October 10, 2012
Klinsmann's roster decisions are baffling
By Michael Lewis
Many of U.S. coach Juergen Klinsmann's roster decisions this week have been head scratchers.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
I hope Juergen Klinsmann knows what he's doing, because I certainly don't.
Since the U.S. roster had been unveiled on Monday afternoon, it has been one thing after another for the U.S. National Team.
Obviously, there is little the U.S. coach can do about players getting injuries, but he certainly can do something with replacing them on the roster.
Unless some 11th-hour replacements are made, the Americans will fly into Antigua & Barbuda with 20 healthy bodies on the team. Teams are allowed as many as 23 players. I'll tell you this, if I was the coach, I would try to have as many players around as possible. You just never know in World Cup qualifying, even against the likes of Antigua.
Strange stuff happens in World Cup qualifying, especially when the U.S. hits the road in the Caribbean and Central America.
But back to Klinsmann, whose decisions have been curious, to say the least.
To refresh our memory, let's go through every roster-related decision with some commentary:
Exhibits A and B
Strikers Jozy Altidore and Chris Wondolowski are left off the roster
Klinsmann said that he wants in-form players on his roster, then leaves out the two hottest American goal-scorers on the planet. He said he left Altidore, who shares the Dutch First Division goal-scoring lead, because the former New York Red Bull has not perform up to his potential in previous internationals and in training camp. He said he left off Wondo because of a tactical decision of using forwards such as Alan Gordon and Eddie Johnson, who are better in the air.
(Of course, try to explain that to a non-soccer fans who sees that Wondolowski has almost twice as many goals as his San Jose Earthquakes teammate, Gordon).
Being a former striker -- a world-class striker -- Klinsmann has to realize that going with the hot hand (OK, in this case, a hot foot), can be a good strategy. Now, I'm not saying to start Wondo at striker, but he definitely deserves a chances to be with the big team, even as a sub for a few days.
By the way, Wondo has been used as an outside midfielder for San Jose, which could have given Klinsmann and the team another option if push came to shove.
I just hope Klinsmann hasnít over-thought the situation.
Exhibits C and D
Midfielders Landon Donovan (knee injury) and Brek Shea (abdominal strain) are ruled out of both games with injuries and they were not replaced.
Strange, very strange.
Exhibits E and F
Defenders Edgar Castilo (foot injury) is ruled out of both games, and Fabian Johnson (flu) from the Antigua match (although he is expected back for Guatemala).
Again, they were not replaced.
Strange, very, very strange.
That's enough for now, unless there are some more (surprise) injuries that pop up.
You have to wonder if these moves and non-moves will come back and bite the U.S. in the rear.
Perhaps Klinsmann knows something the rest of us don't.
We'll all know how by about 9 p.m. ET on Friday night.
If the U.S. doesn't fly out of Antigua with three points, there will be second-guessing from here to Kansas City, Kansas, the site of Tuesday's qualifier against Guatemala.
And just remember this: getting eliminated from World Cup qualifying is not an option, especially in the CONCACAF semifinals.