But if he doesn't step, he needs to go too.

Unknown said...

Jurgen saw the team that he fielded through qualifiers and gold cup and came to the conclusion that this team was not good enough to get out of the group that they were drawn in (which most people here agreed with in December). So, he came up with specific game plans for the three group matches and his idea of the personnel to execute the coup d'etat in the group of death. If the current tried and true squad looked like they weren't up to task, so he's gambling on more "green" players, hoping they rise to the occasion. Sure, they are unproven, but they give the US the best chance of advancing if they perform to their potential. There's no ego play here, or looking forward to 2018. It's an all-in play, swinging for the fences and hoping for the best.

Jurgen's willingness not to play it safe, and to move forward in the face of traditional thought and popular opinion gives me even more faith that he believes the choices he is making will give the team the best chance of advancing. I think the cuts happened so quickly because he needs these 23 players to buy into his vision, and have time to mesh together and believe in each other in order to execute during the World Cup. Of course I wanted Donovan and Goodson in the squad, but they wouldn't have made or break our chances in the tournament. I'm not ready to condemn this roster decision yet.

Greg Seltzer said...

1 - How do you figure they give a better chance to win than the experienced (read: proven) players exactly?

2 - By that same token, Yedlin (or Brooks, if you will) and Green could make or break us but Goodson (the most consistently strong defender this cycle/most experienced defender in the 30) and LANDON DONOVAN could not? Again, you will need to do more than simply claim something like that to win me over.

dikranovich said...

Let's just hope tony m is wrong so he can eat crow. Same with Greg, and all the other naysayers.

For gods sake, Greg has been pumping FJ for left mid for three freaking years, now he wants to pretend like Julian green is the starter, and brad Davis is just not good enough.

Greg was also pumping john brooks to start, then he got a little wiser, and now he acts like its 2009 again.

Chandler, yes, Greg was pumping chandler as a committed piece of the puzzle.

We know Greg spoke with t Boyd last week, on his own personal bat phone, heck, who knows, he must have spoken to Donovan as well.

I'm calling out all the no faith, half hearts, who all espouse to hope they are wrong about their weak ass opinions.

No f'ing heart......None... It sucks.....

Oh, I'm sure you jerks are going to be watching the games just hoping with all hope that you are wrong. Right? Wrong!!!

These are our fans, for better or worse.

Let's just put it this way, you replace Davis with Donovan, and all you dorks bemoaning all these roster "deficiencies" would definitely be singing a different tune

Unknown said...

1- If the known isn't good enough to execute your strategy, you have to go with the unknown, hence the gamble theory

2-Maybe there are specific roles that Yeldin and Green will play that we aren't aware of yet, or maybe JK just wants 2nd string guys able to work their asses off in training and scrims vs the 1st team to get them ready, something the guys that were cut weren't able to do.

Unknown said...

Clarence Goodson? Really, Greg? Have you seen him play in MLS this season? He's looked shaky at best. Everybody claiming that the sky is falling just because Klinsmann didn't pick they're chosen 23. Whatever happened to supporting the USMNT? What happened to supporting the team, not a few individuals? You all should be ashamed for condemning the team to failure, strictly because of perceived negligence on the party of the coach.

Fanfutbol said...

Jurgen had to cut Donovan before the first send-off friendly. Otherwise he risked Donovan Gold-Cupping him and making it impossible to cut him without open mutiny from the veterans.

Although I might have made some different choices (i.e., Boyd over Wondo), I don't have a big problem with the 23, EXCEPT THAT IT'S MISSING LANDON DONOVAN. That choice is so singularly insane that it undermines my confidence in JK's ability to get other things right.

Unrelated, but while I'm ranting: if Jones doesn't play a disciplined #6 in these upcoming games, I will lose my f*cking mind. Why can't JK just order him to do that? Is there a language barrier?

Greg Seltzer said...

@ dikranovich:

Why do you come here and tell blatant lies? Do you think all the other readers just got here and will not notice?

I did not say Green is the starter and I never have had Brooks as my starter. And ummm, I do not make predictions and form opinions with my heart. Ba-duh.

As for your insistence on flinging wild insults around when you come in here intentionally dumber than a wet sack of hammers and reliant on incessant strawman-nery? Awww, how adorable. Grow up one day.

@ justinwkoehn:

1 - Again, how do you figure exactly that the proven players are not good enough to execute the strategy (which is what now? get fired?) but the unproven players are? The gamble theory? Huh?

2 - You are aware what a monstrous reach you are performing here, right? We pick a World Cup roster based on training... I have heard everything now.

I am getting the feeling some Klinsi roster backers would say all the same things if he had named Alf and Orville Redenbacher to the team.

@ Unknown said...

Yeah, really Goodson. I do not understand the confusion. Club form is not the end-all, and even if it was you have guys on that team with no club form to speak of. I am not picking a team for MLS. I am giving my preference for the US team at World Cup - not the same thing. At all. Goodson earned a place on the team, at the very least. How this can be argued is beyond me.

As for the sky falling, getting out of this group was going to be a tricky proposition with the top team on board. And making predictions is not related to support. The whole point of what I do is not to be a fan, but a reporter. Not the same thing. At all.

As for condemning the USMNT to failure, well gosh, I was not aware that I possessed such power. I should be more careful with my mega-brain, eh?

Anonymous said...

>Jurgen had to cut Donovan before the first send-off friendly. Otherwise he risked Donovan Gold-Cupping him and making it impossible to cut him...

Exactly. It is obviously personal between Klinsmann and Donovan. Donovan never had a chance.

Klinsmann is, as Tony pointed out last week, an ego-maniacal douche. I always had my reservations about Klinsmann but cutting Donovan seals that fact completely. Any U.S. fan with a brain knows Donovan should be on that squad. Klinsmann weakened our WC squad out of petty spite.

And, aside from a couple of other glaring squad choice issues, that should be the main take-away from all of this - that Klinsmann is not to be trusted. He's not the man to lead U.S. soccer into the future given that he lets his ego and pettiness get in the way of choosing the best team.

Greg Seltzer said...

One more thing I forgot earlier: To all those offering the fair opinion that the USMNT has played their best soccer over the past year or so, do you somehow imagine it occurred with this particular group of 23? Because it quite a lot did not. So, if you back Klinsi with that line of thinking, the corners on your square are still visibly round.

Unknown said...

Greg, just wanted to compare your clipboard's 23 with JK's:

Gregs -
Howard, Guzan, Rimando
Cameron, Parkhurst
Goodson, Gonzalez, Onyewu
Johnson, Lichaj
Williams, Beckerman
Bradley, Jones
Zusi, Bedoya
Dempsey, Diskerud
Donovan, Beasley
Altidore, Jóhannsson

JK left out Parkhurst, Gooch, Goodson, Lichaj, Williams, and Donovan to include Chandler, Brooks, Yedlin, Brad Davis, Julian Green, and Wondo.

I think he leaves out a lot of experience in the back line. I'm good with the Chandler inclusion, Brooks is a stretch, and I'm completely shaking my head on Yedlin.

Now he takes both Brad Davis and Julian Green over Williams. Finally, JK takes Wondo over Donovan. "Wait wait!" you say, "Donovan should have been in the midfield, not forward, so slotting him as a forward was just an elaborate rouse in order to justify cutting him!" For those who point to the Gold Cup performance with the B team, notice he was a forward, scoring those goals. His last of which came in October. That's a long drought if you're a striker (unless your Alitdore, then you're still a lock). So it's understandable that Donovan doesn't make the team as a striker, but why wasn't he considered in the mid? Landon tends to disappear for long stretches of time in mid, especially when he's out on the wings. We have better central attacking mids, so Landon will not be a starter. This limits his role to an impact sub. I scratch my head when thinking about Brad Davis as an impact sub vs Landon.

The bottom line is one impact sub does not make or break the USMNT's chances at the world cup. When leaving an icon off the roster like LD, many fans have taken it personally. Out of all the roster decisions, I don't think Landon's omission has a much bigger impact than some of the other personnel decisions.

Unknown said...

cold war's turned hot it seems.

a few various comments:

1.) having a dissenting opinion, particularly while writing, doesn't mean you're not a supporter at the end of the day. that's just silly talk.

2.) not even waiting through the azerbaijan friendly irks me...a lot. i feel a little foolish for believing there was genuine competition going on in this camp.

3.) LD's exclusion is significant, but i hugely agree that other roster decisions will have a much greater impact. Goodson in the place of brooks was an absolute no brainer for me, and if JK tries to play jermaine jones as the single holder i think we will go three and out rather quickly.

4.) i think LD's label as a forward was what actually cut him, he's not going to play the most advanced jozy role so, presumably, he was only in the running for the second forward spot. there's dempsey and also, in my mind, aron johannsson -- neither of which he was ever going to beat out. i would've taken him as a midfielder for sure.

5.) without any sarcasm, does anyone have any idea what julian green is going to offer? can anyone have any idea what julian green offers?

Greg Seltzer said...

First of all, that was not my final clipboard 23. In fact, my last post only listed a camp 30. This is about where my final 23, would have been, though:

Howard, Guzan, Rimando
Cameron, Parkhurst
Goodson, Gonzalez
Besler, Onyewu
Johnson, Ream
Beckerman, Edu
Bradley, Jones
Zusi, Bedoya
Dempsey, Diskerud
Altidore, Jóhannsson, Boyd

As for your Donovan commentary, it would be a gross understatement to say I find it waaaaay off reality. And every single demerit you try to put on him is silly to me, especially when you have to remember it comes as a comparison to Green and Davis. Leaving Donovan off was, is and shall remain a complete joke.

Unknown said...

I'll admit, on it's face, it looks ludicrous not to find a spot for Landon. I don't think it was pure spite, or some sort of vendetta, but there's a lot more to it than what we are privy to. We may have to wait until after the World Cup to get the full answer. Maybe there will be some tactical clues coming from the friendly tonight.

Greg Seltzer said...

Every player I have seen speak on the topic was stunned Donovan was not there. Some even said he was killing it in training. I think you may be simply looking in a view that will find a reason to back the coach no matter what. Sorry for the bluntness, but that is how it seems and I have too much appreciation for you readers to sugar coat.

And while I often add a qualifier that none of us see training, let us be super crystal clear about something: training is not a World Cup match. As such, this ranks as easily the most stunning/ludicrous roster decision in US World Cup history.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fanfutbol said...

"Greg Seltzer said...

Every player I have seen speak on the topic was stunned Donovan was not there. Some even said he was killing it in training."

Bingo. If Donovan was dogging it in training, you'd have a lot of players behind the scenes ready to say "yeah, he just didn't have it, it's a shame." Instead, you hear what Greg says and you see scenes like the hilarious "you've been chosen as the 23" scene, where the team -- dudes who just got picked for the World Cup! -- looks stunned and horrified.

Let's assume Lando wouldn't start at midfield (which I disagree with), and would be an impact sub. Impact subs matter. That's why they are impact subs. The pivotal player in the Real-Atletico CL final was Marcelo. An impact sub.

And what if Clint gets injured at the Cup? We just hand over the keys to Mix with no alternative? I love Mix -- I think that guy is terrific -- but there are just so many ways LD could improve the team. This whole thing is so wrong for so many reasons. None of which have to do with sentimentality, by the way.

ewocky said...

Why are people so wound up about what day the roster cuts were made? That has to be the strangest gripe here. It's not like there's some proven correct time to announce a final 23. Look at the rest of the field. Some teams announced a 23 right off the bat weeks ago, some are making cuts now, some will by the deadline. I can't think of anything more "up to the coach" than that process.

Given the lightening rod that JK has been among fans, I'm positive people would be equally outraged if he announced a 23 man squad initially, "JK is so stubborn that he made up his mind before even seeing anyone!" Or if he waited until June 2 it would be "JK the tinkerer can't make up his mind until the last second and now they don't have enough time to gel before the WC!"

As it is, he went with something in the middle. Call in 30, probably having a preferred 23 in mind already. Give them a week to see if anyone gets injured/is out of shape/ in terrible for in camp. Cut to 23 and get to business. Why is that bad? From his earlier comments, it sounds like he might have thought he was going to make the cuts after the first friendly, but then changed his mind. So?

Anonymous said...

Figured I throw in my final 23 - this really should have been it IMO.

Howard, Guzan, Rimando

Besler, Goodson, Johnson, Cameron, Gonzalez, Beasley, Yedlin (1 of - Ream, Chandler, Parkhurst)

Dempsey, Bradley, Jones, Zusi, Donovan, Diskerud, Beckerman, Green, (Davis or Bedoya)

Altidore, Johannsson, Boyd

As for starters...

Altidore (if he shows up in the tune-up matches - otherwise Johannsson)

Donovan, Dempsey, Zusi
Bradley, Jones
Johnson, Besler, Goodson, Cameron

Goodson is at least as good as Gonzalez anyway.

Unknown said...

After some thought and watching the lethargic match against a less than top team, is it possible that JK is looking past this WC with his team selection and just looking to gain experience for these younger players?