US 2018 World Cup Roster Prediction (2014 Edition)
I know some of you hate that I’m doing this article, but it’s happening. As I write this opening, I’ve picked 20 (well 17) of my players. It’s been a great tool for forcing me to think about the future of the team. I’ve already been thinking about the upcoming tournaments, and obviously those tournaments will tell us how early I need to change these. I’m under no allusions that there won’t be unpredictable injuries. It will happen. I also had already decided I was going to leave three spots open, so I’m right there with you! It’s crazy.
Starter: 1. Brad Guzan (33 in 2018). Assuming he’s not hurt and Gandolf doesn’t decide to play for the US, this is the safest bet on this list.
2. Clint Irwin (29) – I’m not convinced Sean Johnson won’t clean up his mistakes and take this spot. We’ll figure out a lot at the next Gold Cup, which I’m guessing will have both Johnson and Hamid on the roster. Whether that tournament is used to get the young guys some reps, or for a swansong for Howard will be up to Klinnsman. I hope he goes out to win the tournament, since it determines who makes it to the Confederations cup in 2017.
3. Bill Hamid (27) – I’m picking Hamid here just because he’s two years younger than Sean Johnson, but Klinnsman took two 35-year-olds this time around (Howard and Rimando). Really, this third keeper spot goes to whoever is best in the locker room. He’s not going to see the field unless something crazy happens, like apparently is happening to Germany this time. I wouldn’t be shocked if this goes to Howard “for experience” but given that Guzan has two World Cups under his belt, I’m not buying we need experience.
4. John Brooks (25) – Assuming, with all of these, that they are fit, the real question is whether it is he or Gonzalez that will be starting. Brooks is 6’4” and Gonzalez is 6’5”, so either can clear out plenty of crosses.
5. Omar Gonzalez (29) – I’ve been a huge Gonzalez fan for a long time. I’ve been disappointed that he’s developed a pattern for ball watching. If he gets that sorted, maybe he starts along side Brooks.
6. Matt Besler (31) – He may or may not be a starter in 2018, but Jurgen took 6 field players over 30 to Brazil, and Russia won’t be as physically gruelling. He wasn’t great in Brazil, but most teams don’t start two giants in the back. Maybe we should, especially if Brooks’ footwork gets better over the next four years
7. Yedlin (24) – some people see him as a midfielder, but Jurgen obviously likes attacking midfielders
8. Fabian Johnson (30) – whether he plays right or left back will depend some on
9. Unknown Defender – There’s no way four years ago John Brooks or Yedlin was on your list. I’m not even going to pretend we know which young’uns will show up.
10. Chris Klute (28) – I agonized over whether this would be my last defensive pick, because with it I am turning my unknown defender into a Geoff Cameron-like player, capable of playing right-back and CB.
11. Geoff Cameron (32) – ultimately, with a very attack-minded midfield core, Geoff Cameron may need to do what he did this year and play in the midfield.
This defense looks a lot like the 2014 defence, and maybe that’s a sign it’s not going to happen. It’s Beasley out and Chris Klute in. I’ve also nixed Chandler, who didn’t see any minutes. Considering the age of Yedlin and Brooks, maybe Chandler gets the last spot. Maybe Shane O’Neill gets the last spot to learn beside Cameron. That turns Cameron into our backup right back. I’m ok with that.
12. Michael Bradley (30) – he’s not going to overtake Donovan’s goal tally, which will keep him out of the hearts of the casual fan, but I suspect Bradley may well be considered the best US player ever by 2018. Perhaps he can put in a Reyna-2002-esque performance, and even more!
13. Julian Green (23) – He has one more World Cup goal than Freddy Adu.
14. Gedion Zelalem (21) – He hasn’t declared for the US yet, but Jurgen playing Green and Yedlin in this World Cup should show him that he can get some minutes in 2018. Ethiopia is going nowhere, so I think you can count him out. If he’s not on the non-binding friendly roster on September 3rd, Jurgen is either insane, Zelalem isn’t healthy, or Zelalem turned down the offer. Unfortunately, Euro 2016 qualification begins for Germany on September 7th, so it may be too late to get him cup-tied.
15. Mikkel Diskerud (27) – Mix didn’t see any time on the field in the 2014 World Cup, but expect him to see a lot of playing time in 2018.
16. Unknown Midfielder – maybe I shouldn’t even pick what positions the unknowns will play. It was two defenders this time. Maybe someone quite known will get this spot. There is plenty of talent to go around in the midfield.
17. Joe Gyau (25) – The young winger recently moved to Dortmund, which is certain to catch Klinsman eye. This spot could easily go to Harry Shipp (26), Darlington Nagbe (27), Luis Gil (24), Perry Kitchen (26), Benji Joya (24), Jose Villarreal (24) or Will Trapp (25) if those players reach their potential but even as the MLS improves, I think the Dortmund name will carry sway with Jurgen.
Jones and Beckerman are out. They have to be at 36, right? Bedoya and Zusi will both be 31. Edu will be 32.
18. Altidore (28) – I don’t see anyone taking his spot, even if he doesn’t improve. However, if he doesn’t improve like people think he will, expect 2018 to be his last World Cup.
19. Terrance Boyd (27) – Maybe if we all put him on our lists, Jurgen will actually take him!
20. Clint Dempsey (35) – The whole Landon thing has me wondering about this, but if we go young everywhere else, maybe there is a spot for a veteran.
21. Unknown Forward – Maybe you toss Aron Johansson in the unknown pool for 2014.
Plenty of knowns have a shot: Aron Jóhannsson, Landon Donovan, Juan Agudelo, Jose Villarreal (although sometimes listed in midfield), Shipp (listed as a forward by Wikipedia), Jack McInerney, and Bobby Wood all immediately come to mind.