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Changing Stars for the Stars and Stripes (Part 1)

As promised from last week, I will take a look at each player from this year’s 23-man roster and give you the chance I believe they have of representing our country in Russia four years from now, barring major injury. In addition, I will introduce some new names that could be stars in Russia. For this first article on the roster, I will examine the goalkeepers and the defense. For each player, their current age is in parentheses.

 

GOALKEEPERS

This position is the one where depth is least important, but figuring out who will top the depth chart is crucial. While goalies can play later into their thirties compared to other positions, the United States may be looking at a youth movement at the position over the next four years.

Tim Howard (35)

The star of the team in this year’s World Cup, Howard proved himself to be one of the best goalkeepers in the world, regardless of his lack of recognition from several sources. However, Howard is certainly at the tail end of the peak of his career. He will be 39 years old by the time the 2018 World Cup comes around, and he has stated on several occasions that he doesn’t plan on playing. However, he could certainly have enough left in the tank to be a serviceable goalie, and while starting seems extremely unlikely, Jurgen Klinsmann could give Howard one of the backup goalkeeper spots that are rarely used as a reward for all of his service to the team.

Chance of returning: 20%

U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard makes one of his many spectacular saves in what was most likely his last World Cup

Brad Guzan (29)

Guzan may be the best kept secret of the national team. Despite being a starting goalie in England’s Premier League, he has been Tim Howard’s understudy for many years. Deemed by Nate Silver as the fourth most valuable player on the team in terms of transfer value, Guzan seems like a certain bet for not only returning in 2018, but finally getting his chance to start. He will be in the prime years of his goalkeeping career, and the question will be not if he makes the team, but if he can earn the starting job and match Howard’s success.

Chance of returning: 95%

Nick Rimando (35)

Rimando is a great story; He has been a rock in the MLS and was rewarded with the third-string goalkeeper spot. Unfortunately for Rimando, he is virtually guaranteed to not make it to Russia. He will be 39 by the next World Cup, and for a spot on the team that is not even needed in actual World Cup action, Klinsmann will turn to one of the several rising young stars within the ranks to fill this spot.

Chance of returning: 0%

POSSIBLE REPLACEMENTS

The replacement most commonly brought up is Cody Cropper (21) of Southampton in England’s Premier League the recent Under-20 goalkeeper who had his first call-up against Ukraine in March. Bill Hamid (23) and Sean Johnson (25), goalies for D.C. United and Chicago Fire, respectively, have each had Caps for the senior team and could battle for a spot.

 

DEFENDERS

Considered the weakest aspect of this team coming into the World Cup, the United States defense is expected to remain the most constant during this new cycle. With only one player in his thirties, any new players in 2018 will just be icing on the cake. Don’t be surprised if one of these players moves to the midfield to make more room on the defense.

DaMarcus Beasley (32)

Beasley has had a tremendous career for the United States, becoming the first player to make four world cup teams for the Stars and Stripes. While he is a fan favorite, 36-year olds making the roster is just not a common occurrence. Beasley may have another year or two left for the national team, but don’t expect to see him in Brazi.

Chance of returning: 0%

Matt Besler (27)

Besler quickly rose through the depth chart on the U.S. defense, shockingly becoming a starter for the World Cup and doing a terrific job manning the back line. Now rumored to be on his way to Europe, Besler has several good years ahead of him. While he may be going down the other side of the hill in four years, he should be on the team and contending for one of the back four spots with John Brooks, Omar Gonzalez, and others.

Chance of returning: 80%

John Brooks (21)

Brooks quickly introduced himself to the world in the 2014 World Cup, becoming the hero and savior for the U.S. with his winning header in the opener against Ghana. While he did not start, it quickly became apparent that Brooks has a bright future on this team and most likely several World Cups ahead of him. He is a lock to return in four years and has a very strong chance at breaking into the starting eleven.

Chance of returning: 95%

Fabian Johnson (26)

Johnson provided important speed for the starting eleven this year, providing the back four with some speed while also spurring counter-attacks on the flank. Rarely the center of attention, Johnson was easily one of the most consistent players on the team throughout the group stage and the knockout match against Belgium. Similarly to Besler, he may be past his prime next World Cup, but he will most likely be on the team and will just have to worry about keeping his starting position.

Chance of returning: 85%

U.S. back John Brooks celebrates his game-winning goal against Ghana with defender Fabian Johnson

Timmy Chandler (24)

 A month before the World Cup, Chandler had a very realistic chance of being a starter for the Ghana game. However, a string of poor friendly performances left him as one of two non-goalies to never see the field in the World Cup. Still young, age will not be an issue for the next World Cup, but Chandler will need to prove himself in competitions for the national team over the next few summers. With so many defenders having a good chance to return, it may be Chandler’s spot to lose for the new young wave of defenders.

Chance of returning: 55%

Geoff Cameron (29)

Cameron was a solid defender for the majority of his time on the field this year, but his key mistakes against Portugal that cost the United States two points in group play. Unfortunately for Cameron, his decline the next few years will be steeper than most of his competition’s decline or rise. While Cameron will still be a solid player, it should be concerning for him that the continued progress in the younger levels of U.S. soccer will produce many quality young defenders for very few spots.

Chance of returning: 30%

Omar Gonzalez (25)

Gonzalez’s chances of making the team in four years may be heavily increased by something that he can’t control: his height. At 6 feet and 5 inches, Gonzalez is a unique piece for Klinsmann to use on his back line and is overall a pretty consistent defender. If the United States is protecting a lead or matched with a team that capitalizes on set pieces, he is a very useful player to have on the field. He may want to look for a transfer to Europe from the MLS in order to stay in Klinsmann’s good graces.

Chance of returning: 75%

Deandre Yedlin (21)

Yedlin was paired with Julian Green before the World Cup as one of the questionable young players on the roster. These critics were proved to be very wrong every time Yedlin saw the field, as he had Outlaws everywhere brimming with excitement over his future. Already on his way to AS Roma, Yedlin seems destined to be one of the future starts of the national team for multiple World Cups to come. The question for 2018 won’t be if he is starting, but rather where he starts.

Chance of returning: 95%

Possible Replacements:

Will Packwood (21) of Birmingham City is a physical defender for Birmingham City in England and is a popular name for replacement so far. Greg Garza (22) of Tijuana in Mexico is a Mexican-American whose name has been brought up many times as well. Chris Klute (24) and Shane O’Neill (20) are two Colorado Rapids standouts to keep an eye on. Andrew Farrell (22), Matt Hedges (24), and Amobi Okugo (23) are other MLS players who could see their first call-up for the senior team soon. With less spots seeming to be available compared to the midfield, these players will need to be at the top of their games to secure a spot in four years. However, a little fact to give these players hope: None of the starting back four against Ghana in 2010 made the squad in 2014.

 

 

 

nathanalevy View All

United States Men's National Soccer Team Writer. I am currently a student at the University of Virginia. I was raised in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and I dream of a major league sports team coming to the area. I love all UVa athletics, Old Dominion football and men's basketball, the Green Bay Packers, whoever is playing the Miami Heat, and, of course, the USMNT. Follow me on Twitter @nathanalevy.

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