Klinsmann Calls Chandler, Gatt, and Gyau for Russia Friendly, U.S. Future Suddenly Looks Half Decent

In naming his 20-man roster for Wednesday’s friendly against Russia (ESPN2, 10:00 a.m.), U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann has, finally, opened up the ‘potential future stars’ wing of his national team program.

His side has qualified for the CONCACAF Hexagonal, and now, with many of his roster mainstays heading toward their mid-30s, Klinsmann is looking at younger players who can possibly take their places come Brazil 2014. He’s got some interesting options.

Here’s the complete group:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Tim Howard (Everton), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

DEFENDERS (6): Carlos Bocanegra (Racing Santander), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Timmy Chandler (Nuremberg), Maurice Edu (Stoke City), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Michael Bradley (Roma), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Joshua Gatt (Molde), Joe Gyau (Hoffenheim), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim)

FORWARDS (4): Juan Agudelo (Chivas USA), Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Herculez Gomez (Santos Laguna)

Five thoughts on the roster:

• He may have snubbed the U.S. for the last few friendlies, but defender Timmy Chandler now says he’s ready to commit to the team, and that’s good news for American fans.

Steve Cherundolo is a fantastic right back, but he’ll be 34 in February, and none of his understudies is as qualified as Chandler, 22. With Chandler on the right, Fabian Johnson on the left and Geoff Cameron in the middle, the U.S. has three-fourths of a very solid backline.

Notice Maurice Edu is listed as a defender on this roster. We’d take him over Goodson for that fourth spot.

In every World Cup cycle since 2002, the U.S. has had players emerge from relative obscurity (or simply the youth ranks) to become bona fide contributors to the USMNT. Speedy wingers Josh Gatt (above) and Joe Gyau could be those guys this time around.

Gatt, 21, is fresh from winning the Norwegian title with Molde (where he is coached by former Man U legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer). He’s extremely athletic and fast, with a growing soccer brain that will get tested in Europa League play this season.

Gyau, 20, is a quick and technical winger with an impressive genealogy: his father, Philip, earned six caps for the U.S. national team, and his grandfather, Joseph, played for Ghana. The youngest Gyau is currently on loan from Hoffenheim to German second-division side St. Pauli.

Here’s hoping Klinsmann gives them both a shot to show what they can do on Wednesday.

Klinsmann’s motivational gambit with Jozy Altidore should bear fruit against Russia. Altidore, fresh from doing this in the Dutch top flight on Sunday…:

…comes into the U.S. camp with something to prove and probably a chip on his shoulder after Klinsmann left him out of last month’s crucial CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers. Altidore has nine goals in 12 games this season; time for him to start transferring that form to the national team.

Midfielder Sacha Kljestan seems poised to move up the depth chart. He had a game-winning assist for Anderlecht against Zenit St. Petersburg in the Champions League last week, and he looked confident and skilled in his U.S. cameos last month. Look for him to start at attacking midfielder on Wednesday.

It’s good to see Juan Agudelo back in a USMNT camp. After being traded from New York to Chivas USA, the 19-year-old striker ran into some injury woes, but he recovered and finished the season well for the otherwise pitiful Goats. This call-up should help him keep his head up despite being marooned at the club level in the dead-end side of the Home Depot Center.

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Four Quick Hits on Klinsmann’s May Roster

U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann has called in 27 players for a training camp in Orlando, Florida, ahead of the team’s three friendlies and two World Cup qualifiers in the next three weeks.

While there was arguably only one surprise selection—that of Kansas City midfielder Graham Zusi—there were a few surprising omissions and one player who unexpectedly declined Klinsmann’s invite. (See entire roster at bottom.)

Here are four thoughts on the roster:

It’s time to jettison Timmy Chandler. The 22-year-old Nuremberg defender said “Thanks, but no thanks” to Klinsmann’s offer, turning down the U.S. for the second time in two years. He did have a busy season, but clearly, he’s still holding out hope for a call-up from Germany. (Appearing in a WC qualifier would have tied him to the U.S. forever.) But just like Germany has other options at outside back, so does the U.S. The rock-solid veteran Steve Cherundolo is not done yet, and two guys who are on this roster, Danny Williams and Fabian Johnson, can fill the role as capably as Chandler—or better, in the case of Johnson. Also: Edgar Castillo had a tremendous season at Club Tijuana this year, and Eric Lichaj, who was (somewhat surprisingly) not called in for this camp, came on strong for Aston Villa at the end of the season. Other possibilities include Birmingham City’s Jonathan Spector, and up-and-coming Molde defender/winger Josh Gatt. Chandler showed fairly well in his friendly appearances for the U.S., but it’s time to move on.

They need to play with two forwards—and those forwards’ names should be Dempsey and Altidore. Ever since Klinsmann took over, there’s been much talk about instituting a 4-3-3, with many observers claiming to have spotted that formation in action for the U.S. We are not in that group. We’ve only ever seen a 4-5-1 (or a 4-2-3-1) or a 4-4-2 in the Klinsmann era. Frankly, the team has looked best in a 4-4-2, which is essentially their native formation. It’s more sound defensively, as it allows for two defensive-minded midfielders, it creates more possession, and perhaps most important, it doesn’t leave a lone forward stranded up top, struggling to hold possession and combine with teammates. Dempsey (23 goals for Fulham) and Altidore (19 for AZ Alkmaar) are both coming off career years. It’s time to see what they can do up top together.

Which uninvited player was dealt the biggest snub? The quick answer here is Sacha Kljestan, the midfielder fresh from a championship season at Anderlecht. But Kljestan is competing against a deep and talented midfield and he doesn’t bring anything new to the table, while lacking some of the attributes of his competition (speed, for starters). So we say it’s a tie between Brek Shea and Eric Lichaj. Shea was a part of every single previous Klinsmann setup, and Lichaj plays a position (outside back) that needs to be re-stocked for the future. (There’s depth there, as we said, and it’s time to start tapping it.)

Goal poachers Gomez and Wondolowski need to make the most of deserved call-ups. Gomez has been lighting it up in Mexico the past two seasons, and won a championship with Santos Laguna this year. Wondolowski leads MLS in scoring with 11 goals in 12 games. They’ve been properly rewarded by Klinsmann, but can they do it at the international level? Gomez had some success in the U.S. shirt in the run-up to South Africa 2010, but Wondo has yet to score in seven appearances for the Yanks. It’s Gomez’s first chance under Klinsmann, but it could be the last for both.

The team will be whittled to 23 players on Friday, May 25, and that group will take on Scotland in Jacksonville, Florida, on Saturday May 26 (8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN), before traveling to Landover, MD, to meet Brazil on Wednesday May 30 (8:00, ESPN2).

On June 3, they’ll meet Canada at Toronto’s BMO Field (7:00, NBCSN), and then they’ll open the 2014 World Cup qualifying tournament with a match against Antigua & Barbuda on June 8 in Tampa (7:00, ESPN). Following that one comes the first true test of the Klinsmann era, a World Cup qualifier in the unwelcoming climes of Guatemala City (10:00 p.m., only on pay-per-view).

GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

DEFENDERS (8): Carlos Bocanegra (Rangers), Geoff Cameron (Houston Dynamo), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Alfredo Morales (Hertha Berlin), Oguchi Onyewu (Sporting Lisbon), Michael Parkhurst (Nordsjaelland)

MIDFIELDERS (9): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Chievo Verona), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04), Jose Torres (Pachuca), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

FORWARDS (7): Juan Agudelo (Chivas USA), Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar), Terrence Boyd (Borussia Dortmund), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Herculez Gomez (Santos), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

USMNT: Quick Hits on Honduras Win

It took four games, but Jurgen Klinsmann finally locked up his first win as coach of the U.S. national team as the Yanks edged Honduras 1-0 in Miami this past Saturday.

Clint Dempsey scored a beautiful goal just before halftime and Tim Howard made several excellent saves to preserve the lead in rainy, windy conditions at Sun Life Stadium.

The Americans could have—should have—added to their margin at least twice as Brek Shea and Oguchi Onyewu each missed sitters in the second half.

Three quick hits on the game:

1. Comeback Kids—Well, maybe they’re not kids—they’re both 29—but centerback Oguchi Onyewu and winger DaMarcus Beasley both returned to the team after long absences, and both performed well.

Onyewu, who is getting regular playing time for Sporting Clube de Portugal (don’t call it Sporting Lisbon), looked confident and steady—a lot like the quality player he was before a ruptured patellar tendon derailed his career in Oct 2009. Even if he missed a wide-open net on the rebound of Dempsey’s shot in the 66th minute.

Beasley was active and dangerous in his 25-minute cameo on the left wing. He combined well with Dempsey a few times, and looked very capable of staying in the USMNT picture. He has two goals for Puebla this season.

2. The Sons of Thomas Dooley—Klinsmann played against Dooley, the first German-American player to make a splash with the U.S. team, and he is continuing the tradition that brought the former Schalke 04 defender to these shores, tapping Hoffenheim’s Danny Williams for this camp, and giving another nod to Nuremberg’s Timmy Chandler. Both looked like worthy additions to the pool.

Williams lined up in right midfield and nearly scored 30 minutes into his debut, curling a shot just over the top left corner from 18 yards out. He also had a diving header blocked in the 45th minute.

Chandler may end up being the starting left back for the U.S. when World Cup qualifying begins next year. He’s a little raw, but extremely athletic, and he combined well with rising star Shea on the left.

Speaking of…

3. Brek Shea: A Bro Who Keeps Things Extremely Chill

The 21-year old winger who just doesn’t like “normal haircuts” recently did a live chat with MLS fans on Facebook, and, as the MLS Insider noted, got the following question: “Brek you seem like a bro who keeps things extremely chill. What’s your secret?”

We have no idea, but whatever it is, it’s working. After a shaky debut against Colombia in Oct 2010, Shea has been consistently effective for the U.S. in five subsequent appearances. He should have scored his first USMNT goal (he has one assist) when Jozy Altidore put it on a platter for him in the 53rd minute, but apart from that flub, he had another excellent game.

So what is his secret? Maybe it’s the painting—did you know Shea’s an artist in his spare time? Check it out here (really).

Another fun fact about Shea: he’s the first player born in the 1990s to make an appearance for the full national team.

Honduras highlights:

Klinsmann’s boys return to action tonight at Red Bull Arena, where they’ll take on Ecuador (7:00 pm ET, ESPN2).

Yanks Abroad Weekend Roundup

The weekend was good to Amerkins plying their trade abroad as two Yanks went the full 90 in the Old Firm derby, Michael Bradley made his Serie A debut with Chievo, and several others got on the scoresheet. Let’s hop to it.

Edson Buddle bagged a brace for his Bundesliga 2 side Ingolstadt, helping them to a 4-2 win over Dynamo Dresden, and getting called a “Klinsmann boy” by the German announcer. Buddle hopes so. See his goals here:

Herculez Gomez is probably wondering if he, too, might be called a “Klinsmann boy” soon, after he continued his goal-scoring ways in Mexico, slotting home the second one in Estudiantes Tecos’s 2-0 win over Club Tijuana (and potential U.S. international Joe Corona) on Sunday:

While Buddle and Gomez hit the net, and Clint Dempsey set up a goal for Fulham against Manchester City, U.S. winger DaMarcus Beasley had a huge impact in Puebla’s 4-1 win over Chivas de Guadalajara without actually getting his name on the scoresheet.

The 29-year-old speedster from Fort Wayne, Ind., torched the Chivas backline twice, drawing two red cards and one penalty for his team (scroll to 2:27 mark for Beasley’s first great run):

In Scotland, Carlos Bocanegra and Maurice Edu both started and played 90 minutes in Rangers’ 4-2 win over archrivals Celtic, and in Italy, Bradley became just the second American in the modern era (after Alexi Lalas) to appear in a Serie A match when he came on for the last 18 minutes of Chievo’s 2-1 loss to Parma on Sunday.

Finally, from Sports Illustrated’s website comes the following quote out of Germany regarding potential U.S. international Timmy Chandler:

“I can tell you that [Germany coach Joachim] Loew neither phoned nor met with Timmy,” says the player’s agent, Thomas Kroth. “Nothing has changed, nothing at all. He’s still very happy to play for the U.S.”

For the latest MLS action, go check out our column at the league site.

Quote of the Day

Nurnberg defender-midfielder Timothy Chandler, speaking to Yanks Abroad about speculation that his absence at the Gold Cup meant that he still had a desire to play for Germany:

“No. That is absolutely not the reason why I missed the Gold Cup. It is my goal and dream to represent the United States at the 2014 World Cup. What I said in March is true. I will absolutely not play for Germany. There is no way that will happen.”

This is obviously music to the ears of U.S. fans, who had to be impressed by Chandler’s showing for the Yanks in two friendlies back in March. The 21-year-old cited fatigue and a lack of full fitness as reasons for skipping the CONCACAF tournament, a move he also said was made at the behest of his club team.

He told YA that he hopes to be called in for the Americans’ next international, a friendly against Belgium on Sept 6. “If I am invited, I would love to play for the United States again,” he said. “I have a very good opinion of Bob Bradley as a coach. He brought me in back in March and I like playing under him along with the players on the U.S. team.”

Again, this is great news for U.S. fans—even if Bradley’s status as coach appeared uncertain following the U.S. loss to Mexico in the Gold Cup final. Federation president Sunil Gulati told The New York Times last Tuesday that he’d “have something to say later this week” regarding the coach’s future, but he has yet to make a statement.

Bradley Explains Choices, Omissions for Gold Cup Roster

In statements released by U.S. Soccer yesterday, coach Bob Bradley said that “winning the Gold Cup this year is a top priority” and that that objective was his main focus as he selected the team for the tournament, which runs from June 5 to June 25 in venues across the United States.

Bradley went on to address specific selections and omissions.

First up, Timothy Chandler, the Nurnberg defender/midfielder who looked so promising in U.S. friendlies against Argentina and Paraguay in March.

On his omission:

“We’ve had a number of different discussions with Timmy and with the club [Nurnberg] and when we added them all up at the end of the season, his first real season playing at this level, we felt that it didn’t make sense at this time for him. He’s carried a few little injuries of late. He has told us that physically and mentally this season has been a hard one.”

On whether Chandler, who was born in Germany to a U.S. serviceman father, is keeping his international options open:

“The simple matter is that in the way things work in soccer these days, until a player plays in an official match, you don’t know for sure. In all of our conversations with Timmy he’s always expressed how excited he is to have played for the U.S. and we feel that there’s been a very good level of discussion and follow-up with him and it’s all been with the idea that he’s going to continue to play a role for us.”

On selecting San Jose Earthquakes attacker Chris Wondolowski over Sporting Kansas City Striker Teal Bunbury:

“Teal is a young striker that we certainly see a lot of potential in. I think we’ve had a good opportunity to work with him in some camps. I spoke with him and just felt that this time…. I didn’t think it was the right time for him. I don’t think he’s been as sharp as we would like so far in the season. I think that’s a sign of him continuing to mature and grow. Quite honestly, another part of it is the fact that as we watched different games we felt strongly that Chris Wondolowski was in good form. He has scored some good goals, some very different goals and Chris seems to be a player that gets a couple of chances every game. There are always a lot of variables when putting a whole roster together but those are some of them that played into the situation with Teal.”

On Herculez Gomez, who got hot at the end of the Mexican season but was not selected:

Herculez did finish the season on a good note, scoring, I think, four goals in his last five or six games. We took note of that. Herculez, whenever you bring him in, works hard. He’s a mobile guy but in this particular case, different things added up in a way and we made the decisions that we did. It is important to make it clear that it never came down to Jozy [Altidore] versus Herculez.”

On Alejandro Bedoya, who recently scored his fourth goal of the young Swedish season and was not called in:

“He’s a player we’ve seen some good things from when he’s come on into games. He has energy and willingness to be involved in the game in a good way, but nonetheless we looked at some of the other players and now in some cases you have to make some tough decisions where certain guys are almost in the same category. In this particular case, some decisions went in the favor of some other players.”

On Brad Guzan, the presumed No. 2 goalkeeper who was not called in:

“Brad made a personal decision and his schedule didn’t allow him to be available for this Gold Cup.”

On Freddy Adu:

“We have followed Freddy since he transferred to Rizespor. We’ve watched him a number of different times on the computer. We’ve not managed to get there. We watched one of his playoff games this morning, but we still feel that there are good signs from him as a player that have shown us soccer qualities that we think help our team. It hasn’t always added up enough yet with the full national team but this seems like it’s a good opportunity to get him back in with us where we have a good month together and can challenge him. We hope that he has continued to grow and mature and can play a bigger role with the national team.”

On Robbie Rogers:

“Robbie is a player that everyone knows has ability to run at people, get behind people, and he’s capable of playing on both flanks. Thus far in MLS this year he started the season having missed the January camp because he had knee surgery following last year. I think his mobility and his energy in the team have been good. We felt it was a good time to get him back with us and build on some of the things that we’ve seen over the years. We all know that Robbie has a lot of talent and in different moments with the national team it has come out in a very good way and now we think this is a good time to see if we can push it a little further.”

As for Charlie Davies, Bradley said that while the goal-scoring component of Davies’ game is healthy, he believes Davies still needs to improve in other areas.

The U.S. opens the Gold Cup against Canada on June 7 at Ford Field in Detroit.

The March Friendlies: Player Ratings

While Backpost was away on vacation, the U.S. played two international friendlies, pulling out a flattering 1-1 draw with Argentina on Saturday night, then following that up with a more balanced performance but a 1-0 loss to Paraguay on Tuesday.

These were the last two games for the U.S. before the Gold Cup kicks off in June. The winner of the Gold Cup gets a berth in the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil, a dress rehearsal for the 2014 World Cup.

Here are the highlights from the Paraguay match, followed by the Backpost U.S. player ratings for both games:

Tim Howard, 9—A handful of stops—including a spectacular kick save on Leo Messi—kept the scorline respectable against Argentina. The former MetroStar is just a fantastic goalkeeper.

Marcus Hahnemann, 6—Nothing he could do on Paraguay’s goal, and was solid otherwise, including on a double save late in the first half.

David Yelldell, 5—Not a very hectic 45 minutes of action against Paraguay; claimed a few crosses. Was beaten—as any keeper would have been—by Marcelo Estigarribia’s cannon shot from 30 yards, which banged off the post.

Jonathan Spector, 4—Maybe the recent lack of playing time, and the shift to midfield, at West Ham have hurt him. Looked uncomfortable and was overwhelmed a couple of times before being taken off for Timothy Chandler at halftime vs Argentina. Came on for ten minutes at the end of the Paraguay game.

Timothy Chandler, 7—Along with Juan Agudelo, sparked the U.S. to life in the second half against Argentina, and showed attacking ability in both matches. Was also caught out of position a few times in both games.

Jay DeMerit, 5—His hard work and athleticism boosted the U.S.’s emergency defending in the first half against Argentina, but had a couple of scary giveaways in the back. Came off at halftime of Paraguay game with groin strain.

Tim Ream, 7.5—Excellent positioning and pinpoint passing out of the back. Also showed speed—which some critics say he lacks—chasing down a Paraguayan attacker in the corner. Lost his footing on the corner kick that led to the goal.

Carlos Bocanegra, 5—Rebounded from a very shaky first half against Argentina to help set up U.S. goal with header. Came in for DeMerit vs Paraguay and did no harm.

Jonathan Bornstein, 5—Completely mis-hit a cross against Paraguay after being sent in to the box by Landon Donovan. Beaten in the air early, then shored up his defensive game later.

Eric Lichaj, 6—Brings a lot of energy and some surprising confidence to the U.S. backline. Positioned well defensively and picked his spots to get forward in a second-half appearance vs Paraguay. His long throw nearly created the equalizer when it fell for Donovan at the back post.

Oguchi Onyewu, 3.5—Hard to believe he’s playing outside back for FC Twente. At centerback for the Yanks, seemed too lumbering and clumsy on the ball to deal with speedy wing play. Made a few bad giveaways. Gooch hasn’t been himself since injuring his patella tendon back in Oct 2009. DNP vs Paraguay.

Maurice Edu, 5—Was perhaps the most hampered by the U.S.’s 4-5-1 first-half formation vs Argentina, and the overcrowded central midfield it produced. Did much better when the Yanks went to a 4-4-2, and had a solid showing on both sides of the ball against Paraguay.

Michael Bradley, 5.5—Did some frantic defending against Argentina but was also overwhelmed and out of sync with his central midfield partners, until the U.S. changed it up. Did much better vs Paraguay and nearly hit a late equalizer on a 25-yard crack that produced a highlight-reel save from Paraguay keeper Ricardo Villar.

Jermaine Jones, 5.5—Played a half in each game; looked utterly lost vs Argentina (some day coach Bob Bradley will shelve the idea of playing Edu, M. Bradley, and Jones—nearly identical players—together in the center of the field. We just know it), but pretty sharp vs Paraguay. Nearly tied it at the end with point-blank tracer that Villar stymied.

Landon Donovan, 5—Others disagree, but we thought LD donned his invisibility cloak for much of these two games. Nearly (and should have) scored late against Paraguay but missed the target, and was just not enough The Man for the U.S. in both games.

Clint Dempsey, 7—Savviest U.S. player on the field vs Paraguay. Clever, subtle first touches got him out of midfield traffic, tested Paraguay’s Villar with a long looping shot, and headed Chandler’s cross just over the bar. Not as effective against Argentina but still a calming veteran presence.

Jozy Altidore, 5—Completely stranded up top in the first half against Argentina, and subsequently tried to do too much (like going 1 v 4 on the Albiceleste backline). Did better when Agudelo came on in the second half, but his game dropped vs Paraguay with poor touches and no coordination with teammates in attack.

Juan Agudelo, 8—He has scored two goals and drawn a penalty in four games for the U.S. (also appeared to have drawn one against Paraguay but it was not called). His exciting start papers over some of his errors, like not getting the ball off his feet quickly enough, but he shows a ton of confidence and some welcome ideas in the attacking third. Future’s so bright, he … should open a Sunglasses Hut franchise.

Sacha Kljestan, NR—Thirteen-minute cameo vs Paraguay; we thought young Mix Diskerud would get out there, but it was Sacha and his ’stache, which are settling in fairly well at Anderlecht.