There is nothing terribly surprising about the US roster for the final two qualifiers against Jamaica and Panama in the next few days. It features pretty much the usual guys who have rotated in and out of the team during the 2013 international calender year.
Yes, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Eddie Johnson and Omar Gonzalez are among the many missing due to injury, but those are players who more than likely have already secured spots for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
But the players called in to replace them and others lower down on the USA depth chart have an opportunity to get playing time in games and show what they can do in the national team camp practices that could make or break their chances.
San Jose Earthquakes Chris Wondolowski and Clarence Goodson both had solid 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup campaigns and Houston Dynamo utility man Brad Davis perhaps has a chance to establish his value to Jurgen Klinsmann, likely off the bench to cover for regular utility man (and also former Dynamo) Geoff Cameron who is likely to start at center defense in place of the injured Gonzalez.
The defense, long been a rotating headache for USMNT fans, seems to have been settled so long as it can stay healthy. Matt Belser and Geoff Cameron will just be another combination in the defense that always seems to have a new player on it every game. Except for DaMarcus Beasley at left back, who's been a rock since getting the nod their earlier in the year. Brad Evans is likely to regain his starting spot at right back as the merry-go-round as swung back around to him now that he's healthy and not being suspended for phantom fouls. Still looking at you Joel Campbell. And better news, Steve Cherundolo is back!
But most of the opportunities lie in the midfield, with the USA down one of it's top two holding midfielders in Bradley, someone is going to have to partner with Jermaine Jones in his spot. Sacha Kljestan has been in good form with Anderlecht and Mix Diskerud has been solid of late, but neither are true holding types. This could be Real Salt Lake midfielder Kyle Beckerman's big chance to move into the conversation behind Bradley, Jones and Cameron in that holding midfield role.
It would seem likely that Klinsmann would want someone other than Cameron, who will likely be asked to play multiple positions over the next year and in the World Cup, on the roster as a holding midfield since that position is very important for the US. Kyle Beckerman is about as good as it gets at that spot, and while I don't think he excells in Klinsmann's formation paired with another holding mid, he's by far the best option in the player pool.
On the flanks, it's another chance for Landon Donovan to showcase his skills and leadership and I wouldn't be surprised to see him man Dempsey's withdrawn forward/attacking mid role either. Sporting Kansas City star Graham Zusi will have another chance to cement his role on the right flank with Alejandro Bedoya in competition as well.
Up front, it's still Jozy Altidore's show, but without target man Eddie Johnson, expect to see a lot of Aron Johannsson and perhaps even Terrence Boyd over the next few days.
And goalkeepers...Howard's got the armband, Guzan, Rimando. Check.
PROJECTED LINEUP (4-2-3-1)
I don't expect to see the US change their formation for the game against Jamaica, perhaps in Panama next week, but they have enough bodies and depth to throw out a solid lineup in their preferred formation.
Howard [C]; Beasley, Belser, Cameron, Evans; Jones, Kljestan; Bedoya, Donovan, Zusi; Altidore.
Expected Subs: Beckerman for Kljestan on the hour mark, Bedoya off for Diskerud, and Johannsson for Jozy. Wouldn't be surprised to see Brad Davis on for some late defensive work either.
I don't want the USA to sleep on Jamaica, Klinsmann says that he wants to win the final two games and I believe him. But this is a pretty stingy side, as the US learned by losing at Jamaica in 2012 and needed a Brad Evans goal at the death to win earlier in the qualifying campaign.
But the US is going to Brazil already, and it's up to the players on the field to maintain their momentum as a team and individually earn their way to Brazil next summer.