The final round of regional qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil kicks off Wednesday as the United States visits San Pedro Sula, Honduras to take on Honduras at Estadio Olimpico.
The official US National Team website reported Monday that coach Jurgen Klinsmann has chosen the 24-man roster and will conduct training sessions in Miami before the match. Below is the roster for Wednesday’s matchup according to the team’s website:
Goalkeeper Brad Guzan (Aston Villa/England), Tim Howard (Everton/England), Sean Johnson (Chicago/M.L.S.)
Defenders Matt Besler (Kansas City/M.L.S.), Carlos Bocanegra (Racing Santander/Spain), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/England), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana/Mexico), Timmy Chandler (Nuremberg/Germany), Brad Evans (Seattle/M.L.S.), Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles/M.L.S.), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim/Germany), Michael Parkhurst (Augsburg/Germany)
Midfielders Michael Bradley (Roma/Italy), Brad Davis (Houston/M.L.S.), Maurice Edu (Bursaspor/Turkey), Jermaine Jones (Schalke/Germany), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht/Belgium), Jose Torres (Tigres/Mexico), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim/Germany), Graham Zusi (Kansas City/M.L.S.)
Forwards Jozy Altidore (AZ/the Netherlands), Clint Dempsey (Tottenham Hotspur/England), Herculez Gomez (Santos/Mexico), Eddie Johnson (Seattle/M.L.S.)
The United States Men’s National team has played relatively well since their disappointing loss to Jamaica back in September of 2012, and have beaten the likes of Guatemala, Antigua and Barbuda, Jamiaca (at home), and earned a surprising 2-2 draw against Russia in Krasnodar, Russia back in November. The US suffered a slight setback with a 0-0 draw against Canada last week, but did not have their best roster and with the progress that Canada has made in recent years, the result was fair.
With all of the chips on the line come Wednesday; Jurgen Klinsmann will be looking for an inspired performance in a hostile environment. The US is 12-3-3 against Honduras since 1965, but playing in Central America is never easy with the rowdy crowds and scrappy teams.
With a European coaching and playing background, coach Jurgen Klinsmann has chosen 17 players who play outside of the United States. This could be a slight advantage for the team because it will have a great deal of experience playing in front of hostile crowds in often violent environments. Players playing in the MLS have usually not seen the type of environment that Central American National pride can present and as much as it may not seem important, the atmosphere of a match can often throw players off their game.
Let’s take a look at some of the key players for the US for Wednesday’s match:
The best player on the team is of course one of the keys in any match. Clint Dempsey, who was transferred to Tottenham from Fulham this season, has quickly become a fixture for his club that currently sits 4th in the English Premier League table. Dempsey is a cool customer and comes through in the clutch for both club and country. His most recent show came a couple of weeks ago for Tottenham as he scored the tying goal against Manchester United in the closing minutes of a key match for Hotspur. Since heading to Europe, Dempsey hasn’t missed a beat and has scored consistently for the United States National Team. He is third all-time in goals for the US with 30 in 91 appearances and brings skill and toughness to the attacking end of the pitch. With his poise and experience, Dempsey is a key player for the US and could single handedly decide Wednesday’s match.
Howard has been a staple in the US lineup for years and brings strength and leadership to the squad from arguably the most important position on the field. Between the posts, Howard directs the defense, organizes on set pieces, and uses incredible reaction speed to keep the ball out of the net. With 84 caps since 2002, Howard is one of the team’s most experienced players, which is key in important matches like the one on Wednesday. In his time with the team, Howard has proven that he can win matches on his own with his ability to control his area and his innate ability to save penalty kicks. Tim Howard is a huge key for the success of the US and may be THE key on Wednesday.
After being left out of the squad in recent matches, Jozy Altidore has been called back by Jurgen Klinsmann and if he gets any playing time, will need to show the coach some improvements if he wants a spot for the 2014 World Cup. Since Klinsmann was hired, Altidore has been out of favor for the national team. He has been scoring like a mad man for his club AZ Alkmaar, but hasn’t performed for the US. Wednesday could be another chance for Altidore to show his new coach why he deserves a spot and why he was such a big part of the 2010 World Cup team. His size, youth, and aerial ability is rare for a United States squad, but he has failed to show what looked to be huge potential when he was first called up. Klinsmann clearly recognizes this potential and hopes that Jozy can regain his confidence and become a star up top for years to come.
With names like Donovan, Howard, and Dempsey, many players on the US team are often overlooked. Maybe one of the teams best, yet most unheralded players in the past several months is Geoff Cameron. Cameron, who used to play for the Houston Dynamo in MLS, was recently signed by Stoke City of the English Premier League and has become a big part of the US defense. His demeanor, size, and ability allow him to play central midfield and central defense with impressive skill and his leadership and athleticism is a welcome surprise to a team that hasn’t seen such versatility in a while. Cameron makes a difference not only at the back, but has shown great ability to make plays and disrupt on set pieces like corner and free kicks. A tough-minded player, Cameron brings an added edge along with Tim Howard that makes the squad much tougher and stronger to break. Wednesday’s match will see some talented forwards for Honduras, but watch for Cameron to be the enforcer for the US.
Wednesday is sure to be an exciting match and will show fans a lot about the US team. A hostile environment will provide an added obstacle, but with the World Cup to be played in Brazil, the US is going to have to get used to such volatility if they have any aspirations of success come 2014.