Speaking to the MLS website the other day, U.S. attacker Landon Donovan summed up tomorrow night’s friendly against Mexico at the fabled Azteca Stadium (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN3, Univision). Here’s what he said:
“Candidly, I don’t think it’s that important, but for a lot of guys that don’t get a lot of experience, I think that this will be a good experience. But it’s an awkward fixture date, and I would say that most if not all the players don’t like this fixture date. We’d much rather do away with it, but it’s still a good opportunity to get a game like this. … All things being equal, it’s still against Mexico, so we’ll be ready to play.”
Yep, it’s an awkward fixture date, and Klinsmann’s roster, with its contradictory, even puzzling choices, reflects that (see full roster below). We had a hard time limiting ourselves to just five questions:
1. Why invite Terrence Boyd but not Jozy Altidore as well?
Klinsmann said that Altidore (and Michael Bradley) has an “injury issue,” but the burly striker scored two goals in AZ’s season opener against Ajax over the weekend. He also can’t chalk up the omission to wanting Altidore to focus on his second season with AZ; he invited Boyd, who’s trying to get his first season off the ground with Rapid Vienna.
We’re eager to see what Boyd, who had two goals and an assist in his Austrian debut, can do against Mexico at Azteca, but both of them up top would have been a handful for the El Tri backline.
2. What did Brek Shea do to warrant another call-up?
Whatever it was, it certainly didn’t happen on the field, where he has just three goals and one assist in MLS this year. Off the field, he’s been worse, openly arguing with his coach, Schellas Hyndman, and getting a three-game suspension for chucking a ball at an official. He’s mended the fences with Hyndman, but it seems like he should be made to earn another U.S. call-up with his play, especially with other worthy MLS midfielders, like Chris Pontius, waiting in the wings.
3. What will it take to remove Michael Orozco Fiscal from the player pool?
We might find out tomorrow night. This is a guy who’s had several chances under Klinsmann and has not made the most of them, to put it mildly. Yes, he plays in Mexico, but Carlos Bocanegra—whose teammate at in-limbo Rangers, Maurice Edu, got called in—would have been a better choice for the backline. Ditto Tim Ream, who’s about to start his second season in the Premier League.
4. How will the midfield line up?
There are several holding midfielders in the group (Kyle Beckerman, Edu, and Jermaine Jones) and two wingers (Shea and DaMarcus Beasley, who play the same position). But who’s the playmaker? Jose Torres has yet to convince in a U.S. shirt, and Joe Corona is high on potential, low on international experience. The same can be said for Graham Zusi and Danny Williams. He could of course drop Donovan into that spot. But either way, it’s an unbalanced group of midfielders. Klinsmann clearly has no faith in Sacha Kljestan, who’s found success at Anderlecht and who’s 2012-13 season is already under way.
5. Why take Alan Gordon over younger MLS strikers?
Don’t get us wrong: we love Alan Gordon. He’s a true MLS yeoman who deserves every ounce of success he’s achieved. In 2007, when David Beckham joined the LA Galaxy, Gordon was making $30,870. According to Grant Wahl’s The Beckham Experiment, during his first morning in the LA locker room, the English icon was meeting his new teammates, shaking each player’s hand, one-by-one, and getting an “I’m Kyle, I’m Chris,” etc in return. When he got to Gordon, the $30,000-man said, “‘Hey, I’m Alan Gordon.’ But when Beckham tried to move on to the next player, Gordon kept holding his hand. ‘And you are?’ ”
Thankfully, Gordon is making $110,000 this year, but he’s 30 years old and there are several target strikers like him in MLS who might’ve made more sense, including his 25-year-old teammate Steven Lenhart, and Houston’s 22-year-old bruiser Will Bruin.
We’ve got more questions but we’ll stop with this one: Is Klinsmann prepared to handle the aftermath of a blowout?
Because that is a real possibility with this patchwork group, El Tri’s current form, and the 7,200-foot altitude in Mexico City, where Mexico hasn’t lost a competitive game since 2002 and the U.S. is 0-19-1 all time.
Goalkeepers: Tim Howard (Everton), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
Defenders: Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Steven Beithasour (San Jose Earthquakes), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), Michael Orozco Fiscal (San Luis), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim)
Midfielders: DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04), Jose Torres (Pachuca), Brek Shea (FC Dallas), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
Forwards: Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Herculez Gomez (Santos), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Alan Gordon (San Jose Earthquakes)