Jurgen Klinsmann will use the U.S.’s final World Cup qualifier to take a look at some of his fringe players ahead of next-year’s tournament in Brazil. The Yanks have long since secured their tickets to the World Cup and, following Friday’s 2-0 win over Jamaica, Klinsmann has announced that several first-team players have departed the squad.
Landon Donovan and Jermaine Jones have returned to their clubs due to concerns over ankle and knee injuries, respectively. Goalkeeper Tim Howard and center-back Matt Besler have also been left off the plane to Panama City.
The performance for 70 minutes against Jamaica in Kansas City was underwhelming, perhaps reflecting that of a side with little to play for. Donovan’s performance was particularly poor and the L.A. Galaxy forward was axed at half-time. With the Galaxy wanting Donovan back for an MLS match with Montreal on Wednesday, it appears a straight-forward decision. The injury to Jones is more of a worry. The Schalke midfielder had wanted to delay surgery until the Bundesliga’s winter break, but Klinsmann wants it dealt with as soon as possible.
“Landon is still struggling with the ankle injury from a couple weeks ago, so he will go back to Los Angeles and try to get back to 100 percent,” he said, according to USSoccer.com. “Jermaine’s case is more of a concern. His knee was bothering him all night but he battled through. It’s clear that the issue with his knee is something that should be taken care of right away so he can be 100 percent for Schalke and the National Team as soon as possible.”
With Sacha Kljestan helping change the game in his side’s favor when he came on late against Jamaica, the Anderlecht midfielder is likely to earn a starting role. One man who Klinsmann has confirmed will start is Brad Guzan. The goalkeeper has impressed at club level with Aston Villa for the past year and also notably shone for his country in a goalless draw with Mexico at the Estadio Azteca. Some have called for Guzan to now be put ahead of Howard in the pecking order. While not going that far, Klinsmann certainly believes that the 29-year-old warrants a start on Tuesday.
“Brad Guzan has earned the opportunity to start against Panama,” he said. “He has been outstanding for Aston Villa all year, and he has been huge in the games he has played for us in World Cup Qualifying. As I said before, we have one of the best situations in the world when it comes to our goalkeepers.”
In addition to Guzan, Klinsmann has also confirmed that Clarence Goodson will play at center-back in place of Besler. Alongside him at left-back could well be Edgar Castillo, another to impress as a substitute against Jamaica.
Many of the fringe players who started that match failed to take their chance with both hands, those that will be handed starting roles in Panama now have all the more incentive to impress and take a big leap toward ensuring a spot on the plane to Brazil and perhaps even beyond.
D: Evans, Goodson, Gonzalez, Castillo
M: Beckerman, Kljestan
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Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.