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Predicting the USMNT’s roster for Mexico and Costa Rica

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The time is (almost) now. Who will Klinsmann take to Columbus and Costa Rica in November?

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Predicting a roster is usually a bit of a crapshoot. We don’t really know just what went down in camps, in the locker rooms, and in conversation between Jurgen Klinsmann, the USMNT coaching staff, and the respective players out on the field. We only get to see the on-field product for both club and country. That said, there are definitely patterns that both Klinsmann tends to hold to and that the U.S. has held to as of late that makes this job a little bit easier. The main takeaway from these roster predictions? Don’t expect too many surprises. If I have to use one word for the majority of this roster, it would probably be “conservative.”

I limited myself to 23 players, and it shook out to 3 keepers, 8 defenders, 7 midfielders, and 5 forwards.

Goalkeepers

Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Ethan Horvath

This is the least climactic group of the bunch. Klinsmann has publicly said these are his top three keepers. They were the top three keepers at the Copa America, and they’ve continued to be called up since then. With David Bingham and William Yarbrough putting out shaky performances against New Zealand and Ethan Horvath keeping the clean sheet against Cuba, I don’t expect that to change. If you’re looking for a starter in Columbus, smart money is on Tim Howard at the moment. Guzan isn’t playing for his club and Howard has the experience (not to mention the fact that he’s been quite good for the Rapids).

Defenders

John Anthony Brooks, Geoff Cameron, DeAndre Yedlin, Fabian Johnson, Omar Gonzalez, Timmy Chandler, Matt Besler, Steve Birnbaum

I’m going out on a limb and saying that this will be the moment when Michael Orozco gets left out, provided everyone on this list is healthy. Mild concerns over Yedlin and Cameron’s respective statuses might call Orozco back into the situation. I still expect Yedlin and Cameron to be called in to at least be evaluated, and we’ll all go from there.

(Note: Cameron appears to be out with injury now)

Brooks and Johnson are self-explanatory, and it appears Omar Gonzalez has gained a better foothold in the U.S. setup over the past few months. Timmy Chandler is the only natural cover for the outside backs, but Klinsmann has used Cameron, Besler, and Birnbaum all on the outside before as well, and their utility will most likely lead Klinsmann to bring them all along.

Midfielders

Michael Bradley, Sacha Kljestan, Christian Pulisic, Alejandro Bedoya, Jermaine Jones, Graham Zusi, Kyle Beckerman

The midfielders get a bit tricky after the first four. Klinsmann may very well choose not to bring one of the centerbacks in the last list (my guess would be leaving out either Gonzalez or Birnbaum, or simply not replacing Cameron with anyone should he not be able to play) and instead bring an extra midfielder. The locks are Michael Bradley, Sacha Kljestan, Christian Pulisic, and Alejandro Bedoya. Bradley is Klinsmann’s captain and nothing’s changing that. Kljestan and Pulisic have both shown that they provide a vital presence in the attack. Bedoya has been first choice whenever he’s been available for Klinsmann.

After that, things get muddy. I genuinely believe that Jermaine Jones will get called in, especially if he’s able to go for more than a half in Colorado this weekend. The last couple spots come down to matters of preference. I chose Graham Zusi because I expect Klinsmann to defer to his veterans for big-time games until his vets truly bite the dust in embarrassing fashion. I would take Paul Arriola over him, but my opinion does not count for much, and Lynden Gooch just hasn’t seen enough U.S. minutes to think Klinsmann will take him over one of his favorites. Perry Kitchen is out because he’s not really a two-way midfielder at this point. He’s more a pure defensive specialist these days and is more used to playing in 3- or 5- man midfields than the diamond/double pivot 4-4-2 the U.S. has used so much lately. Danny Williams misses out because he’s basically Jermaine Jones #2, and with real Jermaine seemingly healthy, I think he’s surplus to requirements. Beckerman? Yep. Kyle Beckerman is still Klinsmann’s safety blanket in the midfield, and I think he’ll still be getting a call-up despite mixed reviews down the stretch for Real Salt Lake. Do I like the look of that midfield roster? Not really, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it happen.

Forwards

Jozy Altidore, Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, Julian Green, Chris Wondolowski

Here’s where I commit my final betrayal on you, the reader. Yes, I think Klinsmann will call in Chris Wondolowski. Why? Realistically, I know it’s because he values Wondo’s experience and fox-in-the-box playing style. Also realistically, I know that Wondo has never been able to demonstrate an effective ability to play this way at the international level against anyone but the weakest of sides (Belize, Cuba on multiple occasions, South Korea, Guatemala, and a lone, shining moment against Mexico’s B-team). Klinsmann does not view that as a negative, or else Wondolowski wouldn’t not have been called in last month. He was, and he scored his third career goal against Cuba. Nearly 1/3rd of his international goals have come against Cuba.

The rest of this list writes itself. Jozy is a lock starter. Bobby Wood has proven himself in the U.S. shirt time and time again. Jordan Morris and Julian Green are both riding waves of good form and have also played on the wing internationally, where they will most likely be seeing their game time in these two games should they find themselves any.

Who do you think will be called in? Who do you want to be called in? Let us know in the comments!