June 16, 2014 is the day United States soccer fans have been eagerly and cautiously looking at since December, when FIFA announced the draw. There are still many questions left up to Jurgen Klinsmann and his staff to decide. What will the starting back four look like? Who will play left wing?
Although there are uncertainties in the squad, the US still have many stabilizing forces in the team. Veteran goalkeeper Tim Howard is the man between the pipes for the second consecutive World Cup and will be key if the United States want to get out of Group G. Facing the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Germany’s high octane squad will be asking a lot of the 35 year old Howard. In addition to Howard, there are 3 players that I see making or breaking the US once play begins in Brazil:
At 31 years old, Texas native Clint Dempsey has settled into his captaincy of the United States squad. With long time captain and national team star Landon Donovan out of the US soccer scene, barring any injuries leading up to the beginning of the World Cup, Dempsey is the leader of the team now. He has 38 goals in his 105 caps with the national team and in addition to his goal scoring abilities he can create for his teammates as well.
Coach Klinsmann has been looking for Clint to become more of a facilitator for his teammates, particularly slumping forward Jozy Altidore. Ultimately, Dempsey is going to need to put balls in the back of the net for the US to have success if Altidore’s drought continues. There aren’t many other pure goalscoring threats in the roster, which means much of the United States’ offense will need to come by way of number 8. After watching the match against Turkey and Dempsey scoring yet another goal, it is apparent just how valuable he really is.
It is very easy to argue that Michael Bradley is the best player on this year’s squad traveling to Brazil. He has everything one would look for in an attacking midfielder role. He’s played at the highest levels of European football and succeeded. When Bradley’s father, Bob, was fired after the 2010 World Cup, many questions were raised as to how good Michael truly is. Was he in the starting eleven simply because of his dad? Did he even deserve to make the roster? The answer is an emphatic YES!
The New Jersey native has done everything right in getting to this stage of his career where he is just beginning to hit his prime. His playmaking ability is unquestioned, just as his leadership qualities as well. And if the team is looking for a goal he can do that a well. Just look back at the Slovenia game in 2010. Maybe he’s more aerodynamic because of the baldness or he’s just simply an excellent player, but whatever the case may be Bradley will definitely stabilize this US midfield.
At this point, only half of the defense has been sorted out for Jurgen Klinsmann’s men. Matt Besler will be one of the starting center backs when they kick off against Ghana in two weeks. His partner could be Geoff Cameron, Omar Gonzalez, or possibly even John Brooks. We’ll most likely see Fabian Johnson on the right side of the defense after cementing his spot with a spectacular goal against Turkey and an overall solid performance going both ways.
Besler may be young in terms of national team experience, but he has proven to be a strong force in the back. Helping Sporting Kansas City secure an MLS Cup last season, Besler played virtually every minute. This is the World Cup though, you may be saying. That is true but it’s easy to see him growing every game. There’s no question he’s an excellent on-ball defender. His decision making has been challenged on several occasions though; specifically distributing the ball quickly out of the back. Besler will need to keep a clean 18 yard box and surrounding area for Tim Howard if the US look to advance.