USA - World Cup 2014 Team Profile
Nick Spiller reports
Road to Brazil
While the USA qualification experience was a bit more nervy than fans would have hoped for in the CONCACAF region, the United States qualified for the World Cup with relative ease, winning the final 6-team group by a wide margin, despite losing the first game to Honduras. While away games on poor pitches are always a challenge, the USA managed to win each of their 5 home matches.
In their most recent competitive tournament, the USA strode confidently to a title in the 2013 Gold Cup, which was hosted in America. Defeating the likes of El Salvador, Honduras, and Panama was enjoyable to watch, even more so as the USA used a "B" team in order to rest up the main players on the squad. However, this gave several inexperienced players a chance to play with the national team, and a few certainly caught the manager's eye.
But this World Cup will be all about moving forward, and the big story in the lead-up to the tournament has been the omission of Landon Donovan from the squad. While an outside chance of injury could see his return, it appears less and less likely each day, meaning that a group of young and hungry Americans will be called upon to prove their worth in Brazil.
USA Jersey 1
USA Jersey 2
USA v Ghana v 16 June; Natal
USA v Portugal 22 June; Manaus
USA v Germany 26 June; Recife
The United States find themselves in probably the toughest group out of the entire World Cup - Group G.
- The opening match against Ghana will be a highly exciting game. Ghana has eliminated the USA in the past two World Cups, 2010 and 2006, though these teams are quite even in talent. Whoever loses this game is likely doomed considering their remaining matches consist of Germany and Portugal. The winner could hope for a surprise run.
- No Landon Donovan marks a serious change in the heart and soul of the USA soccer team. As the nation's most distinguished soccer player ever, his leadership will surely go missing, but it does open the door for young players like Julian Green, Mikkel Diskerud, and Aaron Johansson to make an impact.
- Two key American stars have moved back to the MLS following decent runs with European teams. Both Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley are sure to be starters, but will they still be playing at a high enough level having not experienced the same competition in American club soccer?
The main thing about American soccer is that with new coach Jurgen Klinsmann taking the managerial reigns, the nation is hoping to make vast strides in international competitions. While the results so far have been satisfactory (especially the Gold Cup victory), critics have suggested that the team doesn't play as well as they need to, especially against top opponents.
It is hard to judge the quality of American soccer when they typically compete against weakened CONCACAF sides, though recent friendly victories over Germany and Italy do bode well for the big matches ahead. Nevertheless, USA fans were devastated by the tough draw the team received in Brazil.Facing a challenging group, Klinsmann's tactics will be immediately put to the test and we will find out very quickly just where America stands on the global soccer realm. Should the side flounder and lose, there will be a lot of questioning over the team's new direction. But if the USA can progress out of this group, there will be a real sense of belief about the nation's future in the sport.
Key player: Clint Dempsey
With Donovan out of the squad the leadership falls upon Dempsey, who will be captaining the side. At 31, he has had a very accomplished professional soccer career, including several fine seasons at Fulham of the English Premier League.
Now back in the MLS with Seattle Sounders, Dempsey has rediscovered his form and scored 8 goals in 9 matches this season. While not a complete superstar, he is America's best player and can produce a magical moment here and there. If he gets hot, and the team supports him well, the USA can go far in Brazil.
One to watch: Jozy Altidore
After a tremendous 2012-2013 season in which he scored 31 goals in the Dutch league with AZ Alkmaar, Altidore transferred to Sunderland of the EPL, where he subsequently fell flat on his face, netting just 1 time all season. The 24-year-old has shown flashes of potential such as his record 5 straight international games scoring a goal last summer.
But he has also been woefully boring when he goes through a dry spell. While his current form is not up to par, soccer fans know how one goal can change everything for a forward. As the single prototypical striker on the USA team, Altidore will get his chance and could be set for a big tournament should he start to find the target.
Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann
As a player, Klinsmann played brilliantly throughout his career, helping earn his German team the 1990 World Cup trophy. He has also performed well as a manager, leading his home country to a 3rd place finish in 2006.
But he certainly has been one to make a big decision, and his choice to ax Landon Donovan has become the talking point of the World Cup. He has done such things in the past, such as relegating German goalkeeping legend Oliver Kahn to the bench in favor of Jens Lehmann at the 2006 World Cup, and was vindicated by a string of good performances.
However, with the USA in a very challenging group facing an uphill battle, the team will be relying on several unproven players. Can he lead them to a good result in Brazil without the icon of American soccer?
Though Klinsmann has generally played a 4-2-3-1 formation in his time with the USA, he may transition to a 4-4-2 at the World Cup in order to give Altidore more support up top.
1934, 1950, 1990, 1998, 2006 First Round; 1994, 2010 Second Round; 2002 Quarterfinals; 1930 Third Place.
2014 World Cup Squad
Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Timmy Chandler (Nuremberg), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders)
Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Jermaine Jones (Besiktas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
Strikers: Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)