Timmy Chandler among 24 U.S. players picked for Honduras
Nearly two years after playing his first game for the U.S. national team, defender Timmy Chandler is set to commit his future to the Americans rather than leave open the possibility of playing for Germany.
With regular right back Steve Cherundolo sidelined by a knee injury, Chandler appears likely to start Wednesday when the U.S. opens the final round of World Cup qualifying at Honduras.
"It's a huge opportunity for Timmy," U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said Monday after announcing his 24-man roster.
Chandler, who turns 23 next month, became a regular for Nuremberg during the second half of the 2010-11 season.
"For me. It's going to be a great experience," Chandler said. "Everyone is saying how a big a game it is. It's like a derby in Germany."
A son of an American serviceman and German mother, the speedy Chandler was noticed by former U.S. defender Tony Sanneh, a one-time Nuremberg player who got him in touch with the American coaching staff.
Chandler made his U.S. debut in March 2011 against Argentina and played in eight games that year, but all were exhibitions. He was not included in the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup roster by then-coach Bob Bradley, who said he wanted to give Chandler time off following his first Bundesliga season.
Chandler turned down Klinsmann's invitation for the U.S. training camp last May ahead of the opening qualifiers of the semifinal round, saying he wasn't ready to make a decision. He returned for the Nov. 14 exhibition at Russia and said he was fully committed to the U.S. team.
"Everybody has welcomed me with open arms and I am here to do my best for the national team," Chandler said. "My dream is to represent the United States in a World Cup. This is a great team and I think we can do something special."
Under FIFA rules, he would be tied to the U.S. once he appears for the Americans in a competitive match. Chandler joins fellow German-Americans Jermaine Jones, Fabian Johnson and Danny Williams on the U.S. roster.
"I think he's simply just maturing. He's growing into his role as a fulltime professional," Klinsmann said. "We were very patient or are patient with Timmy to mature. For us coaches, it's the job to understand where certain players are. He still has a lot to improve. He still has a way to go."
Seeking its seventh straight World Cup berth, the U.S. figures to have a defense in transition this year. Cherundolo's 34th birthday is Feb. 19 and captain Carlos Bocanegra, who plays in the center or on the left, turns 34 in May.
Klinsmann's roster includes seven players from Major League Soccer who participated in the January training camp in California and appeared in last week's 0-0 exhibition draw against Canada. Among them are Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler and Brad Evans.
"It is exciting to see for us players like Omar being ready for the international level, Matt Besler knocking at the door," Klinsmann said.
Forwards Juan Agudelo and Terrence Boyd were bypassed, as were midfielders Kyle Beckerman and Benny Feilhaber, and defenders Clarence Goodson and Oguchi Onyewu.
Klinsmann did not consider Landon Donovan, who said after December's MLS Cup final that he wasn't sure he wanted to keep playing. Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said last month he expects Donovan to rejoin Los Angeles at some point this year.
The game is the first of 10 in the final round of qualifying in North and Central America and the Caribbean. The top three nations in the six-team group qualify for next year's tournament in Brazil, and the No. 4 team advances to a playoff for another berth, likely against New Zealand.
Given that 16-17 points should put a team among the top three, the U.S. and Mexico are expected to qualify. Four years ago at San Pedro Sula's Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano, the Americans clinched a berth with a 3-2 win in their next-to-last game. At the same stadium, Honduras routed Canada 8-1 in October to reach the regional finals.
"There is no easy way, not for Mexico, not for the United States, not for anybody," Klinsmann said. "You have to go in every game with the expectation that it's going to be difficult, that it will challenge you to the limit."
The Catrachos lost to Chile and Spain at the 2010 World Cup and tied Switzerland, their first appearance at soccer's showcase since 1982.
"The only thing they were lacking in South Africa was really kind of the confidence to beat one of the bigger nations, to really believe in it at the end of the day," Klinsmann said.
NOTES: Chandler, Clint Dempsey and Sacha Kljestan missed Monday's training session in Miami after playing in Europe on Sunday. The Americans traveled to Honduras on Monday night.
Goalkeepeers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton, England, Sean Johnson (Chicago)
Defenders: Matt Besler (Kansas City), Carlos Bocanegra (Racing Santander), Geoff Cameron (Stoke), Edgar Castillo (Tijuana), Timmy Chandler (Nuremberg), Brad Evans (Seattle), Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Michael Parkhurst (Augsburg)
Midfielders: Michael Bradley (Roma), Brad Davis (Houston), Maurice Edu (Bursaspor), Jermaine Jones (Schalke), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Jose Torres (Tigres), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim), Graham Zusi (Kansas City)
Forwards: Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar), Clint Dempsey (Tottenham), Herculez Gomez (Santos Laguna), Eddie Johnson (Seattle)