Sure we might be overreacting to a few performances against Jamaica Friday, but why not take the opportunity to try and figure out what Juergen Klinsmann's depth chart looks like as the United States Men's National Team goes into its final World Cup Qualifier on Tuesday night in Panama. The World Cup roster will go 23-deep, which basically means two guys for each spot on the field, plus a third 'keeper.
We'll take it positions 1-11, starting at the back; presumed starters are italicized. I'm assuming Klinsmann runs out the much more successful - at least over the last year - 4-2-3-1 (or 4-4-1-1, as it will probably look more like in Brazil), and assigning guys to specific spots, even if they could, and will, play at multiple places at different times. A lot of these guys are versatile, but I'll try to keep things simple by giving them each one specific position for the purposes of this post. Let's get to it.
#1 - Goalkeeper
1. Tim Howard 2. Brad Guzan 3. Nick Rimando (First alt: Bill Hamid; yes, I am a DC homer)
Not much to say here. Guzan's not going to jump over Howard in the next 8 months, and Rimando has Klinsmann's trust as the #3. The real battle will be if one of these three crashes and burns or gets hurt between now and Brazil. Then we get to see a free for all among a bevy of young MLS GKs, including our boy Bill Hamid (as well as Sean Johnson, Tally Hall and Dan Kennedy). As much as I'd love to see Hamid make the trip to Brazil, hopefully it won't come to that.
#2 - Right Fullback
This one is a bit tougher. If Dolo is healthy and playing, his international experience and work rate make him a solid choice. That said, Brad Evans has been solid, and he undeniably has Klinsmann's confidence. The other options here - Timmy Chandler, Michael Parkhurst, Tony Beltran - just haven't been with the team much recently and seem unlikely to break in at this point.
#3 - Left Fullback
At this point, Klinsy could still move Fabian Johnson back to fullback, which could push one of these two off the roster, but it looks like his preference is for him to be in a more attacking role. With Castillo's great performance as a substitute on Friday night, assisting Jozy Altidore's goal and nearly scoring one of his own, we could see him leapfrog midfielder conversion project DMB. We'll get into this more later, but I think this might be the most likely position to change, with F. Johnson taking this spot and bumping one of these two off the plane to make room for a more attacking option higher up the field.
#4-5 - Center Back
Central defense is pretty straight forward. If these four guys are healthy, it's hard to see anybody else breaking their way into the roster.
#6 - Holding Midfield
12. Jermaine Jones 13. Kyle Beckerman (First alt: The shocking selection of Perry Kitchen; a total homer am I)
Listing Jones here might be more formalistic than is necessary, but it's how I want to write this feature. When Generalissimo Bradley is on the field, Jones needs to be the deeper of the two, and that's why he's listed in the 6-spot. Beckerman is pretty self-explanitory and obviously is in with Klinsmann.
#7 - Right Midfield
Donovan is well and truly back, both in form and in Klinsmann's good graces. Bedoya has been steady and looks likely to make the trip, probably as a reserve.
#8 - Central Midfield
16. Michael Bradley 17.Sacha Kljestan (First alt: Jose Torres if Klinsy's off his meds)
Bradley might be the most critical player on the team. He's a "duh" at this point. Kljestan improved his stock by leaps and bounds on Friday night, coming in as a substitute against Jamaica and playing the box-to-box midfield role as well as any non-Bradley could be expected to. It was his substitution into the game - and, to be completely honest, the tactical changes it allowed - that tilted the game once and for all to the Americans. At this point, I'd like to see Sacha make the cut, but he's still very much on the bubble.
#9 - Forward
18. Jozy Altidore 19. Aron Johansson (First alt: Eddie Johnson)
Jozy just keeps on scoring. Even when he looks lost and frustrated, he finds a way to get himself into a good spot and get the ball into the net. Johansson did not look like the right strike partner for Altidore during a dreary first half on Friday - the two are too similar to effectively partner in Klinsmann's system - but he may have the inside track for the backup spot up top. Eddie Johnson will certainly have something to say about that, and Herculez Gomez always seems to find his form at key times, which the next year certainly will be, so Kevin Bacon Jr.'s plane ticket is still anything but secure.
#10 - Attacking Midfield
20. Clint Dempsey 21. Mix Diskerud (First alt: Cover from elsewhere on the roster)
Deuce is the captain. He's in. Mix changed the game on Friday night, looking mediocre when playing alongside Jermaine Jones in central midfield before coming alive when allowed to move into a more attacking role. Diskerud has impressed a lot over the last year, and against Jamaica, I think we confirmed where he best fits onto the field: as Dempsey's backup. That said, we could see Donovan in that as well, since he plays it regularly for the Galaxy and absolutely owned it during the Gold Cup.
#11 - Left Midfield
22. Fabian Johnson 23. Graham Zusi (First alt: Brek Shea)
Now we reach the Fabian Johnson question. He's going to Brazil, and Klinsmann will play him. But at what position? At the moment, Klinsy seems to prefer him as an attacker, but as we'll see in a second, there's a lot of attacking talent in the player pool that stands to be left at home; meanwhile, the Yanks are criminally thin at fullback. Moving Johnson addresses - to at least some degree - both of those problems. At the moment though, here's where he fits. Graham Zusi did nothing on Friday night but write his name on the roster for next year. In Sharpie.
Here's what this list means: No Eddie Johnson. No Joe Corona. No Herculez Gomez. No Brek Shea. No Maurice Edu (though that shouldn't be surprising at this point). No Stuart Holden, even if he makes a miraculous recovery from his latest incredibly badly timed injury. People have talked all fall about how this could be the best, deepest team in USMNT history, and this snubs list supports that idea.
Of course, we could see Klinsy decide to go with something other than a strict two-deep depth chart across the board. If Cherundolo or Evans can't go come next summer, we could see Klinsmann opt not to bring another right fullback and instead call up EJ for attacking support, knowing that Geoff Cameron can back up that fullback spot as well as center back (and two central midfield spots, for that matter). Then again, if Klinsmann moves Fabain Johnson to fullback, there's no guarantee that he'd drop one of Beasley or Castillo to make room for a Grown-Ass Man or another attacker (though one hopes...). So really, the two-deep assumption makes as much sense to me as any alternative, even with Klinsmann's demonstrated love of versatile, multi-positioned players.
So, let's have it out. Where do you disagree with my take, and which snubs on my list do you think are most likely to find themselves with a boarding pass next summer?