Forgotten men looking to impress

BY foxsports • January 21, 2012

The first U.S. men’s national team game of 2012 is set to kick off on Saturday and while World Cup qualifying is still five months away, there is still plenty on the line when the United States takes the field against Venezuela.

Jurgen Klinsmann will cast his eye over his fringle players in the friendlies against Venezuela and Panama. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Saturday’s friendly in Glendale, Arizona will serve as one of the few chances several players on the fringes of the national team will have to impress Jurgen Klinsmann enough to stay in the national team mix.

As the new year barrels toward the important qualifying matches of the summer, Klinsmann will begin focusing on his strongest possible team, and if any of the players in the current camp want to be in that mix they will need to shine in the upcoming friendlies against Venezuela and Panama. There will be 180 minutes worth of opportunity and any players who don’t take advantage will likely be forced to wait a long time for another look.

Not all the players in camp are facing that daunting mission. Players such as Kyle Beckerman and Brek Shea have already positioned themselves to be in Klinsmann’s full team mix as the year moves forward. For several other players getting their first real looks under Klinsmann, and some looking for more minutes from him, the upcoming friendlies are crucial to show the U.S. coach that it might be time to adjust his magical national team depth chart.

Venezuela won't be fielding the full squad that did so well at the Copa America, but should still offer a tough test, with MLS forward Alejandro Moreno and Emilio Renteria expected to feature. The South Americans are fielding a team that the current U.S. squad should be able to play well against, but it will be up to them to prove it.

Here is a look at some of the players who stand poised to shine in the U.S. national team’s upcoming friendlies, including Saturday night against Venezuela:

GEOFF CAMERON

Geoff Cameron could be the man to get things moving at the back. (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)

The Houston Dynamo centerback looked sharp in training camp scrimmages and stands poised to propel himself up the defender ranks. With Klinsmann looking hard for centerbacks who can pass out of the back as well as move quickly, Cameron has the tools to thrive in Klinsmann’s system.

Cameron’s combination of size, speed and skill on the ball should have Klinsmann eager to see more of him, and a solid showing against Venezuela would all but assure more call-ups.

BENNY FEILHABER

Off the national team radar since the fall of 2010, Feilhaber’s seeming disappearance from the national team conversation continued even after moving to MLS and earning regular playing time. It was a surprising absence considering Feilhaber’s skill in midfield and the qualities he showed as a super sub in the World Cup, but his lack of playing time after the World Cup, and before joining New England, ultimately cost him his place in the pecking order.

Feilhaber has looked good in camp, and his passing touch and vision could make him a quality option as the attacking midfielder in Klinsmann’s 4-3-3. He should get the chance to drive the offense in the upcoming friendlies.

JERMAINE JONES

Why is a player who starts for a top Bundesliga team, and who is only in camp because he’s serving a lengthy suspension on the club side, on this list? He’s on it because the reality is Klinsmann hasn’t given him many minutes since taking over, even as Jones enjoys an outstanding run with Schalke.

Jones’ ability is on another level from the players in this camp, something that was clear to see in scrimmage action during the week, but he clearly needs to show Klinsmann something to start getting more minutes. Jones must surely realize that, which is why he could wind up being the best player on the field (assuming he starts).

BILL HAMID

Bill Hamid needs to impress Klinsmann is he is to oust Brad GUzan as US back-up goalkeeper. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

The 21-year-old D.C. goalkeeper, annointed Tim Howard’s No. 2 by Klinsmann, will have his chance to show why so much faith is being put into a keeper with one year as a pro starter under his belt. With Brad Guzan showing very well in a recent run as a starter at Aston Villa, the clock may already be ticking on Hamid holding down the national team back-up job.

What Hamid does have is confidence, and what he lacks is experience, which he should get in the upcoming friendlies. Some strong outings against Venezuela and Panama would send a strong message that he deserves his current place on the goalkeeper depth chart.

HEATH PEARCE

The left back depth chart on the U.S. national team is a shaky one, and Pearce has long been seen as someone who could challenge for a higher place on that list. Only injuries have kept him from factoring into Klinsmann’s plans sooner, but now that he is healthy, Pearce has a chance to stake his claim to a spot in the full squad.

 

Heath Pearce can stake his claim to the left back position. (Photo by Ned Dishman/Getty Images)

Timmy Chandler has done well at left back, but the reality is no natural left back has emerged just yet to impress Klinsmann (though he seems to still have faith in Edgar Castillo despite his shaky efforts). Pearce has the speed, defensive qualities and intelligence to be a good left back option, and some good performances in the upcoming friendlies could catapult him into a place on the full senior squad.

 

MICHAEL PARKHURST

Back from the national team wilderness after his forgettable performance in the 2009 Gold Cup, Parkhust has enjoyed a stellar run of form on the club level and is playing well enough to earn a look from Klinsmann.

His ability to play both right back and centerback has to make him more enticing, and his technical ability is clearly an attribute that makes him attractive for what Klinsmann wants to have from his defense. Parkhurst will need to once again show that his lack of size isn’t a factor and that he can hold his own as an international centerback.

C.J. SAPONG

The current national team camp has been an eye-opening experience for the reigning MLS Rookie of the Year, who acknowledged just how tough it has been. A learning curve was to be expected for a player who was in college a little more than a year ago, but he’s still the type of dynamic forward prospect who can do some damage.

With Juan Agudelo nursing an ankle injury, Sapong should get the chance to earn his first national team cap, and if he attacks the opportunity the way he attacked MLS defenders in 2011, it won’t be his last cap.

RICARDO CLARK

A surprising call-up considering his lack of playing time on the club level, Clark is back in the national team mix for the first time since World Cup 2010, where he was dubbed a goat after struggling badly against Ghana and being substituted in the first half.

The national team probably isn’t as important to Clark as finding regular playing time at club level, but getting a look from Klinsmann has to provide a confidence boost, and it is easy to forget that he was a very good defensive midfield option for a good while under Bob Bradley. Doing well with any opportunities he is given may not only revive his national team career, it could help Clark find club playing time somewhere.


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