MLS to Brazil: Jurgen Klinsmann culls his domestic options ahead of Mexico friendly
The outsiders hoping to make a late push for a World Cup place received little encouragement from United States coach Jürgen Klinsmann on Wednesday.
Klinsmann assessed potential alternatives to his current crop of contenders in the early stages of the MLS season. He charged his staffers to keep tabs on the top domestic players with an eye toward potential inclusion in this 22-man squad to face Mexico in Glendale, Ariz. on Wednesday.
All of the monitoring and scouting produced a predictable result: Klinsmann retained his faith in the group of MLS stalwarts – give or take the inclusion of promising starlets Luis Gil and DeAndre Yedlin – already under his direction.
“We want to see that now over the next couple months, not only in our game against Mexico – that’s the best stage they can have – but especially in MLS games,” Klinsmann said in a Q&A released by U.S. Soccer. “We literally over the weekend follow all the games. It’s pretty intense now the amount of scouting we do with everyone on our staff. We want to see that they have that sense of urgency, that they are sharp, that they do the right thing, and they show the right leadership because every senior national team player has to be a leader on his club team. That’s why he’s a national team player. We follow all that now week-in, week-out and the players are going to make it very difficult for us at the end of the day to choose 23 players out of that big group.”
Those words offer a sliver of hope to the players omitted from this last gasp friendly against Mexico before the squad assembles in May, but the reality of the situation leaves them with scant hope of forcing their way into the reckoning at this late stage.
By sticking with his reliable and tested options, Klinsmann ignored the potential claims of others seeking to pry their way into the squad. Will Bruin expectedly fell short of a recall despite sitting atop the nascent Golden Boot race. Benny Feilhaber missed out despite his considerable influence on Sporting Kansas City’s midfield trio tp start the campaign. Mike Magee saw his dreams of a first cap fade away yet again. And more than a few others – players with distant hopes of inclusion – wait for the call that will never come.
At this stage, the experiments are just about over. Klinsmann assembled his MLS core long ago. The domestic league will have its representatives in Brazil with several familiar figures expected to play critical roles in the success or failure of the efforts to advance from group play. A few more players will hope to squeeze into the squad by holding off challenges from European – and Mexican-based players, but the identity of those players – including the likes of Houston midfielder Brad Davis and San Jose forward Chris Wondolowski – is well established by now.
“Everyone knows the clock is ticking and that they need to impress in those games with their club, and the only way you can impress is if you play from the beginning on,” Klinsmann said. “So the players have a sense of urgency now. With whomever I communicate, whether it’s a text message or on the phone, I hear from the players that now they have to step it up.”
The group of players hoping to join that chasing pack with their own displays decreased substantially on Wednesday. The World Cup dreams of any players excluded from this squad aren’t completely dashed, but they hang by a meager thread as the preparations move into their final throes.