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Examining United States' 30-Man Roster Snubs

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Photo by Shaun Clark for Football.com
Photo by Shaun Clark for Football.com

On Monday, Jurgen Klinsmann released the United States’ World Cup preliminary roster, consisting of 30 men.

Since this squad isn’t the final group headed to Brazil for the U.S., we will expect to see some cuts. Still, it’s hard to ignore a couple absent players who had a fair chance of making the 30-man roster.

First off, you have Eddie Johnson. The D.C. United forward hasn’t managed great form in MLS play, notching only an assist in eight contests; nevertheless, take into account his experience on the international side with 63 appearances and 19 goals for his home country. Compare that to U.S. leading striker Jozy Altidore (67 caps and 21 goals). In that “experience-based” vein, you would assume that Klinsmann would, at least, give Johnson the opportunity to compete for a World Cup spot, not necessarily giving him substantial odds to make the team. 

With 18-year-old winger Julian Green and 20-year-old DeAndre Yedlin filling the roster, one may suppose that Juan Agudelo could compete for a forward spot, since he has netted goals and an assist in recent FC Utrecht games. But in the long run, his spell in the Eredivisie wasn’t convincing enough to beat out Chris Wondolowski and Terrence Boyd, two forwards on the bubble enjoying great scoring bouts. If his spell in Europe works out for the best, it’s a guarantee that Agudelo will feature in the next World Cup because veterans Dempsey and Donovan (listed as forwards) will be even closer to retirement.

Other notable exclusions include Brek Shea, Tim Ream and Sacha Kljestan. 

Ream actually had an excellent season, guiding Bolton Wanderers to 11 league shutouts. He also won Bolton’s Player of the Year.

Kljestan buried nine goals in 27 matches in the Belgian Pro League. He’s the oldest of the bunch and has seen the most time in international action out of all the “snubbed” midfielders. Unfortunately, he hasn’t performed in six games for Anderlecht. 

Since relocating to Britain, Shea hasn’t scored a goal for Stoke City or League One side Barnsley, where he’s currently on loan. Therefore, his exclusion makes the most sense out of these three guys.

What’s the overall decision process, though, when it comes to all these footballers? Simply put, the United States needs to have forwards who can score, as well as midfielders and defenders who can deal with the pace and skill of Germany and Portugal. Can you say that MLS stalwarts like Kyle Beckerman and Graham Zusi will really help the United States? 

Regardless of debatably incorrect or correct choices, the “Group of Death” will be challenging. Klinsmann knows that. In order to know what someone brings to the table, you have to see him play for his club, especially when the World Cup is so close. Promising youngsters getting the call-up for maturation’s sake is sensible. And even if the person is a veteran lock (Eddie Johnson to some), a concluding read must come from performances on the field, looking most importantly at the short run. 

Klinsmann had to ponderously weigh these variables, striking a balance between the obvious immediate need and future development.