An educated guess at Team USA final World Cup roster
With 30 invitees and only 23 roster spots, paring down of the U.S. World Cup roster could be intriguing.
THIS IS NOT the final passenger list. It's more like the 30 guys who got called to the gate to see whether their names will be selected off the standby list.
Some guys have no doubts they will be in first class, others are pretty sure they are booked for coach, and about five to seven will be sweating bullets for a little bit longer, while USA national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann determines who will make the final 23-man World Cup roster that must be submitted to FIFA by June 2.
For now, however, being among the 30 players invited to the pre-World Cup Camp that begins tomorrow at Stanford University means you still have a shot at making the roster for the trip to Brazil and the 2014 World Cup.
That will make for an interesting stay in Palo Alto, Calif., as there is time for players to perform their way onto and off the USA final roster.
From the preliminary roster, we already know that only nine players (Jozy Altidore, DaMarcus Beasley, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Maurice Edu, Clarence Goodson, Brad Guzan and Tim Howard) who went to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa have a chance to go to Brazil.
Some recognizable names whose World Cup dreams are already ended include forwards Juan Agudelo, Herculez Gomez and Eddie Johnson; midfielders Sacha Kljestan and Brek Shea, and defenders Michael Orozco and Tim Ream.
The fun part right now is to try and predict whom the mercurial Klinsmann will include on his traveling party for the United States' first match against Ghana on June 16.
If Klinsmann sticks to his word and waits until the last minute, the players will have the camp and two scheduled friendlies (vs. Azerbaijan on May 2 and Turkey on June 1) to make their cases.
Barring injury, the three goalkeepers selected - Tim Howard (Everton of the English Premier League), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa, EPL) and Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake) - are going to Brazil. You can't risk having only two keepers.
The midfield is where the United States' strength and depth lie, so it is simultaneously the most secure and most competitive spot.
Dempsey (Seattle) is the headliner of USA soccer right now. He is the second-leading scorer in MLS, with eight goals; his ability to play as an attacking midfielder or even a forward gives Klinsmann veteran leadership and versatility.
At times, Bradley (Toronto FC) can be the best player on the pitch for the USA. There is no question the USA as a unit flows best when Bradley plays.
Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City), Jermaine Jones (Besitkas, Turkey) and Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake) will also be in Brazil.
The final two midfield spots will be decided among the Union's Maurice Edu, Joe Corona (Club Tiajuana), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes, France), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg, Norway) and youthful sensation Julian Green (Bayern Munich, Germany).
Edu's physical stature and style work to his advantage, as improving toughness has been a point of emphasis from Klinsmann.
Despite having only one cap, the 18-year-old Green, who committed to the United States over Germany, is too important to the future not to go to Brazil.
If nothing else, a 2-month stint during the most critical event for the national team will be valuable experience for moving forward.
Diskerud will grab the final spot in the midfield.
Altidore (Sunderland, England) would seem like a lock for Brazil, but after again struggling in the English Premier League (one goal in 30 appearances), he'll need to remind Klinsmann why he is considered a scoring threat.
The wait for Altidore (24) has been long enough. His time to produce for the United States is now. If Altidore cannot regain top form, Aron Johannsson, who scored 26 goals in 51 competitions for AZ Alkmarr, of the Eredivisie (Netherlands), may well end up starting in Brazil.
At 32, Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy) is starting to show his age, but, now listed as a forward, he'll answer the challenge from Klinsmann to make his fourth World Cup.
Donovan still has flashes of brilliance, and his experience on the World Cup level is an invaluable asset.
San Jose Earthquakes star Chris Wondolowski doesn't do anything but score goals, and that can no longer be ignored by a nation that has historically struggled to hit the net in World Cups. Since July 5, 2013, "Wondo" has scored nine goals in 10 competitions for the United States. He is a top-notch poacher, who can turn a single chance into a game-swinging moment, which makes his type ideal for coming off the bench.
As always, the defense is a wide-open competition.
I see eight defenders making the squad - Beasley (Puebla, Mexico), Matt Besler (Sporting KC), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City, England), Timmy Chandler (FC Nurnberg, Germany), Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles Galaxy), Goodson (San Jose), Fabian Johnson (Borussia), Germany) and Michael Parkhurst (Columbus Crew).
Thirty players are holding on standby for 23 seats to Brazil.