FOX Soccer Exclusive
Donovan's inclusion gives USA options
United States men's national team coach Jürgen Klinsmann extended an olive branch to Landon Donovan ahead of this summer's CONCACAF Gold Cup. Donovan grasped it with both hands with a series of impressive performances and ultimately received his reward on Thursday.
As expected, Donovan earned a spot on the 23-man U.S. squad named ahead of the World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica (Sept. 6 in San Jose, Costa Rica) and Mexico (Sept. 10 in Columbus, Ohio) next month. It marks the first time Donovan has featured in World Cup qualifying since the 1-1 draw with Guatemala last June.
“He's got himself back into the team during the Gold Cup,” Klinsmann said during a conference call on Thursday afternoon. “He did a wonderful job there. Now we've put together both rosters – obviously from the May-June period and the Gold Cup – and we'll find the best way possible for everyone involved. The key element is to get results down in Costa Rica and against Mexico.”
Klinsmann must ponder how he wants to use Donovan upon his return, given the variety and the depth of the options now at his disposal. Jozy Altidore appears a near certain starter up front after scoring in his previous five appearances (a U.S. national team record) and snatching a hat trick in the 4-3 win over Bosnia-Herzegovina on Aug. 14, while Clint Dempsey (top scorer with seven goals during qualifying) remains entrusted to unlock defenses just behind him.
The blossoming work between Altidore and Dempsey and the support provided by Aron Johannsson and Eddie Johnson could prompt Klinsmann to deploy Donovan in a midfield role – perhaps on the right side with Graham Zusi recovering from injury – or use him as an impact substitute off the bench.
It is a welcome issue for Klinsman to sort through over the next fortnight, but he isn't tipping his hand quite yet about how he might resolve it.
“Once we have them in camp, we'll see how they are doing and how the pieces will fit,” Klinsmann said. “At the end, Landon's back in the picture and he's a really, really good option for us. We're looking forward to it.”
The prospect of employing all-time leading scorer Donovan off the bench reflects the strength in depth in the attacking positions, and the continued presence of Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones settles matters in midfield, but Klinsmann faces more difficult decisions with regards to his rearguard.
Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez return as the likely central defensive partnership, while DaMarcus Beasley and Brad Evans could keep their places at fullback with Fabian Johnson likely to play on the left flank and a shortage of natural options on the right. John Brooks, Edgar Castillo, Geoff Cameron and Michael Orozco present the alternatives, with veterans Clarence Goodson and Michael Parkhurst omitted from the squad.
No such upheaval occurred between the sticks, with Klinsmann sticking with his establish pecking order in goal. Tim Howard will almost certainly retain his starting berth with Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando set to deputize if required.
Klinsmann also noted that his roster could change prior to the Mexico match with nine players perched on yellow card warning. The U.S. coach cited his desire to secure the Americans' first-ever victory in Costa Rica, but he also noted that he may find himself forced into changes for the second game if Altidore, Besler, Bradley, Cameron, Dempsey, Evans, Howard, Fabian Johnson or Jones receive cautions in San Jose.
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“We know that we have (nine) players going into that game with yellow cards,” Klinsmann said. “Anything can happen after that game. We've put everybody on notice to be in touch with us. If there are changes to be made after that game, we'll make those changes.”
Klinsmann and his players are expected to gather in Miami on Sept. 1 for a couple of days of training before departing for Costa Rica on Sept. 3.
Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City) John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Michael Orozco (Puebla)
Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Roma), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Jermaine Jones (Schalke), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders FC)
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