Friday, July 1, 2016

2018 Russia WC Roster Prediction #3

Now that the Copa America is done, this is my third prediction for our WC 2018 roster.  Here's my first prediction and second prediction.

Brad Guzan, Bill Hamid, Ethan Horvath
(Tim Howard, Cody Cropper, David Bingham, William Yarbrough, Zach Steffen, Sean Johnson)

Brad was Klinsmann's clear #1 at the Copa and looks to remain that way through Russia, unless he continues to get benched in England.  I've had Hamid in the top 3 since 2014 even though Klinsmann hasn't.  I'm predicting he finally becomes a regular call-up in the next 2 years, representing the MLS as its top keeper, even with Tim Howard's return.  Hamid beats out Yarbrough, Bingham and Johnson as the #2.  Ethan Horvath, as this year's Copa #3, appears to have the inside track for the keeper-in-waiting role over Cropper and Steffen.

John Brooks, Geoff Cameron, Matt Besler, Matt Miazga
(Omar Gonzalez, Steve Birnbaum, Michael Orozco, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Ventura Alvarado, Tim Ream)

Klinsmann's choices for CB at last year's Gold Cup essentially cost us that tournament, when he started a still-green Brooks and an over-matched Alvarado.  For me, Cameron and Besler should have been entrenched in those roles since 2014, until the emergence of Brooks.  Now Brooks and Cameron have proven to be the duo, while Besler brings experience and depth.  Miazga will have made a name for himself at Chelsea (we hope) and beats out US-20 partner, Carter-Vickers, who will only be 20 by Russia.  But whatever happens, here's hoping Klinsmann doesn't again take an inexplicable favorite of his, the hot-headed Orozco.

Outside backs:
DeAndre Yedlin, Fabian Johnson, Timothy Chandler, Jorge Villafana
(Edgar Castillo, Eric Lichaj, Greg Garza, Brek Shea, Kellyn Acosta)

Yedlin's progress in the Premier League is an encouraging sign for US fans.  Chandler will have to hope that he doesn't get a DNP for a 2nd WC in a row.  On the other side, our lack of a dependable and natural LB has plagued us for over a decade.  In the last 3 world cups, we've started winger Eddie Lewis, CB Bocanegra and winger Beasley there - serviceable players, but still just necessary stopgaps.  Without a solution that Klinsmann likes in sight, Fabian might still be at LB in 2 years time.  Think of this Copa, when Klinsmann brought in both Lichaj and Castillo into prelim camp, then opted to play Orozco(!) when Fabian was injured.  Shea and Garza have dropped out of favor and Acosta is playing central mid at his club (which hasn't stopped Klins before, I know).  Just for kicks, I'm putting in a new name at LB backup, Villafana, but my preference is still the speedy Shea.

Central mids:
Michael Bradley, Perry Kitchen, Alfredo Morales, Emerson Hyndman
(Jermaine Jones, Mix Diskerud, Danny Williams, Wil Trapp)

Even though his play this Copa was subpar, Bradley will return to form and captain the squad.  Jermaine Jones might be 36 in 2 years, but I will not be completely surprised if he continues his beastmode-ness until then to make Klinsmann's choice difficult.  Kitchen seems to be the def mid-in-waiting now that Beckerman should be ushered out.  Its amazing that Morales is starting in the Bundesliga but hasn't found much time under Klinsmann.  The young Premier leaguer, Hyndman, might be a future US captain.  Mix seems to have lost his way and Danny Williams seems to have lost Klinsmann's favor.

Outside/Attacking mids:
Gyasi Zardes, Alejandro Bedoya, Darlington Nagbe, Christian Pulisic, Gedion Zelalem
(Graham Zusi, Lee Nguyen, Luis Gil, Joe Gyau, Ethan Finlay, Julian Green, Joe Corona)

Zardes's tireless work rate on both offense and defense offsets his infamously poor first touch.  Nagbe's playmaking role should grow over the next couple years.  Bedoya's experience and leadership will enable him to beat out Zusi for the veteran role.  All US fans have their fingers' crossed that Pulisic and Zelalem become the world-class players that have thus far evaded our country.

Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, Aron Johannsson
(Clint Dempsey, Jozy AltidorePaul Arriola, Rubio Rubin, Juan Agudelo, Terrence Boyd)

If a 32 year old Landon was left off last time, a 35 year old Dempsey (when 2018 comes around) likely will have stood little chance to keep his place.  Perhaps Klinsmann will want him as the 18 yard box specialty poacher in the waning moments of a game, but I doubt it.  Dempsey's accomplishments have been earned more due to his unyielding will, and less because of any natural or physical talent that he was born with.  When father time catches up with him, his will shall go down fighting, but go down nevertheless.
Wood has emerged as the starter even over Jozy after this Copa.  The question will be whether he and Jozy can play together when Clint is out.  Jordan Morris, who was inexplicably left off this summer's Copa roster for a useless Wondolowski, will have made a move to Europe before WC 2018.  Johannsson recovers from injuries the last 2 years to excel in Germany and gets selected as Jozy pulls another hamstring in WC camp.