The U.S. national team takes on Venezuela in Glendale, Ariz., on Saturday night (9:00 ET, Galavision/ESPN3), and with an MLS-heavy roster on hand, coach Jurgen Klinsmann has some interesting player-selection options.
The German legend could give a first cap to no fewer than five players from his January training camp, as CJ Sapong, Graham Zusi, AJ DeLaGarza, Bill Hamid and Jeff Parke all have never appeard for the U.S. before. It’s a green group over all as well: More than half of the 20 players called in have two caps or fewer for the full national team.
While there could be some lineup surprises, circumstances have pretty much forced Klinsmann’s hand when it comes to central defense. The departures of George John (West Ham) and Omar Gonzalez (FC Nuremberg, where he tore his ACL in his very first training session) for European loan stints have left him with only three pure centerbacks: Parke, Geoff Cameron and Michael Parkhurst.
We’re betting he goes with Cameron and Parkhurst over the uncapped Parke.
DeLaGarza filled in at centerback for LA this past season, but he seems more suited to the wing, especially at the international level. Look for him at right back, unless Klinsmann decides to go with Zach Loyd‘s athleticism there. Pearce has also played in the middle, but as a rare left-footed player in camp, he’ll almost certainly get the nod at left back.
Among the midfielders, Kyle Beckerman is reportedly questionable with an injury, so we could see German-American Jermaine Jones starting in the middle. Jones, a Schalke 04 midfielder who is currently serving an eight-game suspension for stomping on an opponent’s leg, is one of just three European-based players in the mix. We’d say one of the others, Ricardo Clark of Eintracht Frankfurt, gets the nod alongside Jones, and a chance to make an impression on Klinsmann.
Brek Shea, who had a breakout 2011 and has looked good in camp, will almost certainly start at left midfield. Filling out the rest of the midfield could be Benny Feilhaber and/or Graham Zusi.
Up top, well, Klinsmann only called in four forwards, and one of them, Juan Agudelo, is nursing an ankle injury. Look for the veteran Chris Wondolowski to be given an opportunity to make up for his missed sitter against Panama in last summer’s Gold Cup.
If Klinsmann goes with four midfielders, Teal Bunbury, who has a handful of caps to CJ Sapong‘s zero, seems likely to start up top alongside Wondo. But we’ll be waiting for Sapong to come on as a sub to see how well his vast potential translates to the international level.
Of all the new, or relatively new, players in camp, we’re most eager to see Sapong and Cameron. We would not be surprised to see their stock rise highest by the time this January session wraps up with a friendly in Panama on the 25th.