When the U.S. Men's National Team assembles this weekend ahead of the two most important games in this World Cup qualifying campaign, neither Chris Wondolowski nor Clarence Goodson will be among the 23-players selected by head coach Jurgen Klinsmann earlier today.
The two heroes of the recent CONCACAF Gold Cup triumph by the U.S. have continued their great run of form since returning to San Jose at the conclusion of the biennial tournament as the San Jose Earthquakes make a late season push to qualify for the MLS postseason. Wondolowski has scored three goals in 4 league matches while Goodson has anchored a defense that has produced two shutouts in that span.
The two national team veterans hope to continue their contributions this weekend in the second California Clasico of 2013, as the Quakes visit the StubHub Center on Saturday night to face the LA Galaxy.
So why were the two Gold Cup heroes overlooked by Klinsmann for this most vital stretch of USMNT matches? The answer to that question can best be explained by the coach himself in a video where he goes into some of his selection decisions. Klinsmann prominently mentions a growing youth movement on the national team, and with Wondolowski, 30, and Goodson, 31 both no longer in their 20's, the top two Earthquakes have for the time being been supplanted on the USMNT depth chart.
However, it might not be as simple as that, as Klinsmann did suggest during a teleconference after the roster announcement with selected members of the media that Goodson might still get a call-up if other defenders on the current roster are unable to perform as required. For Wondolowski, his Golden Boot performance at the 2013 Gold Cup may prove to be his swan song with the national team, but what a swan song it was.
Another factor that may have contributed to Wondolowski and Goodson being left off the final 23-man roster was Klinsmann's desire to cap-tie a pair of prominent European-based players in the pair of upcoming WCQs. John Anthony Brooks, a towering center back with Hertha Berlin, is only 20 years old and is still being courted by the German national team. Aron Johannsson, a creative forward with Dutch side AZ, is 22 years old and recently declared himself eligible to play for the U.S. after years of playing for Iceland's U21 team.
Both Brooks and Johannsson made their USMNT debuts in a thrilling 4-3 friendly win over Bosnia-Herzegovina earlier this month. If either gets playing time against Costa Rica and Mexico in the next two weeks, he will be cap-tied to the U.S. for any future competitions.
The silver lining to the exclusion of Wondolowski and Goodson in the current USMNT roster is that both players will be available for the Earthquakes in a very important match against the Philadelphia Union on September 8 at Buck Shaw Stadium. The likelihood is that San Jose will need to run the table at home if it is to have any chance of qualifying for the MLS postseason, and having the team's two highest paid players will be important in that effort.
Klinsmann's blessing in disguise also takes on added significance for the Earthquakes given that two other important players were already called away to international duty for the upcoming WCQ window. Honduras announced earlier this week that defender Victor Bernardez and midfielder Marvin Chavez were selected to its 23-man roster for World Cup qualifiers against Mexico and Panama. With 4 games remaining in the 6 team Hexagonal, Los Catrachos are fourth in the group and would need to play New Zealand in a playoff to move on to the World Cup Finals. Only the top 3 teams in the "Hex" automatically qualify for Brazil.
U.S. ROSTER BY POSITION
GOALKEEPERS (3):Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS (8): DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City) John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Michael Orozco (Puebla)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Roma), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Jermaine Jones (Schalke), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
FORWARDS (5): Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders FC)