Players returning from injuries or just beginning to get regular playing time still have a shot at the World Cup, according to the U.S. manager.Jurgen Klinsmann has a general idea of which 23 players he'll take to Brazil for his USA team, but says there's still time for other players to work their way into the picture.
"Absolutely! The door is still open until May. It’s about what happens over the next couple of months," he told US Soccer's official website. "We coaches are going to do our homework as well. We are going to put the puzzle together of hopefully 23 players that are totally committed, that are not only giving everything they have, but that also mix well together.
"The tricky part about a World Cup roster is that you want to bring in a group that really is on the same page with one another, that support one another and are willing to take the challenge to another level – maybe two levels – within a short period of time. We have preparation for the World Cup for four weeks. In those four weeks, we will do a tremendous amount of work, and they need to be ready for that. There are many different elements that play into the roster, and therefore the door remains open until the very last day."
That's good news for players like Steve Cherundolo and John Anthony Brooks, who are working back from injuries, and Brek Shea, Oguchi Onyewu, Tim Ream, and Danny Williams, American players who haven't seen club minutes until recently with English Championship teams.
Those players will be pushing for inclusion into Klinsmann's next squad, which he'll name to face Ukraine on March 5.
"We want to discuss that over the next couple of weeks. We want to see a couple of guys who we don’t have a clear picture of right now. So we might see some people coming back into the roster," Klinsmann said of his plans for the Ukraine match. "Obviously, it’s challenging bringing a lot of players over from the U.S. or from Mexico for a game that only has three days of preparation. It’s more an opportunity to call in more European-based players because they are already in Europe and they can quickly show us where they are at. We have a very good picture of the players we worked with in the January camp for four weeks. We know where they’re at, what their qualities are and what they bring to the table, so the Ukraine match might be an opportunity to see a couple more European–based players."
The January camp included a trip to Brazil, which the former Germany star said was extremely beneficial for his players and staff, and culminated with a 2-0 friendly win against Korea.
San Jose Earthquakes striker Chris Wondolowski was on target twice in that match, as the he makes a push for what could be a somewhat surprising inclusion on the World Cup roster. The manager said he enjoyed the energy his team showed early in the friendly and said the off-the-ball movement in the match that reflected much of what was taught during camp was a positive development.
Now, players who were in the January camp should go back to their MLS teams and be leaders, the manager said.
"They have to be leaders on their club teams because that’s why they represent the national team," he said. "So we expect from them that they are the first to training and the last to leave, that they have the best attitude, the best positive approach, that they always do extra work before and after training.
"We expect that they look after themselves and live a professional lifestyle, not only that they focus on the field but off it, that they have the right body language whenever they step on the field, that they say the right words to the media because they represent their country."
"Being a national team player comes with a lot of responsibility, and we want them to stand out and be leaders," Klinsmann continued. "This is what we are going to watch for week-in, week-out no matter if they’re in MLS or Mexico or in Europe. This is a big part of our evaluation at the end of the day, and will determine who of all those guys will go to the World Cup."