It's certainly not a surprise to see that Jurgen Klinsmann has called up a mostly European based roster for this friendly as the United States will play a lone international game at the Czech Republic this afternoon. But it is a surprise to not see so many USMNT regulars not on the roster.
Familiar names like Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey and now Jermaine Jones all play in Major League Soccer among other big names, Tim Howard has announced a year long break from the national team and Geoff Cameron is out injured following a recent game with Stoke City. Also out injured is forward Aron Johannsson, who underwent groin surgery, and Terrence Boyd, who was diagnosed with a partial ACL tear.
That doesn't leave a lot of European-based veterans left, so Klinsmann has opted to call up the kids and it's not a bad idea. There are a total of five-uncapped players in camp: GK Cody Cropper, D Greg Garza, M Emerson Hyndman, F Rubio Rubin, F Joe Gyau and F Jordan Morris of Stanford University. We know that Cropper is unlikely play since Klinsmann has already said regular keepers Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando will each play a half against the Czechs, but I do expect to see at least two debuts later today with Garza and Hyndman at left back and central midfield, respectively. Joe Gyau out wide at one of the winger spots wouldn't be a bad bet either along with one of the forward to replace Jozy at some point.
But, here are my three talking points for this game:
THE CENTER MIDFIELD TRIANGLE
Should Klinsmann opt to keep his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, he's going to have to figure out the center midfield pairing. The veterans are Mix Diskerud and Alejandro Bedoya, but neither are a true holding type in the midfield. Various twitter accounts that were at USMNT practice yesterday (Kyle McCarthy, Jeff Carlisle, Brian Sciaretta) mentioned a few interesting midfield combinations, but the US didn't have enough players for 11v11, only 10v10. Alfredo Morales is a holding midfielder and could get a surprise start along side Diskerud and it's possible Bedoya or Joe Corona could slide back. I think we'll end up seeing a more New England Revolution style 4-1-4-1 with just Mix as the holding midfielder but I've said this before and I'm usually wrong. Look for Emerson Hyndman's debut off the bench in the second half, his passing efficiency at 18 is already legendary with Fulham.
A BIG CHANCE FOR TWO VETERANS?
We all know how disastrous Brek Shea's move from FC Dallas to Stoke City has been, with the big winger hardly seeing any playing time in the EPL. A possible move away from Stoke will have to wait until the winter window after a Southampton loan deal fell through. So the 2013 Gold Cup Final hero will not only be looking to impress Jurgen Klinsmann but also potential club suitors as well.
Michael Orozco will forever be known as the man who scored against Mexico at Azteca for the USA's first ever win in that stadium (also note Brek Shea's dribble and Boyd's backheel). But aside from that moment, Orozco has played sparingly for the US, and the 28 year-old has just 11 caps to his name but goals in the Gold Cup and a World Cup qualifier against Panama have offset some questionable play in the back.
Both players have a chance to establish themselves for the upcoming World Cup cycle but also have a chance to be passed over by younger players like Julian Green and John Anthony Brooks and in Orozco's case, veterans like Tim Ream. If both players start and perform well then odds are both have a chance to be back in the Gold Cup squad to defend the title they helped win in 2013. A bad game could mean call ups for the odd European friendly and continued fringe player status. Shea is too young to just be forgotten about altogether and he'll likely get a lot of call ups but perhaps not minutes and the same can be said for Orozco. But with the US having so many MLS-based defenders not in camp and Cameron out, it's a really big opportunity for Orozco and I hope he takes advantage of it.
WHAT ABOUT THE DEFENSE?
Yes, what about the defense. It's a little thin since Cameron was called up and then released due to a recent knock while playing with Stoke. Since no one was called in to replace him, there are only six defenders on the roster, three centerbacks and three outside backs. Timmy Chandler and Fabian Johnson starting on the outside should be assumed, although while it should be Johnson on the left and Chandler on the right, somehow it won't be. Greg Garza getting some minutes at left back would be nice to see as well.
It's the centerback pairing that really gets interesting. I want to assume that Brooks will get the start and the real question is who Klinsmann partners him with. With Cameron out there isn't a real answer as both Ream and Orozco are solid enough defenders with Tim Ream perhaps getting ready to take over the Michael Parkhurst role as utility defender at some point. I think all six defenders will play in this game with Brooks and Johnson going the distance.
PROJECTED LINEUP (4-2-3-1)
Guzan; Chandler, Orozco, Brooks, F. Johnson; Corona, Diskerud; Shea, Bedoya, Green; Altidore
Rimando for Guzan, Garza for Chandler, Ream for Orozco, Morales for Corona, Hyndman for Bedoya, Gyau for Green/Shea
It's nothing special for the US and I think the lineup will finish better than it starts. The midfield triangle will take some time to find the game and the additions of Morales and Hyndman later in the game will provide a tremendous spark for Diskerud in the center as the formation settles in and Mix has more freedom to go forward with Morales hanging back. I don't want to say I expect Corona or Bedoya to struggle, but one of them is going to start in a role they're not suited for and it might show a little bit. I expect a lot of wide play from the US as Shea and Green send in crosses and make runs that cause enough havoc in the box to give Czech keeper Petr Cech some trouble.
This will be a good test for the Czech Republic as well. Cech, Tomas Rosicky and the Sparta Prague/Viktoria Plzen domestic club heavy roster face the Netherlands in a Euro 2016 Group A qualifier on September 9th.