There are long shots on the preliminary U.S. World Cup roster, but none of them will see themselves as such. Each player will go into training camp believing he can do enough to make it to the World Cup, as well he should. Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has insisted that the upcoming training camp at Stanford University will be an open competition for World Cup spots, and if that is the case, there aren’t many players who should feel completely safe, and no players who enter the camp feeling hopeless.
There will be battles for starting positions, and competitions to see which groups of players work best together, but the real contest will be for the last handful of roster spots genuinely up for grabs.
So which players head into the camp on the outside looking in? Here is a look at the seven players who will be facing the most pressure to perform in camp in order to secure their places in Brazil.
Let’s call him the longest of the long shots, a young defender with impressive tools, but a very raw fullback who seems ill-prepared for the international game at this point in his career. The sense you get is that the chance to have him pick up valuable experience in camp is why he is making the trip, along with the kind of blazing speed that could give Klinsmann’s first-choice players a good test in camp.
How does Yedlin actually make the team? That would most likely require him to play out of his mind, while some other more experienced players struggle badly.
Away from the national team setup for more than a year, Chandler will gain confidence from being called in because it has to show him that Klinsmann has paid attention to the progress he made in the German Bundesliga over the past season. Chandler’s versatility and skill set make him the one player on this list with the best chance of going from outsider to starter.
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A good camp gets Chandler on the final 23-man roster, plain and simple. He has more upside than Brad Evans and Michael Parkhurst, and more experience than Yedlin. He has to show that he’s fit after playing just 135 minutes following his return from a torn meniscus, and he must show he is sharp enough to throw into the high-level competition that waits in Brazil.
The lone World Cup veteran on this list, Edu is considered an outsider right now because of the presence of Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman, and likelihood that Klinsmann won’t bring those two AND Edu to Brazil. What Edu will need to show is not only poise and sharpness in a defensive midfield role, but also the capability to play in a bit more of an advanced role. There has also been the thought that Edu might be able to provide cover in central defense, but given the centerbacks in camp, that seems to be less likely a way of helping his cause.
The best pure left winger in the squad, Davis is battling with a dynamic group of wide midfield options who can’t provide his caliber of service, but who are more athletic and better two-way players. At 32, he is also one of the older options in the squad, and he has battled with injuries in recent years. The presence of Julian Green probably poses the biggest threat to Davis’ candidacy, and it will likely take a combination of events, including Green struggling, for him to have a real chance of making the final 23.
An interesting pick because of the uncertainty over just where he is most likely to be used, Corona has shown with Club Tijuana that he is a capable central midfielder. He has played predominantly as a wide midfielder for the U.S. team, but his best bet to make the team might be to show his a capable central option, which means having to beat out Mix Diskerud for a roster spot. Diskerud is by no means a lock, and both he and Corona could wind up missing out, but for Corona to have a chance, he will likely need to show he is in better form than Diskerud.
The reason this list is eight players long rather than seven is because of Green, who seems a tricky player to try and evaluate his odds of making it to Brazil for. If he really is playing on a level-playing field, and hasn’t been given the promise of a World Cup place beforehand then Green has to be seen as a bubble player. He needs to show he is mature enough to handle the pressure, and good enough to be able to make an impact if called on to play in the World Cup. If he can impress Klinsmann and, perhaps more importantly, his U.S. teammates in training camp, then he will be the youngest player on the U.S. World Cup team.
The veteran forward has done nothing but score goals and accomplish what’s been asked of him for club and country for the past year. That was enough to get him onto the preliminary World Cup roster. What he has to do now is show that he can do that against a higher level of opponent, and convince Klinsmann he is a better forward option than Terrence Boyd. It is tough to envision a scenario where Wondolowski and Boyd both make the team, but with Boyd looking like a better target forward understudy to Jozy Altidore, Wondolowski will have to just keep scoring goals every chance he is given, and if he outplays Boyd in camp he just might book his ticket to the World Cup.