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U.S. Men’s Soccer Team – Ready for the World Cup?

Will the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team be Ready for World Cup 2014?

Jurgen Klinsmann

Jurgen Klinsmann leads the U.S. Men’s Soccer Team to World Cup 2014

Jurgen Klinsmann made it clear in his February 4th interview that player selection for the World Cup will continue right up into May.  He wants to be sure he has a team that will be cohesive, that will “mix well together.”  Will the U.S. Men’s soccer team be ready?

Having completed a four week camp in January, Klinsmann had a good look at his MLS player base.  The March 5th match in the Ukraine gave him a look at the European players, and the match against Mexico in Arizona on April 2nd will likely have a mix of players from Europe and the MLS.  At that point the final list of player will be prepared for the World Cup preparation camp.

He will have four weeks ahead of the World Cup to have the team ready for the World Cup, and needs to finalize his roster by June 2nd (10 days prior to the start of play).

Let’s take a look at the forwards.

There have been 17 players who have played as forwards for the US from 2011 thru the writing of this article.  Nine of the players have played more than 200 minutes in that time frame.  That list is:

Player Minutes Goals Appearances
Clint Dempsey 2958 17 34
Jozy Altidore 2345 11 35
Landon Donovan 2178 12 27
Eddie Johnson 1128 7 20
Hector Gómez 1082 4 16
Juan Agudelo 736 1 17
Chris Wondolowski 723 8 18
Terrence Boyd 242 0 13
Aron Jóhannsson 238 1 7


Let’s cut to the chase here.  Dempsey and Donovan are a lock.  Altidore has not really shown much lately, but he is third on the team with goals.  It would be a shock if he was not selected.  This leaves us with two or three available positions, and I’m going with three (we carried 6 forwards in 2010).

For my money, I’m going with Eddie Johnson, Chris Wondolowski, and Hector Gomez.  Johannsson might be a great alternative, but we haven’t seen the productivity at all yet at the National level.  I will keep him on the contender list for now.  Will the U.S. men’s soccer team be ready for the World Cup with these  forwards?  Here’s my thoughts.

Clint Dempsey

Dempsey Predicts U.S. Win vs Ghana


Dempsey made the move to the MLS last season and has dropped off the list of productive forwards.  He has still shown he can be creative and dangerous, but his last goal was with Seattle in October against the Galaxy, a September 6th goal against Costa Rica in a 3-1 loss, two against Germany in their June 2nd match.  Dempsey had been pretty hot prior to the Germany match, but his productivity has diminished.

Dempsey does not appear ready for World Cup play.

Landon Donovan

Landon has not had a goal since October, but then he has not been playing a lot of soccer during the MLS off season.  His coach with the Galaxy, Bruce Arena, did not let him go to the Premier League, but he was with the National Team camp roster in January.  I see Donovan as a constant on the team.  He continues to show creativity and great vision, and is still our top player.

Donovan is ready for World Cup play.

Jozy Altidore

Altidore’s last moment in the sun was August 14, 2013 when he put three in the net against Boznia-Herzegovina.  Since then he has scored just three goals, while playing steadily for Sunderland in the Premier League.  He has shown little with the National Team as well.  He should never have moved to Sunderland.  Their style of play has “undone” the great work and training he got at Alkmaar Zaanstreek, where he was transformed into the soccer player everyone thought he could be.  But now, he seems to have completely reverted.  He just doesn’t display the creativity, hustle, vision, or footwork that I like to see in a forward.  If it were up to me I would leave him behind.

But we won’t.

Altidore is not ready for World Cup play.

Chris Wondolowski

Chris Wondolowski

Wondolowski celebrates goal vs Belize

“Underdog” should be his middle name.  He languished on the bench for the San Jose Earthquakes and Houston Dynamo for five years before he was pressed into service with the Earthquakes in 2009 due to injuries to their starters.  All he has done since is score goals.

Lots of goals.

The knock is that he only scored against weaker teams, but I believe there is more to this guy than meets the eye.  Based on play time, Wondolowski is our top goal scorer (I’ll cover that statement later in this article). I don’t know what it is about him – maybe he doesn’t LOOK like a player, but when you give this guy 60 minutes or more, he gets more focused and, to use Graham Zusi’s words; “He just scores.”

Wondo is ready for World Cup play.

Eddie Johnson

Johnson has provided a spark with the team when he came in, and he has been a pretty consistent goal scorer in the MLS, and in the matches he has played for the U.S. scoring 4 goals in World Cup Qualifiers, 2 in CONCACAF Gold Cup 2013.  I’ve not been a huge fan of his, but he is quick, active, and gets around the ball.  Based on play time, like Wondo, Eddie Johnson seems to score goals.  I have always felt he is a bit too selfish, but out of the remaining forwards, I like him for World Cup.  It’s a tournament, not a league, and with the best players the U.S. can field around him, his ego may just be enough to get the job done over the course of a month.

Johnson is ready for World Cup play.

 Gomez vs Johannsson

Herculez Gomez

Herculez Gomez

Actually, either of these guys could go, but Gomez has history with the National Team and has put the ball in the net for us, though not a lot in comparison to his minutes played.  But I find him to be typically good in movement and creating chances.

The only reason I would take Johannsson is because of his youth.  At the sixth spot on the team you wouldn’t expect to get much play time, but the experience of just even being there could make a difference for Johannsson in 2018.  This is probably Gomez’s last opportunity.

Neither of these players is really ready for World Cup (nobody else is either), but it’s the sixth “take a chance”  slot.

Who should get playing time?

As I mentioned earlier, based on playing time,  Wondo is our best goal scorer.  The key measure for me is the number of minutes played between goals  for a forward.  It doesn’t always apply, but I believe in this case it definitely does.   And it says that Chris Wondolowski and Eddie Johnson should get playing time for the U. S. National Team at the World Cup.

Wondolowski is on top, and his number are . . . well, amazing.  They mirror what he has done for the MLS.  For the first couple of years with the National Team Wondo was getting 20 – 40 minutes, and expected to “make the most of his opportunity” while other players who did not perform played 60 to 90.  He got zero goals.  He had chances, but not many.  It’s hard to come into a game late and be a primary option.  In 2013 he averaged 60 minutes per appearance.  The shocking reality is summarized in the following table:

Player Avg MPG*
Chris Wondolowski 90.4
Eddie Johnson 161.1
Clint Dempsey 174.0
Landon Donovan 181.5
Jozy Altidore 213.2
Aron Jóhannsson 238.0
Hector Gómez 270.5
Juan Agudelo 736.0

*MPG: Minutes Played per Goal

I would expect to see Wondo’s MPG go higher given more playing against tougher competition.  But it is SO low right now that he should still find the net.  It is what he does.  He is not always pretty, but he has a really strong field awareness that puts himself into the right place at the right time to finish.  It cannot be denied what he has accomplished in the MLS.  That kind of goal productivity is not a fluke.  One year – maybe – but not four.  Put aside what you might think about his ability to play, and play the guy who has proven he puts the ball in the net.  I believe Wondo should start.

Eddie Johnson has done marginally better than even Dempsey.  Like Wondolowski, I would expect Johnson’s MPG to increase.  His goals did not come against the toughest competition either.  Still, his numbers show we should give him a chance.

landon-donovan-fist-pumpWill the U.S. Men’s soccer team forwards be ready for World Cup play?  Only if they give Wondolowski a strong role, and use Johnson as well.  Dempsey may rise to the occasion as he has done in the past, and he does need to be on the pitch, but maybe out wide.  I like Donovan as play maker.

They say doing the same thing over and over again is the definition of insanity.  We will need to do something different this year to get out of the group, and for the forwards, I’d  bank on Wondolowski and Johnson to be ready, and make that difference with support coming from Dempsey and Donovan.


This is Part 1 of a three part series looking at the readiness of the U.S. men’s National Team for World Cup.  Part 2 will examine the midfield, and Part 3 the defense.
All U.S. Men’s Soccer Team stats taken from SoccerWay.

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