With the first World Cup Qualifiers of the year less than a week away, U.S. Soccer finally released the camp roster for a home-and-home series with Guatemala. As far as the depth chart that roster represents? Well, that's anyone's guess right now.
What we know: if healthy, Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, and Michael Bradley will almost definitely start. What we don't know: just about everything else. Klinsmann's call-ups show a healthy mix of the team that underwhelmed in the Gold Cup last summer, standouts from January camp, and even one call-up that not so long ago would have appeared from beyond the grave (why hello again, Edgar Castillo). There are players here who have stretched the length of Klinsmann's tenure and players who recorded their first cap just a couple of months ago. What Klinsmann actually puts out onto the field on March 25th is bit up in the air, as it stands.
There are also a couple head-scratchers here. Perennial MLS snubs Benny Feilhaber and Dax McCarty have welcomed Matt Hedges into their fold, unsurprisingly, but if the U.S. is willing to call Ventura Alvardo in after he hasn't been able to win minutes at Club America, then many thought Klinsmann could take a chance on Jorge Villafana. Also missing is Danny Williams, despite putting together the most impressive season of his career at Reading. Also caught up in the confusion is the inclusion of Fabian Johnson and Darlington Nagbe, two players who both appeared to be pretty seriously injured in the past couple days. Johnson was labeled out "indefinitely" by Borussia Moenchengladbach, and despite Caleb Porter's assertion that Nagbe wouldn't even miss a training session directly after the Timbers draw with Real Salt Lake, that seems a little hard to believe considering Nagbe was on the ground for the final several minutes of the match and then had to be helped into the locker room by two people. There are just some inclusions and exclusions that are a little strange here.
All of that aside, Klinsmann needs to make his roster and formation selections quickly. Some players have games even today, and the team is supposed to meet in Miami before traveling to Guatemala and playing a match in just five days. He'll also want to avoid the opening round qualifying drama that followed the USMNT in the 2014 World Cup cycle. With that said, here's a look at a possible first choice lineup from this roster:
This lineup is the one I think we'll see start against Guatemala. Unless Fabian Johnson pulls off a miraculous recovery from his injury, it seems doubtful that he'll play, and if he does, it'll be a substitute appearance. Whenever Altidore, Dempsey, Bradley, and Beckerman have all been together, Klinsmann has trended towards the 4-4-2 diamond, and I think he'll go back to it here. Brooks is playing the best soccer of his life, and I think Klinsmann's affinity for the young German-American wins out over Omar Gonzalez's return to form or Besler's steady presence. Without Johnson, Castillo is the only dedicated left back on the roster. Alvarado can play the position, but we've usually only seen him in the middle for the Americans. Guzan will probably start despite that awful gaffe on the weekend.
That lineup isn't exactly appetizing, so as a bonus, here's what I'd like to see on the field against Guatemala:
Will we see this starting XI? Absolutely not. But it would be fun.