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World Cup 2014: The USA has no backup for Jozy Altidore

Jurgen Klinsmann has named his 23-man final World Cup roster, and there is only one true target forward on the list after Eddie Johnson and Terrence Boyd have been left out.


Regular readers of this space know that I'm a hopeless optimist when it comes to D.C. United and the United States national teams. I eagerly admit to a disposition that is inclined to see the sunny side of things, even when the most apt description is "really fucking cloudy." So please understand where I'm coming from when I say that the USMNT is screwed at this summer's World Cup.

Jurgen Klinsmann today named his final 23-man roster for next month's tournament, and the most glaring omission isn't Landon Donovan (though his absence is tough to look past... okay, of course it's Donovan, but bear with me). It's the lack of anybody not named Jozy Altidore who has the ability to win a header in the attacking third. There's nobody besides the Sunderland striker who can provide an ounce of holdup play or even pretend to know how to turn his back to goal and bring teammates into the play.

When Eddie Johnson was a surprise omission from the 30-man provisional roster announced just ten days ago, most of us assumed that Terrence Boyd, who has been obliterating Austrian defenses this year, was a lock for the final roster. Besides Altidore, only Jonson and Boyd provide the kind of strength and athleticism, combined with technical skill, that can prove a challenge to the kinds of defenders that Ghana, Portugal and Germany will be putting on the field in Brazil. Or that can win a battle with hulking center backs at the midfield stripe and provide an outlet when our defense inevitably faces a period of prolonged pressure and needs to hoof the ball to create just a bit of breathing space.

But Boyd hasn't made the cut, either. Barring injury to somebody on the 23-man roster between now and June 2, the Rapid Vienna man will not be making the trip. And without EJ or Boyd, it's Jozy or nothing up top for the Yanks.

We all know the magic that Clint Dempsey can provide; Chris Wondolowski is one of the best pure goalscorers in MLS history; and Aron Johannsson adds a technical element that no other American forward can match. But when Altidore has to come off injured or tired, or when we just want another aerial presence in the 18-yard box to compliment Jozy, our options are... Graham Zusi? Promoting a center back? Pray. Our best and only option is to pray.

Whatever the official motto of the USMNT this summer, the effective mantra is "In Jurgen We Trust." And so it must be, but after the last week-and-a-half, I'm experiencing some serious reservations and downward adjustment of expectations. I hope I'm wrong.